Demi Lovato on why she went to rehab: “I had a nervous breakdown”

Disney star Demi Lovato, 18, got out of three months of rehab in early February, having been sent there by her people after she punched a backup dancer in the face while on tour with the Jonas Brothers. Demi was definitely out of control when she got sent for treatment, she was physically abusive and was said to be doing drugs, but her people spun it like she was getting treatment for emotional issues that came to a head with that one incident. Other stories came out about her struggles with bulimia and with cutting, and now Demi is ready to talk about what she went through. She has an upcoming interview with Robin Roberts, her first since rehab, to air on 20/20 Friday and she also has another interview with Seventeen. She’s been appointed as the spokesperson for Seventeen’s “Pressure to Be Perfect” campaign, and will give advice to teens in a twice monthly column on their website.

In Seventeen, Demi describes what happened to her as a “nervous breakdown” and tells them that she’s still struggling with bulimia:

On her nervous breakout
“I basically had a nervous breakdown. I was really bad off. My parents and my manager pulled me aside and said, ‘You need to get some help.’ It was an intervention. I wanted freedom from the inner demons. I wanted to start my life over.”

SL: Have there been times recently when you feel like it could be so tempting to go back to your old dangerous habits, like eating disorders?
DL: Yes, there have been times when I definitely have been tempted to get rid of my dinner. But I will deal with it for the rest of my life because it’s a life-long disease. I don’t think there’s going to be a day when I don’t think about food or my body, but I’m living with it, and I wish I could tell young girls to find their safe place and stay with it.

17: How do you keep yourself in a safe place?
DL: I don’t let anyone’s insecurities, emotions, or opinions bother me. I know that if I am happy, that’s all that matters to me. And it’s okay to be selfish like that sometimes, when it comes to your well-being. Do what makes you happy, and don’t care what others think.

17: How do you define your personality now that you’re out of treatment?
DL: I don’t really define it by anything. I live my life every day, and if I feel like wearing combat boots one day and shoes the next, I will. I allow myself a lot of freedom and I’m very peaceful now. I have come to realize that just making yourself happy is most important. Never be ashamed of what you feel. You have the right to feel any emotion that you want, and to do what makes you happy. That’s my life motto.

[From Seventeen Magazine, with more in the May issue]

She’s been working for Disney since she was 15 and was acting at the age of 7. That’s a huge amount of pressure and can’t be easy to cope with. I give this girl a lot of credit for taking her rehab seriously and for coming out the other side of it. She also didn’t talk to the press right away and waited until she had a couple of months to adjust to life before doing interviews. (She did do a video thanking her fans last month.) However we last heard that she was dating Wilmer Valderrama and that doesn’t bode well for her sobriety or her self esteem. You have to have a pretty low opinion of yourself to get with that guy.

Photo below is from 8/18/10. Credit: Fame. Header photo credit: Seventeen


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42 Responses to “Demi Lovato on why she went to rehab: “I had a nervous breakdown””

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  1. jamie says:

    good for her

  2. kazoo says:

    i’m guessing that whatever she was on made her skinny because she’s gotten quite bigger recently.

  3. filthycute says:

    Wilmer’s taste for the younger crowd is more than a bit disturbing. Why isn’t he called out more often?

  4. Christina says:

    I hate when people say their “coping mechanism” is a lifelong disease they will battle… It’s understandable that she has handled things the way she did and she will likely struggle because Hollywood is f*ucked, but to say it’s a disease… Ugh… It bothers me to no end. I’m sure she is prone to certain things due to here genes…. But come on… Did anyone see that south park? So genius ^_^ anyways though, I e always liked her. Hope she realizes things get a little easier with age. Good luck.

  5. lem says:

    jesus christ! the girl goes to rehab for drugs and/or an eating disorder and people have the stones to comment on her weight?! obviously her weight WAS NOT HEALTHY BEFORE. stop making the problem worse. she looks good.

  6. Innocent says:

    There was rumours that she doing coke.
    It is great to see how much progress she made.

  7. kazoo says:

    @lem, LOL calm down dude.


    @innocent- that’s what i figured.

  8. TheMango says:

    Its sad the way Disney stars turn out in the end, but I am happy she is getting up on her feet again.

  9. geenie says:

    She’s too young to be having a nervous breakdown. It goes to show that when you’re in show business at an early age, it can really affect your upbringing. She should be having fun being a teenager, but that’s the price she’s paying for show business.

  10. Devon says:

    Eating disorders are a disease and you will struggle it for a long time, most likely for the rest of your life. It is serious mental fuckery and I’ve known many women (and men) who were bulimic and/or anorexic in their teens are who are still struggling with it as adults. Your relationship with food and your body are forever changed. Not to mention that it rarely has anything to do with food but more of a coping mechanism when you can’t control anything in your life. You can’t control your life but you can control how you look. It’s a horrible horrible thing to go through. The way it destroys everything is so heartbreaking.

    I am so glad that she’s getting better and feels strong enough to talk about it. The girls who look up to her need to hear this. Maybe it will help those who don’t think they can talk to anyone about it or who are scared.

  11. Quest says:

    Kudoos to her for getting help, she looks great.

    Boooo to her for dating Vilma

  12. Isa says:

    Good for her. They’ve never really discussed it but I hope she got treatment for her cutting. The scars on her left arm make me sad. 🙁

  13. nikki says:

    @lem, ya I agree.
    She made it clear she was dealing with bulimia so THAT’S probably why she was thinner before.

  14. Catherine says:

    She is too cute. I wish her the best for the future.

  15. KJ says:

    Yea, eating disorders ARE a lifelong disease and to say anything to the contrary is essentially saying you know better than 99% of the mental health professionals. The fact that people look at it as a “coping mechanism” by @Christina, instead of a disordered way of thinking that has lifetime implications is evidence that our culture has a long way to go in terms of understanding mental health. If someone had diabetes, they would go to the doctor and do what they need to in order to make sure they live as healthy of a life as possible. But an eating disorder is just some “coping mechanism” that dumb girls who don’t like being chubby develop right? GTFO.

    As someone who has had two friends very close to me battle with eating disorders, and the subsequent depression and anxiety that comes with it, I’m absolutely offended and disgusted that anyone would try and downplay the seriousness of such a disorder.

  16. YAY says:

    right – it’s a DISORDER, not a DISEASE. @Christina is correct.

  17. heebeegeebee says:

    Good Post @lem. You are totally right in calling those people out.

  18. spinner says:

    I don’t buy it. She went overboard on drugs.

  19. KJ says:

    So semantics makes what she’s suffering from less of a real issue? Good to know.

    And I think there’s def a chance that drugs and alcohol were a factor, but since when is it unheard of for a bulimic or a cutter (you cant fake razor blade scars) to also have substance abuse too? It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

  20. GeekChic says:

    @YAY, and what medical degree do you hold that allows you to make that distinction? A disorder is defined as “a disruption in normal function of a body part, organ, or system.” A disease is defined as “a disruption in the normal structure or function of a body part, organ, or system.” Gee, they sound awfully similar, don’t they? The difference between the two terms amounts to semantics.

    And by the way, I do hold a medical degree and I teach college anatomy and physiology and write college anatomy and physiology textbooks. People who run off at the mouth dismissing problems such as anorexia and bulimia as “simple disorders” or “coping mechanisms” are doing far more harm than they realize. Get educated before spouting ignorance.

  21. Falula says:

    Generally people with bulimia have healthy to too high BMI’s because they physically can’t get rid of everything they eat. I think it’s a part of the medical distinction between bulimia and anorexia. So for Demi to be much skinnier it definitely could have been a combo of bulimia with bouts of anorexic behavior and/or drug use.

  22. kazoo says:

    exactly, falula. just being bulimic doesn’t make you much skinnier.

  23. bluhare says:

    GeekChic: Just because I enjoy being difficult, why would one get educated before one spouts ignorance? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? Or at least get in the way?

  24. Camille says:

    She’s a pretty girl. I wish her nothing but the best.

  25. Praise St. Angie! says:

    why is it that “diseases” like bulimia don’t occur in countries where people are starving?

    sorry, I mean no offense to anyone, but I don’t consider bulimia to be a disease. it’s a symptom of, and a coping mechanism for, any one of many mental health disorders. but the urge to eat and purge isn’t, in itself, a disease.

    to be clear, I am not dismissing bulimia as something to scoff at. I do recognize it as a serious issue.

    as is anorexia, but I also don’t see that as a disease in and of itself. more of a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder. as in, that’s how the bdd exhibits itself in certain people.

  26. gee says:

    Praise St. Angie,

    It does all the time, I come from a long line of bulimics who lived in not so great places with not so much food. Which study did you read about the third world’s lack of eating disorders? Reasoning like yours is embarrassing, backwards, and dangerous. It’s like saying AIDS is a symptom of homosexuality.

    Lucky for everyone, you’re not a doctor so whatever you “consider” to be a disease doesn’t really matter.


    Good for Demi, she’s handling this well. She may very well have been using drugs, I think “nervous breakdown” can cover a manner of sins.

  27. Kera says:

    @Christina I find your post and lack of caring for someone struggling through an eating disorder utterly appalling. @YAY Whether it’s a disease or a disorder is beside the point – either way bulimia is not something to be taken lightly nor is someone who battles with it up for your judgement or ridicule. Who are you to say she (or anyone else who has battled bulimia) won’t deal with the repercussions of it for the rest of his or her life.

    Shame on both of you for trying to demean one person’s struggle (and all those who struggle with an eating disorder) something you are lucky enough to know NOTHING about.

    I hope Demi gets the help she needs and that harmful people ahem @christina & @YAY keep their negative notions to themselves until they understand first-hand what its like to struggle through something like this.

  28. huh says:

    @ Praise–

    I have a grandmother who was very anorexic. She was born in 1910. Very poor, they had very little food. Her sister told me they had “mustard sandwiches” b/c that’s all they had to put between the bread.

    Anyway, as an adult she was OBSESSED with being thin and constantly criticizing other people’s weight and she ate next to nothing.

    So it can happen that people who grow up nearly starving can have eating disorders.

    ETA–its possible people in starving or nearly starving countries could have eating disorders but how would anyone know if no one has much to eat? Or that an eating disorder can’t manifest b/c there is so little food to begin with? Just speculating…

  29. fizXgirl314 says:

    Christina, you should really take heed not to get your medical advice from south park…

  30. Dana says:

    Why do all these Disney kids seem to go apesh*t?! Britney, Christina, Miley and now Demi seem to have gone off the damn deep end!

  31. christina says:

    I don’t think my point came across as I had intended (which is rather apparent in the scathing comments… geesh… did you not read my positive note at the end?)
    Anyways, my point was that she has been thrown into a sick and twisted world and she is coping the only way she knows how… and she will likely struggle with this as long as she stays in that world. I have struggled with eating disorders, cutting, drugs, alcohol, etc… (my moms an addict and my dad commited suicide due to his issues)… so to say I am not being sensitive to her issues is absurd. I work with foster kids and they are dealing with a hell of a lot of issues as well… and there is a huge difference between the kids who are acting out because of the instability of their lives and the kids who have serious mental and physical disorders…. I’m not perfect, but I think my opinion is valid… You don’t have to agree, but at least understand I am coming from a background of experience and education… and come on, would I really get my info from South Park? I’m just saying, they had a great way of expressing something I have agreed with for a while… I think the episode was “Bloody Mary” or something heheh

    Good times… whew… I wrote a book! 🙂

  32. GeekChic says:

    @bluhare, LOL, good point! Perhaps I should have said, “Shut your ignorant mouth and get educated” instead. Gosh, being that I make my living as a writer I should maybe actually pay attention to what I write. For shame!

  33. truthzbetta says:

    Can we get back to trashing Wilmer? Priorities, people.

    He’s a true loser for latching onto the young, younger, youngest troubled girls and it doesn’t hurt to say it one more time. I used to think he was hot and warnings like this save us lust time.

    Now carry on. Disorder, tomahto.

  34. Zoya says:

    It’s so sad what Hollywood does to these children, and even sadder that there are parents out there pushing their kids into that environment. stage parenting should be a punishable crime to be honest.

  35. normades says:

    If the blinds are to be believed, she was doing some insanely hardcore stuff. I don’t understand why the media still tries to make her out to be a role model. She JUST got out of rehab, time will tell if she really stays clean. Like you said, if she’s still seeing Wilmar that is not a good sign

  36. lrm says:

    obviously, the difference between the two is important….i wont even go into it here….and I come from a long line of alcoholics-many of whom consider it their disease they are recovering from.

    I call it a coping mechanism. while I would not call sclerosis of the liver a coping mechanism.

    i’m also not into the ‘disease theory’ about every damn thing that happens in life or that we experience.

    And, no, that does not make me unsympathetic or clueless or ignorant. It’s more than semantics to me-
    and in fact textbook definitions of ‘terms’ are not the end all be all authority.

    One reason why many authors like writing in english [ie, vs. their native tongue] is for the precision of the word meanings. semantics sure. but the two different terms exist for a reason. b/c they’re…um…different.

    good day.

  37. TXCinderella says:

    Ewwww. She needs to get away from Wilmer Valderrama. He is a skeez who likes very young women.

  38. GradStudentEatingHotPockets says:

    I have a very worn, very well loved DSM-IV-TR and a psychopathology book if any person would love to read up on the eating disorders (and mental disease in general)!

  39. Hakura says:

    I really have to give her props for deciding to take rehab seriously enough to pull herself back together.

    The only difference between Demi & Lindsay (both stayed in rehab for 3 months) was their attitudes toward rehab… Demi taking it seriously, & Lindsay with no interest in improving herself, thinking she didn’t *have* any problems.

  40. jemshoes says:

    I’m really rooting for Demi and her ongoing recovery. It’s great that she’s come out on the other side and wants to help other young, impressionable girls. Her comment about wanting to help them find their “safe place and stay with it” made me tear up a little.

  41. katie says:

    Personally, I admire Demi for being able to tell anyone about an eating disorder. When I was in 7th grade I had anorexia (not very serious though…) and didn’t tell anyone. I got over it on my own as my stress levels went down. I think Demi is a positive role model and a beautiful girl. People should just be glad she got help.

  42. Vanessa says:

    i use to cut myself but i stop when people me that they will send me to rehab