Demi Lovato: ‘I am bipolar, but I don’t like people to use it as a label’

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Demi Lovato deserves a lot of credit for being open about her addictions and bipolar diagnosis for years now. Sure we joke that she only covers those topics, but those are her causes and she’s brought awareness and helped reduce the stigma. Now that we know Demi is bipolar it’s easy to look at her twitter feed and her feuds with other celebrities and say “well, we know she has manic episodes,” but I don’t think that’s fair to her. There are so many other celebrities who fight amongst themselves, it’s not necessary to ascribe that behavior to her mental health issues. (Although NPD comes to mind for a few of them.) Demi is more than that, and she told iHeart radio that she dislikes when people use bipolar as a label for her. This distinction may be lost on some people but I get it. She doesn’t like it when people say in a snide way or a way that reduces her to a diagnosis.

“I think it’s important to speak up about the things that you believe in because your voice will be heard no matter what position you’re in,” the “Sorry Not Sorry” singer said. “And I just happen to be in a position where more people will hear my voice than they would have 10, 15 years ago. I use my voice to do more than just sing and I use it to speak up about mental health because that’s something I’m very passionate about.”

And while Lovato has been open in the past about her own struggles with mental health, she doesn’t want her own diagnoses to define her.

“I think when people refer to me as being bipolar, it’s something that is true — I am bipolar — but I don’t like people to use it as a label,” the former Disney star explained. “It’s something that I have, it’s not who I am. I think Demi Lovato, activist, is something that I would really be proud of.”

She added that what you see is what you get when it comes to her life, saying, “I’d say the whole world knows the real me because there’s nothing that I hide.”

And Lovato also expressed her sympathies regarding the recent death of Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington, who committed suicide in late July at the age of 41.

“I feel terrible for his friends and family, but I know that maybe this will raise the topic into conversation around mental illness and mental health and help somebody,” she added.

[From iHeartRadio via ET Online]

I really like Demi’s new song “Sorry, Not Sorry” it’s a catchy pop breakup song and I’ve listened to it on repeat a few times. She’s a talented pop artist and more power to her for speaking her truth. She doesn’t appeal to everyone, and she definitely gets on my nerves sometimes, but I like that she’s so blunt and revealing. I don’t know if the whole world knows the real her though. She’s like most other celebrities in that her personal disclosures are calculated and are part of her public image. At least she’s doing it for a good cause.

Speaking of her public image she recently Instagrammed this photo of her enviable abs. It looks either out of focus or filtered. Some of my friends do this on Facebook (I’m so old I’m not on Instagram) and I think it’s just an simple filter to apply. I don’t filter my photos, I figure people realize I don’t look like that in real life so why bother? She’s super fit and it shows, but it’s hard to tell with how smooth her whole body looks. It’s like she doesn’t have a belly button. I like that she admits she’s feeling herself.

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photos credit: WENN, Pacific Coast News and Instagram/Demi Lovato

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30 Responses to “Demi Lovato: ‘I am bipolar, but I don’t like people to use it as a label’”

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  1. Nicole says:

    She can be super annoying and I don’t like when she picks fights with others.
    BUT
    I will always admire what she’s done for mental health. Shes talked about being bipolar, she raises awareness often, she’s gone to Congress to lobby for mental health awareness. She walks the walk when it comes to the cause. I can’t knock her for that.
    I’m glad she’s in a healthier space. Also she’s got pipes for days…I’ve heard her live at a festival and she’s got range.

  2. Maria T. says:

    As someone with mental health issues (anxiety/panic disorder) and who works for an organization that provides mental health treatment for children and youth, I applaud her for showing how exercise can help both physically AND emotionally. I know for me, running has become a critical piece of my self-care. The weight loss part is really secondary. It makes a huge difference – and people on meds often struggle with weight gain and lethargy as side effects. I’d like to see more public figures advocate for exercise as a part of managing MIs.

    • Nicole says:

      She also does it because she had an eating disorder as well. So it’s doubly crucial for her to manage her health in good healthy ways

      • jwoolman says:

        She also was using eating disorder as a cover for drug use, especially in explaining why the Jonas Brothers’ parents bundled her off on a plane to go home after she slugged a backup dancer and she ended up in residential rehab. The dancer had referred to her cocaine use, as I recall. So it’s hard to know what the real mix for her was on that. She did get scary thin at one point in her teens, but the drugs could have done that also. There is a difference between drugs that distract from eating and an eating disorder that can occur with no drug use, although some may use drugs as a way to control weight so there can be overlap.

        I’m skeptical about her claims of being bullied also. Her real history suggests the opposite, that she was the bully. The woman was never that attached to the truth. So be cautious with her stories. There may or may not be some truth hidden in them.

  3. Sunnydaze says:

    Having worked in the mental health field for some time now I wish more people would adopt person-first language to address the issues she’s speaking about. She’s not bipolar, she’s demi lovato. She HAS bipolar disorder. Jane is not schizophrenic, Jane HAS schizophrenia. Jerry isnt “retarded” (mental retardation is still, unfortunately, used in the medical community at times although it definitely shouldn’t be!) he has an intellectual disability. Sometimes it gets wordy, (I HATE the word addict, it’s so antiquated, but I do understand sometimes for brevity sake it’s easier than ___ with a substance use disorder) but it’s interesting how simple changes in language make people aware of stigma. Also, when I do trainings on things like this, im always adament about how person-first language also helps prevent callous statements like “I’m SO OCD about my desk” or “sorry, I’m like, really ADD today” (because many times the people saying this don’t truly have those diagnoses). Especially with those people i work with who struggle with substance use many of them have never been told they were anything more than an addict or (*cringe*) a junkie. Its really amazing to watch people reclaim a sense of self outside of a disorder. Language matters! ♡♡

    • Emma33 says:

      I agree with all of this; sometimes it’s a bit more complicated to structure sentences that don’t label people as 100% something, but I think it’s much more respectful. I learnt to do it years ago when I was studying music therapy.

      Years later, when I was doing some volunteer work with asylum seekers living in detention centres, I noticed that whilst the asylum seekers were almost always referred to as “detainees”, I would always call them “people living in a detention centre”. I don’t know if it made any difference whatsoever to the people I was dealing with, but I thought it acknowledged that the fact that they were in detention was just a small part of her they were, not the totality.

      Interestingly, if someone called me an “asthmatic” I don’t think I would mind so much. If someone called me a “depressive”, I would!

      • jwoolman says:

        It’s a difficult linguistic line to walk. Your decision seems sensible to me, but people do use the shorthand (including people actually in the situations) so that can be ok also. Probably we need a mix of both for different contexts and reminders that people are not just labels.

        The big problem is that people feel differently about disorders that affect the brain vs disorders that affect other organs of the body. People don’t have the same problem talking about being a diabetic, an asthmatic, etc. in appropriate contexts. But ultimately it’s all physical, the brain is another organ and things that happen in it can affect its functioning. Brain problems are scarier because they affect our behavior and how we think, and it’s scary to realize how much of what we consider to be our true selves reflects what’s going on physically and chemically in that particular organ. And how that can so easily change due to factors beyond our control. But the distinction between “mental illness” and “physical illness” is arbitrary, ultimately it’s all physical (and biochemical).

      • sunnydaze says:

        With regard to whether or not your language mattered to those living in the center – sometimes it’s not about that (because you might never really know), it’s about how it inspires YOU to rethink the situation, which it sounds like it did! :) I think that when we go out of our way to change our language, it makes us more mindful about the words we are using and how those words influence our beliefs/attitudes. The more we emphasize the person before the situation the more we start to see it is a PERSON being affected by a SITUATION. Not a situational person.

      • Ksenia says:

        Thank you! I HAVE bipolar, but have been amazed by the number of people who still say, “She IS bipolar”, or who use the illness to explain someone’s erratic mood. I’ve actually seen people write that online, like, “She (or he) must be bipolar, she sounds crazy.” It’s so incredibly disrespectful and ignorant, to put it like that. I understand it’s not always derogatory or hostile, but it can feel like it, and it turns one into an “other.” It also makes clear how few people actually understand mental illness—though we’ve come a long way from the sheer ignorance most were in about it even 20 years back.

    • Dex and Destruction says:

      Just adding my two cents here. I can’t stand when someone says, “I’m so OCD.” I know their probably uneducated about mental health but it still bugs me. I just want to say to them, “So you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with compulsions and obsessive thoughts? Are you hindered by your ‘OCD’ to the point you can’t function?” Same thing with bipolar. People grossly misuse that word all the time to describe anyone from co-workers to complete strangers. Bipolar is also a term that people throw around when a major tragedy happens. This just shows the level of ignorance society has against bipolar disorder. People with bipolar do not shoot up schools. In fact, we are more likely to be a victim of a crime than to be the perpetrator of a one.

      • sunnydaze says:

        So true! I heard someone on the street the other day say their phone was “going all schizo” and it took every fiber of my being not to insert myself in that conversation. Which in hindsight, maybe I should have in a kind way, but these days you never know how people will react…

    • HeidiM says:

      ^^^This!! My son prefers to say he has autism, but doesn’t like to say “I am autistic”.

      • sunnydaze says:

        In my prior years I was a behavioral therapist for people who have developmental/intellectual disabilities. Person first language DEFINITELY has strong roots in this community – on all of our support plans, human rights plans, intervention plans, everything….EVERYTHING had to be person-first or else it was not an acceptable document. I think agencies that work with this population have done a pretty good job of making sure stigmatizing language is kept at a minimum, plus there are tons of incredible advocates. “autistic” really gets me – probably because I see it so often in the media by people who should know better.

    • Thank you! My daughter HAS bipolar, she is NOT her mental illness. She is a creative, beautiful, artist who is kind, loving and amazing. I am thankful every day for a proper diagnosis, her medications and her service dog that helps her live a “normal” life.

  4. kaye says:

    i totally get this–i have GAD and PTSD and my friends and family know this, and know I work hard at being as healthy mentally as I can be–by working through things with EDMR and exercise, etc. BUT i do struggle with identity related to these illnesses. It can be hard to be defined by something like mental illness.

    • jwoolman says:

      But in Demi’s case, she is always defining herself in terms of her disorders and very publicly at that. It’s not surprising that people think of such things first when they think of her. Most people with bipolar disorder don’t talk about it that much, just with people who need to know. She can’t have it both ways. If she chooses to be public about it (which can be a helpful thing), then she has to expect people will identify her with such disorders.

      The problem with Demi is that she shifts her stories a lot depending on what she is trying to get people to believe about her. I’ve learned to be skeptical and always ask “what is she trying to promote or deflect from?”.

      • kaye says:

        That is a good point, but I also think that there’s nuance to this–it is important to be public about mental health matters, because mental health matters and erasing that stigma is important, but it would feel tiring to be also identified as “demi lovato, bipolar” (see also the annoyance factor of people mag always using the descriptor “pregnant” or “brought her baby bump” when they talk about women who at that moment happen to be with child. as if that one characteristic supersedes all others.)

        I think that is what I am getting at–coming forward and being brave about the honest struggles in the realm of mental health shouldn’t mean automatically that your mental health be mentioned in every mention of your name.

        agree about deflecting though–i guess i am too close to this topic to have seen that right away.

  5. nancypants says:

    I think 75% of the population is bi-polar to some degree – and there are degrees – and most treat the symptoms with prescribed meds, alcohol, non-prescribed meds and weed.

    Several recent studies have determined that one third of the people you meet on a daily basis are under the influence of SOMETHING and I believe it.
    One in every three.
    It’s rather frightening but I think it’s accurate.
    More importantly…What is the solution?

    I do know that people – parents, grandparents, friends, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, etc. – need to lock-up their s**t to include prescribed meds and weed stash.

    I live in a smaller, rather affluent city where pot is legal and the drugs of choice with the high school and even middle school kids is Percocet and Vicodin and heroin is getting bigger because it’s, “cheaper than prescription drugs.” Good Lord.

    As a retired First SGT, I know the benefits of exercise but it’s difficult to exercise when just getting out of bed is a struggle.
    To those who are struggling, I can only say, “Keep trying and back away from anything that wasn’t prescribed to YOU.”

    When in doubt, throw it out.

    • jwoolman says:

      I would doubt the 75% figure.

      It is normal to feel depressed after an unhappy event or to get really excited sometimes. But there seems to be a feedback mechanism that gradually brings us up when we’re down and down when we’re up. A serious loss can take years to completely recover from, but there should be steady improvement if the natural mechanism is functioning properly. This is when people may be impatient and look for artificial help dealing with depression in particular, and that might seem like 75% to you.

      When the mechanism is not working properly, you have bipolar disorder. Instead of gradually normalizing, the person keeps spiraling downward in the case of depression and progressing to uncontrolled mania in the other case. It’s not uncommon to be more unipolar, tending more toward depression. This is not the type of depression everybody experiences after a sad event. The depression gets deeper and deeper and all the joy is sucked out of life. A relative has the disorder, and his voice during an episode is just flat and his normal enthusiasm vanishes. It is a life-threatening disease because the risk of suicide is so great, actually once the depression starts to lift because in the depths of an episode, people often don’t have the energy. But if they are untreated or treatments are not working (drug therapies can be difficult to adjust to an individual) – they can decide that they would rather be dead because the pain is so great. This is why often people are so surprised at suicides in people who seemed fine. They very well might have been as fine as they looked until the disease made things go haywire.

      Another difference between normal depression and the bipolar kind is that clinical depression can happen out of the blue with no precipitating event. This is especially true for recurrences. Tiny microdepressions that we all experience for a minute or so spiral out of control into a full-blown depressive episode. Most people do not experience this – it is a dysfunctional response of the brain, it is a brain chemistry problem and is not due to normal emotional reactions to life events.

      Successful medication for bipolar disorder somehow normalizes the feedback mechanism to prevent the spiraling out of control up or down. The person still feels normal emotions, and can be sad or happy. The brain just doesn’t go wild in either direction once that emotion is felt.

    • Tanya says:

      I’m throwing your entire post out.

      Signed

      Someone living with Bipolar Disorder

  6. Pumpkin (formally soup, pie) says:

    Why does she try to make her abs look different than they really are? All those funny angles make for visual cheating, and whoever takes a pic like that know what they are doing. They are doing that on purpose.
    No shade here.

  7. Esmom says:

    I like everything she says. My son is on the autism spectrum and he refuses to share his dx with most people because he, too, doesn’t want to be reduced to a label. It makes me sad, though, because I feel like he shouldn’t have to hide it, it’s almost like he lives a double life. And as his swim coach once said, most people probably have a pretty good idea that he experiences the world differently than a neurotypical person.

    In any case, I like seeing a celebrity talk so openly about her struggles. My son always is comforted when he sees high profile people talking about how they too have their challenges.

  8. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I think we all have ‘something.’ Many are diagnosed because they seek help. Many are complacent to battle life day-to-day. Many have a cognitive dissonance, an illusory notion of sanity or even superiority. When you consider all cultures and what living within those ‘confines’ have the capacity to place on daily living, it’s no wonder we look to gossip sites to make us feel better about our own banalities lol.

    • Maria T. says:

      Well, yes and no. We all have challenges in life, but I would hesitate to say we all have mental illness. I have anxiety/panic disorder and it has impacted my life significantly. If I didn’t seek treatment and work vigilantly every day to manage my symptoms, I would most likely have committed suicide years ago. Folks who don’t have a mental health DX often think it’s the same as feeling stressed or being sad, because they simply don’t get it (and why would they – no blame here). It isn’t and it is actually counterproductive to assume it’s similar.

  9. Erinn says:

    I don’t really like her. I find her to be incredibly problematic in a lot of ways (she has a weird superiority complex when it comes to getting into spats with other celebrities – and I hated the interview she did a while back about Nick Jonas dating) and she kind of treats a lot of people terribly. She’s also one of those people who will share stupid things on twitter – people call her out – and then she whines about how mean people are and how she’s quitting social media… then is back again shortly after.

    She also hocked that detox tea shit – anyone who pushes products like that are automatic idiots in my book. You have kidneys and a liver. Going on starvation liquid diets aren’t actually helping you in the long run.

    She also did the “sometimes you have to agree to disagree and grab some p—y” tweet on election night. When people called her out she responds “I apologize for the joke I made earlier…seemed to offend some people. Just making light of the election”. Which i found both to be pretty tasteless, but whatever.

    I find that she tends to be against using mental illness as a label – until she needs an excuse for doing something crappy. Or she has in the past at least. She’s human, I get it. But I think she needs to be more careful BECAUSE she keeps trying to be a spokesperson for mental illness. She’s raised a lot of awareness which is always a good thing – but if she’s setting out to be a role model for this cause, then she really needs to be extra aware about how she comes off at times that aren’t just good times.

    While I don’t like her, I also root for her in some capacity. I don’t like to see people unhappy or unhealthy… even those that I don’t like. I do hope she keeps trying to keep herself on track, and that she keeps doing positive things for mental health awareness.

    I do worry about the exercise stuff a little. I think a lot of people can take an unhealthy addiction and latch onto something healthier in an addictive kind of way that can turn to unhealthy obsession. Plenty of people are able to throw themselves into exercise for the best of reasons and thrive. But there’s also a portion of people who trade the control of one addiction for another – exercise bulimia is unfortunately more common than it should be. Hopefully that’s not the case for her – but she seems to be a very self conscious girl and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is so into exercise because it’s a way for her to have control over her appearance in an unhealthy way.

    • Lynnie says:

      You said everything I thought about her and then more. I will also add that in the beginning it felt like Demi and her team started going the mental health advocate route after her breakdown, because it was the quickest way to get her back in the spotlight. (I don’t think people realize, but during her Disney heyday she was a big star on the show and fully expected to break out on the level of Miley Cyrus.) As a result, that’s why I think she has that wishy-washy attitude towards using her illness as a label/excuse. Doesn’t help that it seemed like she carried this huge chip on her shoulder in terms of her career in regards to her colleagues either. (hence all the twitter fights and melodrama). She does seem more mature now so hopefully she grew out of it, or at least has better media training lol.

      • jwoolman says:

        In the beginning, she and her handlers were also trying to hide her drug use. Hence the eating disorder and bullying victim excuse for rehab. Not the first time people have tried that maneuver.

        Demi definitely has talent as a singer. She has never needed a magic microphone to sing on pitch and to get a lot of volume. She was acceptable as a kid actor but there were others much more talented that way on her shows. I think Disney was just trying to promote her music in Sonny With a Chance, she was a weaker member of the cast.

  10. Hikaru says:

    Her instagram, candid photos and video self look like 3 different people body-shape wise. I wonder how it affects her self image to see herself altered so much to be more attractive.

  11. ValM99 says:

    I’ve always liked Demi. I mean I’ve appreciated that she’s not so fake. Like she’s blunt, and she has an opinion. So many of these celebs girls like Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez act so fake nice, and try to appeal to everyone. But it’s so annoying. Like have an opinion, care about politics and stop trying to please everyone. Demi speaks on politics, social issues and does a lot charity wise. She doesn’t brag about it, or go on GMA to talk about it. She simply does it. But she says one thing on celebrity culture, and BAM! That’s her whole existence. I love what she does, and represents in the mental health. Plus she’s one of the few singers that can actually sing these days