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Demi Lovato and Her Struggle with Bulimia and Addiction

At the age of eight, Demi Lovato was crowned Texas State Cinderella Mini Miss. Beneath that sparkling tiara and adorable smile were deep and hidden feelings of depression and self hatred. 

It wasn’t until the age of 12 that she began to display symptoms of an eating disorder. By the age of 18, Lovato found herself in rehab, first to get a handle on her bulimia and bipolar disorder, and second to tackle her drug and alcohol addiction.

The singer, songwriter and former actress did not think she would make it to the age of 21, and if she hadn’t sought out professional help for her binging and purging, she may not have.

According to Timberline Knowles Residential Treatment Center—the facility where Lovato stayed while receiving treatment for her mental health disorders—bulimia nervosa can have side effects as severe as dehydration, fainting, and even seizures.

When it comes to negative long-term side effects, this type of eating disorder can not only lead to broken relationships with family members and friends, financial problems and drug and/or alcohol addiction, but also sharply increases a person’s risk for heart attack and death.

Lovato has said in interviews that her body image issues started young. It took a mental breakdown—punching a backup dancer in the face—for her to realize that while she predicted she would die young, that didn’t mean she had to.

Her time spent in treatment was specific, private and personal. She stepped completely away from her old life—work and all—to deal with her issues. Unlike many young stars before her, she came back into the spotlight stronger than when she had left it.

Lovato does not blame her former Disney stardom for her struggles with food and addiction. In fact, she has managed to transform her darkest memories into tools to help other people overcome their own battles with drugs, disordered eating, depression and distorted self esteem.

Since her recovery from both bulimia and drug addiction, Lovato has written a New York Times Bestseller, shared her story in numerous T.V. and magazine interviews and has become a “celebrity advocate” for positive body image and mental health.

While her transparency often draws criticism from the media, her loyal followers understand the take-home message: recovery, and happiness, are both choices—mental health issues are not.

Lovato has spoken previously about using her fame as a channel through which she can send positive messages about addiction, body image and mental health struggles. It not only helps many of her fans begin to seek treatment for their own issues, but it is also a way she holds herself accountable for staying sober and healthy.

Accountability in all types of recovery can come from many different places. Though Lovato has had support from family, friends and fans alike, she found a way to get herself back on track and an outlet to help her stay on course. And so can you.

Being criticized for the way you look on a regular basis, on the other hand, has its dangerous downfalls. Someone does not choose to have an eating disorder, but they can choose recovery and healing. Regardless of when or where your problems began, you can start to get a handle on them right here. Start the process today. 

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