If you’ve got a young prince or princess in your home under the age of thirteen chances are you know who Demi Lovato is. If not, she’s the young starlet from the Disney show Sonny with a Chance, also recently linked to one of the Jonas Brothers in the tabloids. Recently this young lady’s career was derailed by findings that she had been cutting on herself. Known as self-mutilation in the mental health field, it is considered to be an addictive coping mechanism for depression and anxiety. Sadly, it feels like young stars that get sucked up into the Disney machine early in their careers are fast-tracked for a bit of future mental instability. Does Britney Spears ring a bell?
My colleague, Helene Timpone, a noted psychotherapist who specializes in working with teen girls and their families explains, “But why cutting? There is a payoff. The payoff is the “reason” we continue a potentially negative or harmful behavior despite the risks. The risk of losing her career is a steep consequence, so the payoff has to be greater than the risk. The payoff is rooted in meeting a deeper need-the need to survive. From the outside, when we don’t have an understanding it would seem her behavior was far too risky and not worth the trouble it could cause. It is then very easy to judge this behavior. She is driven to escape from the emotional pain that most girls describe as, “feeling like I’m gonna die.” Her experience of hurt, pain and fear is overwhelming and all encompassing. Thus, the payoff is instantaneous. The first time she tries cutting or any other self- mutilative behavior, her brain will release a chemical surge of endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural opiate providing a feeling of going away or leaving the body. Its internal feeling validates and adheres to the brains desire to survive through fleeing”.
Based on Ms. Timpone’s assessment it is pretty easy to ascertain that stress is pervasive in Ms. Lovato’s life and the opportunities for an oxytocin response are greatly diminished. Often times behavior such as this have been long standing, and I suspect was offset by a period of time by the relationship that she was in, as naturally a close, intimate relationship is an excellent catalyst for the oxytocin response. Thus, it is no surprise that once the relationship came to an end the increased stress experience with little oxytocin interruption was more than the poor child could bear.
Sadly, parents in these situations come from oxytocin deprived environments themselves and are negatively conditioned to believe that stardom will bring the relief necessary for survival. Ask any star actor or actress, I know a few, and they’ll assure you that the loving adoration and attention quickly becomes a mind-numbing, heart aching, pain in the ass. In other words, what seems like love ain’t always love.
My two cents if anyone is listening. Get this child away from the limelight into a good family therapy program where her parents can own their own issues so they can begin to help and support her through the healing of her issues, which at this point they have certainly contributed too. She may or may not be able to recover. I suggest, rather than mind-numbing psychotropic medication as I am certain she is probably now on in abundance, that they obtain a prescription for oxytocin and get her system experiencing some calm and connection again. Hopefully her parents will soon be able to get their act together to realize when she is stressed out, anxious, and exhausted and rather than pushing because she’s the meal ticket, taking a stand and suggesting, she’s still just a child. Her life has yet to begin.
Hey…Remember to breathe…it releases oxytocin.