Demi Lovato is a very good actress.
That’s pretty much the only explanation for how the young star painstakingly managed to play the real-life part of a perfectly happy Disney-bred celebrity while, on the inside, she was crumbling.
In a new “20/20″ interview with Robin Roberts, Lovato admitted she secretly began cutting herself at age 11.
“It was a way of expressing my own shame, of myself, on my own body,” she explained. “I was matching the inside to the outside.”
“And there were some times where my emotions were just so built up, I didn’t know what to do,” she continued. “The only way that I could get instant gratification was through an immediate release on myself.”
But Lovato’s body issues – she’s struggled with both bulimia and anorexia – actually date back even farther than that.
“I was compulsively overeating when I was 8 years old,” she said. “So, I guess, for the past 10 years I’ve had a really unhealthy relationship with food.”
The singer-actress, now 18, began having trouble hiding her personal problems while on an international tour with the Jonas Brothers last year.
“I was performing concerts on an empty stomach,” Loavato recalled. “I was losing my voice from purging. I was self-medicating.”
“I was not taking medication for depression,” she added, “and I literally was so emotionally whacked out that I took it out on someone that meant a lot to me.”
In late October, Lovato punched Alex Welch, one of her back-up dancers, an act that she takes “100 percent, full responsibility” for.
“I feel horrible,” she told Roberts. “[She] was my friend.”
It was at that point that Lovato’s family and management intervened, encouraging her to seek in-patient treatment at Timberline Knolls, a rehabilitative center in a Chicago suburb.
Lovato finished her program at the facility in January, thanks in no small part to the motivation of her younger half-sister, Madison De La Garza, a child actress on “Desperate Housewives.”
“A picture of my little sister, on my little bulletin board, was one of the main things that kept me going,” Lovato said. “I just kept thinking, ‘OK, set this example for your little sister.’”
Now she’s looking to her future – which won’t include her Disney Channel series “Sonny with a Chance.”
The starlet recently told People she’s stepping down from the show not just to focus on her music career, but because being in front of a camera again would make her “nervous.”
“I don’t think going back to ‘Sonny’ would be healthy for my recovery,” she told the magazine.
Lovato will devote a portion of her time to working with Seventeen and The Jed Foundation on “Love is Louder Than the Pressure to be Perfect,” a project geared to helping other struggling teens safely cope with their issues. She’ll also serve as a Seventeen magazine contributing editor.
“My fans have been such an incredible support system for me — I hope I can repay this and help other girls learn from my experiences,” she said when the collaboration was announced.