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‘Pretty Little Liars’ Star Troian Bellisario Opens Up About Self-Harm + Eating Disorder

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 10: Troian Bellisario attends The Paley Center For Media Presents An Evening With 'Pretty Little Liars' at The Paley Center for Media on June 10, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Valerie Macon, Getty Images

Pretty Little Liars‘ star Troian Bellisario doesn’t always feel so pretty. In fact, her self-image and need for control and perfection were so dangerous that she confesses she actually suffered from self-harm and an eating disorder before achieving fame on the ABC Family series.

In her cover story for Seventeen (via The Daily Mail), she admits, “I started self-harming when I was a junior. I would withhold food or withhold going out with my friends, based on how well I did that day in school. Being a teenager is chaotic because you’re kind of coming into your own. I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong, so I think I created this bizarre system of checks and balances to create order in my world,” she said. “But it really backfired.”

The actress says that most of the pressure came from herself, though she thought, in her troubled state, that it came from outsiders, including her parents. “It was about wanting to please my father and mother and wanting to be perfect to everybody. I just thought if I ever expressed [to my parents] any sadness or anger or anything that’s going on with me, they would disown me. I kept a lot of it bottled up inside, and it turned into self-destructive behavior,” she explained. “I felt this sadness, and I thought if people really knew what was going on inside me, they wouldn’t want to hang out with me. So I tried to keep it light and funny. I became imprisoned [by my eating disorder and self-harm]. And it was something I fought with.”

Bellisario says that her friends stepped in and urged her to get help for her issues. “They got a hold of my journal and basically said, ‘We don’t trust you, and we’re gonna tell your parents,’” Bellisario said. “That was when my world kind of exploded. It was kind of like an intervention. It made me ask myself, ‘What do I really want to be doing? What would make me happy?’”

Still, she admits that working in Hollywood hasn’t exactly made her struggles any easier to deal with, especially since it’s a big “one day at a time” deal. “Honestly, it’s an ongoing struggle. Especially for a woman on a show that has the word “pretty” in it! Sometimes I feel like I’m trying too hard, like I don’t belong. I just look around at [co-stars] Lucy [Hale], Shay [Mitchell], and Ashley [Benson], and I’m just like, ‘Why am I on this show?’” she said. “Sometimes I’ve felt like a fraud. I’m not like these other girls — I don’t dress like that and I don’t know how to do my hair.”

So how does she deal? “The minute I’m off that stage, I try to get as ‘me’ as possible,” she said. “I do that by piling on my black eyeliner, and I put on my ripped tights. Dressing like myself again helps.”

We’re happy Bellisario was so brave and strong to share her story! Maybe she and Demi Lovato can meet for coffee and trade tips and inspiration.

Next: Get More 'PLL' Scoop!

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