Pete Davidson, Self-Injury, and Co-Occurring Disorders

Some people who self-harm also have a substance use disorder. Some also have a co-occurring mental health issue, And some have all three.

Pete Davidson, a cast member on Saturday Night Live since 2014, publicly acknowledged he has borderline personality disorder (BPD)—a mental disorder that includes feelings of depression and anxiety— in 2017.

Those feelings, at least in part, stem from the post-traumatic stress caused by his father dying while trying to save lives on September 11, 2001. In his words, it sent him “in and out of mental health facilities since I was 9” and to attempt to drown himself in a pool.

Davidson also has chronic pain from Crohn’s disease—a bowel disease that causes severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, tiredness, weight loss, and malnutrition—for which he uses marijuana. He also has admitted to using—and overusing—alcohol, psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms, and LSD.

In February 2020, he also admitted that he started getting tattoos to cover up the scars from his self-harm. These weren’t more suicide attempts. Cutting is an unhealthy coping mechanism for individuals in emotional distress.

All of these conditions may be related. Self-injury can be a complication of BPD and anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma, and substance abuse are also common in individuals with BPD.

There is no cure as yet for Crohn’s disease, or one medication that alleviates the symptoms for all or most people. Prescription medications such as Remicade (generic name, infliximab) help some people, and Davidson reportedly gets an infusion every six weeks.

Davidson’s marijuana use may have started or grown to problematic levels in an attempt to self-medicate for his Crohn’s when nothing else seemed to be working. However, some studies find heavy marijuana use may cause depression and anxiety.

Cannabis for PTSD also has advocates and anecdotal evidence, but few, if any, scientific studies to back such claims. Other studies suggest it can make symptoms worse.

It’s not clear if Davidson is now abstinent from marijuana, alcohol, or other non-prescribed drugs, but he seems to be following other recommendations for preventing self-harm, substance abuse, and mental illness, including:

  • Psychotherapy. Davidson is seeing two therapists with different approaches every week. Therapy is recommended for self-harm, trauma, and substance use disorder.
  • Self-analysis. Individuals ask themselves questions to help determine why and when they self-harm, what triggers an episode, and better ways to respond.
  • Distraction. With this approach, people learn to replace self-harm with harmless actions such as relaxation techniques, holding an ice cube, using a red marker on the skin (or a piece of paper) instead of a sharp object, journaling, or talking with people who will not be judgmental.
  • Support systems. Davidson gives a lot of credit to people around him who care about him and will tell him when he’s getting out of control for his recovery.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help for yourself or a loved one. Text HOME to 741741 to contact the not-for-profit organization Crisis Text Line. It has free, confidential crisis intervention counselors available 24 hours a day.

 

Sources
people.com – Pete Davidson Confirms He Recently Went to Rehab During Comedy Show: Report
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Is Borderline Personality Disorder Related To Addiction?
latimes.com – Pete Davidson thinks he can be a ‘red flag’ — until you meet him
healthline.com – What You Should Know About Cutting
mayoclinic.org – Borderline personality disorder
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – A review of medical marijuana for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: Real symptom re-leaf or just high hopes?
adai.uw.edu – Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu – Distraction Techniques and Alternative Coping Strategies
healthdirect.gov – Self-harm
crisistextline.org – Self-Harm Text Hotline