People don’t think men get eating disorders
Daniel thinks he first developed an eating disorder when he was at university at the age of 19. There wasn’t a particular trigger but he had low self-esteem and inadvertently began to starve himself.
The 38-year-old said: “I hated myself and starving seemed like a good punishment I suppose. I had a couple of relationships that didn’t really work out and I just felt like I wanted to numb myself.”
Daniel’s anorexia adversely affected his personal and social life over the years, leading to the demise of his music band and the loss of several friendships, but still it was not really recognised as an eating disorder.
He said: “I went to my GP who diagnosed me with depression but my weight was terrible and that was not really considered as a factor. At my worst I weighed 6.5 stone and I am nearly six feet tall. I was extremely poorly but it took a long time before I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.
“In 2006 I was literally skin and bones; I was walking around in a daze with no energy. I remember struggling to climb up the stairs or to walk a few hundred metres. People even thought I had cancer. People were literally more willing to believe I had a terminal illness than an eating disorder because I am a man.”
It was at this time that Daniel was admitted to SLaM’s Bethlem Hospital where he became an inpatient for six months. Unfortunately, he did not beat the illness the first time round and even though he was healthy when he was discharged he soon became dangerously underweight again.
“The problem was at this time I had been dealing with an eating disorder for so long that I had adapted my life around it,” he said. “So it took a long time for me to get out of this way of thinking.
“I was heavily influenced by concentration camp style training. I would punish myself by starving myself and exercising manically such as climbing mountains with as many clothes on as possible to burn off more calories or while carrying rocks. I was horrendous but I didn’t realise it at the time.”
Daniel has now been well for more than three years. He said he eats normally, enjoys going out for meals with friends – something he never thought would be possible – and is now keen to raise awareness of male eating disorders to help others.
“My experience is that men have very limited help for eating disorders,” he said. “Personally no one recognised it, including myself, for a long time. Professionals were also not seeing it. Men do not talk about these type of things and therefore you feel so isolated, alone and ill-informed.
“It is so important that men know they can get the illness and to seek help at the earliest opportunity. I am well now and I never thought that was possible but it has been a long journey that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.”