Eating disorders

Andrew

Male
Age at interview: 19
Age at diagnosis: 18

Brief outline: Andrew has experienced both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa since he was about 17. Counselling, moving away from home to his own place and having a supportive girlfriend have all helped him through to a better place for recovery.

Background: Andrew is 19 and at college. He is in a relationship and lives in a shared house. White Scottish.

Audio & video

Andrew was about 17 when he started involuntarily bringing up food every time after he ate. He went to see a gastroenterologist who thought it might be an anatomical problem that could be fixed with surgery. Andrew underwent a battery of tests, all showing up as negative. The tests span over nearly a year during which time Andrew lost a lot of weight. Also during this time Andrew started seeing the weight loss as a positive thing, rather than as a worry like he initially had. He started obsessing about exercise, calorie-counting and actively wanting to lose weight. Andrew was also binging and purging at this point. Because all the tests came back negative, the doctor discharged Andrew, telling him it was “in his head” but did not refer him elsewhere.
 
Feeling very angered and depressed, Andrew tried to cope on his own. He had a strained relationship with his dad and being at home wasn’t easy. There was tension around meal times and Andrew didn’t want to join others for meals. Andrew was feeling increasingly depressed, he was self-harming and attempted suicide – at this point he was taken to hospital and referred to an eating disorders clinic. He was diagnosed with an eating disorder, as well as with clinical depression and bi-polar disorder. 
 
Turning his life around was hard; Andrew describes how “every minute was a battle” and that his fear of food and eating was “primeval”. Very gradually he started gained a little more weight and “came more in favour of staying alive than dying”. In counselling he realised that he had never felt able to express his emotions freely and being sick was his way of dealing with emotions. Andrew decided to move away from home which made a huge difference to his life very quickly. He also has a very supportive girlfriend who has “got him through” all the tough times. Andrew also says the staff in the unit were incredibly supportive and there whenever he needed them. They also “re-educated” him in how to learn to eat normally again.
 
Andrew is a drummer and Scottish Ceilidh music is a big part of his life. He is involved in different orchestras and bands and has been touring abroad. He is just about to start a Social Science course at university. Andrew feels there is a societal stigma attached to men’s eating disorders, and very little information available that is specific and helpful to men going through anorexia or bulimia.

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