Eating disorders

Sam

Male
Age at interview: 25
Age at diagnosis: 16

Brief outline: Sam experienced bulimia since his teens. He never had counselling for a long period of time but through other forms of support and life changes, the bulimia gradually faded when he was around 18. He is now fully recovered and describes the time with eating disorder like 'a previous life'.

Background: Sam is 25 and runs the only UK charity for men with eating disorders; 'Men Get Eating Disorders Too'. He is single and lives on his own. White British.

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Sam was badly bullied since the start of secondary school. He was clever, didn’t fit a typical male stereotype and became a constant target for bullies. As the bullying got more severe, Sam started skipping lessons and his grades dropped. In school he used to hide in the toilets and comfort eat. After a while, he started making himself sick after eating as he felt so uncomfortable. Binging and purging soon became a habit which Sam describes as “a fulltime job with overtime”. He would purge daily, at home and in school, but he kept it discreet so nobody around him had any idea. 
 
Towards the end of school, Sam was feeling depressed, anxious and suicidal. One weekend he decided to contact the on-call GP at the local hospital. The GP took him very seriously and wrote an emergency referral to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). However, CAMHS couldn’t treat him without parental consent, and as Sam didn’t want to tell him mum, he decided not to go back there.
 
Sam’s school referred him to a life skill’s course. His tutor was very supportive and Sam could tell her about what was going on. Around that time, Sam also came out as gay. As Sam’s home life had been unstable, he moved to live with another family as a form of supported living which he found very beneficial. As Sam turned 18, he decided to contact his father who he had never seen and eventually moved across the country to live in the same town with him. Sam lived in supported housing for people with mental health issues during which time he started doing volunteering with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youth groups. Sam says he didn’t make a conscious effort to recover but gradually the bulimia started fading when he was between 18 and 20. Many of the factors that had earlier fuelled the eating disorder had now disappeared from his life, and he was building a new life. 
 
Sam had become interested in volunteering and in 2008 set up his own campaign to raise awareness of men & eating disorders as he realised there existed no specific group or charity for men. The campaign attracted a lot of media and public interest, and soon grew into a registered charity ‘Men Get Eating Disorders Too’ (MGEDT). In the past three years, Sam has seen a change in attitudes about men’s eating disorders and is seeing more and more men coming forward wanting to share their experiences and seek help. A key aim of MGEDT is to work towards gender-inclusive attitudes and service provision in eating disorders so that, firstly, men feel able to seek help and secondly, once they do, they are taken seriously and get the help they need.
 

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