Personal View: The tale of an anorexic male medical student BMJ Volume 336 pp 892
In the week that former deputy prime minister John Prescott goes public about his struggles with bulimia, the BMJ publishes a frank first person account of what it is like to live with an eating disorder when you're male.
People who are “successful” anorexics die. I did not want to turn into one of the 20% of people with anorexia who die, writes David Samuel, a final year medical student at Cardiff University.
One in ten people with anorexia are male. Statements such as “I need to go on a diet” and “Does my bum look big in this” are no longer exclusive to women, but are typical of what you hear in the men’s changing room of the local gym, writes Samuel.
He describes how during his four year battle with anorexia the hatred of his own body took over, and the constant fear of gaining weight turned his life into a mere existence dominated by exercise, calorie counting and work.
It was only his psychiatry attachment to the local hospital’s clinic for eating disorders that made him admit that he had a problem. “I entered a room full of human mirrors of my bony form. I felt the pain they were suffering—the pain I was suffering”, he says.
Admitting I had a mental illness was the hardest part, claims Samuel. “My bubbly personality was gone, and my relationships with members of my family were shattered through their anguish at seeing me starve.”
Weekly sessions in counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy and continuing his medical studies helped him to overcome the illness.
He hopes to qualify as a doctor in 10 weeks’ time. One thing is certain, he concludes, the experience of anorexia has made me appreciate the torment that patients endure when they have a serious illness.
David Gwynfor Samuel, Cardiff University, Wales, UK
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