Christopher Eccleston admits life-long anorexia and depression battle 'could have killed him'

Christopher Eccleston has spoken about his life-long battle with depression and anorexia.

In an exclusive interview on this morning’s ‘Lorraine’, the actor explained that he first developed the eating disorder at the age of 6.

“I remember seeing photographs of myself and I was critical of my body composition from a very young age,” he told the breakfast TV host.

“I think eating disorders are often about perfection, an unrealistic idea of how we should look,” he continued. “So I think perhaps it was going on there. I was thinking, 'You can look better, you can look better’ pre-puberty.

“We don't really know how children, what children are [thinking],” he added. “I have a 6-year-old and a 7-year-old. Do we really know how they are perceiving the world?"

The former ‘Doctor Who’ star went on to admit the mental health condition could have killed him. “Yeah, it could,” he told presenter Lorraine Kelly.

On discussing the origin of his food issues, Ecclestone wondered if, in part, it might have been linked to his upbringing.

“Mum and Dad were both born in the '20s and '30s. [They] lived through the Depression, then pre-war and immediately post-war,” he said. “There is a food thing there of course, their attitude to food probably informed my attitude to food.”

The actor discusses his battle with anorexia and depression in his book I Love the Bones of You, which also details his father's dementia, and admitted to Lorraine that he’s been overwhelmed by the response: "I've been taken aback, because people are now stopping me and saying, 'Thank you for speaking about depression, thank you for speaking about anorexia, dementia'."

But he also confessed that opening up about his struggles had been difficult at times.

"It caused a bit of a wobble a couple of weeks ago with some of the issues that are in the book,” he explained. “The intensity and doing things like this, talking about it on television... there is a pressure there.

“We spoke earlier about how I was being rewarded in the industry for looking a certain way. But to get that way I had to do certain things that led to mental health issues."

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The star added: "When I left the first series of ‘The A Word’ and went straight to hospital because I had a severe clinical depression... that has taught me not to assume and not to judge."

But he credits his job for helping him to keep going.

"It really started to manifest itself on the first series, the breakdown, and what I noticed that when I was on set and I put on Maurice's costume, I could do my job. But then when I went back to the hotel room at night that's when the insomnia and anxiety went through the roof.”

Christopher Ecclestone has opened up about his life-long battle with anorexia and depression [Photo: Getty]
Christopher Ecclestone has opened up about his life-long battle with anorexia and depression [Photo: Getty]

When asked how his mental health is now the actor explained that it has been difficult recently as he talks more openly about his issues.

“The pressure of it and the exposure of talking about it in this way,” he explained. “What have I done, monetised my personal life? How has it affected my mum and dad? But I think, because I'm a parent, [my children] Albert and Esme keep me very focused.”

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He went on to explain that it was a doctor who helped him to see that when he was feeling at his lowest.

“And that's what happened to me in the hospital, the consultant said, 'If you were to take your own life, think of the legacy that would create for your children.' That woke me up.

“As did him explaining to me my brain chemistry, in the way a surgeon would explain a broken arm. You're in flight or fight mode and your brain is exhausted. He took the curse of it and the taboo off of mental health issues."

Following the candid interview viewers took to social media to praise the actor for opening up about such difficult topics.

How common are eating disorders in men?

According to Beat Eating Disorders, it is estimated that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder and around 25% of those affected are male.

Statistics from 2017, shared by the Guardian, revealed the number of adult men being admitted to hospital with an eating disorder rose by 70% over the previous six years – the same rate of increase as among women.

Medical leaders and health experts put the growing numbers down to pressure from popular culture and social media. But they also believe a greater awareness about eating disorders could also be encouraging life-long sufferers to come forward and talk about their problems.

Where to seek help for an eating disorder

If you think you may have an eating disorder, even if you're not sure, the NHS recommends you see a GP as soon as you can.

You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.