Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston opens up about struggle with anorexia and mental health

Joanna Whitehead
Hospitalisation 'changed my life', he says: BBC

Christopher Eccleston has opened up about his struggles with anorexia and mental health in a frank new interview.

The former Doctor Who actor, who spent his 52nd birthday in a psychiatric ward following a mental breakdown has spoken of his life-long issues with food and recovery.

With aspirations of looking like his acting heroes, such as Daniel Day-Lewis, the Salford-born thespian admitted to hiding his disordered eating from his family from a young age.

Anorexia, he said, is “like being in hell”.

Acknowledging the pervasiveness of the illness, Eccleston said that it affected him every day.

“Every minute. All you think about is food – the consumption of, the rejection of. You don’t think about anything else,” he told the Guardian.

On the publication of his partially autobiographical book, I Love the Bones of You, the Shallow Grave star was reported to suffer a mental breakdown so intense that the Priory psychiatrist Justin Haslam described it as one of the most severe cases of clinical depression he had seen.

His situation was so bad that the 55-year-old admits to contemplating suicide.

“I did have what people might call intrusive thoughts,” he said, before acknowledging that his children and “cowardice” prevented him from taking things further.

The actor’s hospitalisation followed the collapse of his relationship with his wife in early 2016.

He believes that his breakdown changed his life, however.

“It changed my view of myself and existence. I really felt that I was going to die,” he said.

Eccleston was honest about the stigma that mental health still carries, particularly for men.

“I’m male and northern and from a working-class background, so you were not supposed to speak about your feelings,” he said.

“I still carry all the baggage about masculinity and toughness, and I was ashamed about my depression and eating disorder.”

Despite his experience, the actor states that he has become “much easier” on himself since his breakdown.

“I still don’t watch my performances,” he said, “because I can be very critical of my physical appearance, which I have to be very careful about – but I am easier on myself.”

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