Doctor Who’s Christopher Eccleston explains why he viewed his anorexia struggles as a “filthy secret”

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Lauren Geall
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Christopher Eccleston from Doctor Who

Christopher Eccleston has revealed he struggled with anorexia and depression during his time as the famous Doctor Who in his upcoming autobiography, I Love The Bones Of You.

Way back before the arrival of the first female Doctor portrayed by the one-and-only Jodie Whittaker, Christopher Eccleston arrived on Doctor Who alongside the fierce Rose Tyler (played by Billie Piper). Witty, sharp and full of humour, Eccleston’s Doctor quickly took audiences by storm.

But now, for the first time, Eccleston has revealed the mental health issues he struggled with during his time as the Doctor – a combination of anorexia, depression and anxiety – and how the fans’ reaction to his appearance only served to perpetuate the issues he was facing.

“The illness is still there raging within me as the Doctor. People love the way I look in that series, but I was very ill,” Eccleston writes in his new biography, I Love The Bones Of You. 

Christopher Eccleston on the red carpet at the Toy Story 4 premiere
Christopher Eccleston: “The illness is still there raging within me as the Doctor. People love the way I look in that series, but I was very ill.”

“The reward for that illness was the part,” he adds. “And therein lies the perpetuation of the whole sorry situation.”

Although Eccleston says he’s struggled with his mental health for a while now, he admits that he has never been able to speak out about his anorexia.

“Many times, I’ve wanted to reveal that I’m a lifelong anorexic and dysmorphic,” he writes. “I always thought of it as a filthy secret, because I’m Northern, because I’m male and because I’m working class.”

Christopher Eccleston in Doctor Who
Christopher Eccleston in Doctor Who alongside Billie Piper and John Barrowman

As part of his recovery – which started during filming of the BBC drama The A Word, when he began to contemplate suicide and sought help from a psychiatric hospital – Eccleston says he was diagnosed with severe clinical depression, and continues to take prescribed anti-depressants. 

The idea that men should “man-up” rather than seek help in the face of emotional distress is a particularly damaging stereotype, so stories like Eccleston’s can make a big difference when it comes to starting a conversation, especially when it comes to body image issues and disorders, which are often solely associated with women. 

In reality, around 25% of those affected by an eating disorder are male, according to statistics from BEAT. 

Christopher Eccleston I Love The Bones Of You autobiography cover
Christopher Eccleston on the cover of his upcoming autobiography I Love The Bones Of You

The actor’s new autobiography, I Love The Bones Of You, will focus on both his personal life and career, including his personal background, alongside his mental health issues. 

You can never tell if someone has an eating disorder simply by looking at them, so Professor John Morgan at Leeds Partnership NHS Foundation Trust designed the SCOFF screening tool to identify possible eating disorder behaviour. If you would answer “yes” to two or more of the questions below, you may be living with an eating disorder.

  • Do you ever make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  • Do you worry you have lost Control over how much you eat?
  • Have you recently lost more than One stone in a three month period?
  • Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin?
  • Would you say that Food dominates your life?

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For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. For more information about eating disorders and to seek specialist support, you can visit BEAT.

Images: Getty/BBC/Simon & Schuster


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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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