Ed Sheeran is opening up about mental health struggles that many men face, but may be too ashamed to seek treatment for.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the private figure got candid about the difficult past few years of his life. While fighting a copyright infringement lawsuit, Sheeran's wife, Cherry Seaborn, was diagnosed with a tumor. Around the same time, Sheeran's best friend, Jamal Edwards, died at the age of 31.
"I felt like I didn't want to live anymore. And I have had that throughout my life," he told the outlet. "You're under the waves drowning. You're just sort of in this thing. And you can't get out of it."
Sheeran said that he's been battling depression, addiction, and an eating disorder for many years now, though he's been reluctant to speak openly about them. As he is "self-conscious anyway," Sheeran said it's difficult to be in "an industry where you're getting compared to every other pop star."
"I was in the One Direction wave, and I'm like, 'Well, why don't I have a six pack?'" he said, adding, "Then you do songs with Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes — all these people have fantastic figures. And I was always like, 'Well, why am I so ... fat?'"
Sheeran said that his gender also played a role in his negative body image, as he knew there would be a different type of judgement levied at him for it. He also said that he felt "selfish, especially as a father. I feel really embarrassed about it."
"There's certain things that, as a man talking about them, I feel mad uncomfortable. I know people are going to see it a type of way, but it's good to be honest about them. Because so many people do the same thing and hide it as well," Sheeran explained. "I have a real eating problem. I'm a real binge eater."
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 1 in 3 people who experience eating disorders are men. Over 10 million boys will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime, but they are much more likely to not receive a diagnosis due to misconceptions.
Dr. Jason Nagata, who studies eating disorders in adolescents at the University of California San Francisco, previously told Heathline that while eating disorders in women often reflect the desire to lose weight, many men develop negative body image around wanting to gain weight and muscle. This difference can make it difficult to identify when men are struggling.
“The symptoms that one thinks about for a classic eating disorder are extreme or unhealthy weight loss behaviors, like vomiting or fasting, but the idealized masculine body image is actually not toward that same ideal,” Nagata explained, adding, “A lot of guys are trying to get muscular and bulk up, so a lot of those weight loss behaviors don’t actually apply to them."
Due to societal expectations, many men often feel discouraged from seeking treatment and being vulnerable with people close to them, as was the case with Sheeran. He continued to say that the social stigma in England, his home country, can particularly feel disheartening.
"No one really talks about their feelings where I come from," Sheeran explained. "People think it's weird getting a therapist in England. I think it's very helpful to be able to speak with someone and just vent and not feel guilty about venting."
At the suggestion of his wife, Sheeran said that he now sees a therapist. He noted that therapy "isn't a button that is pressed, where you're automatically OK." Instead, he said "it is something that will always be there and just has to be managed." The work, Sheeran believes, is well worth it.
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