news

Olly Alexander says bulimia and self-harm battle was prompted by 'self-loathing' over sexuality

“It was self-loathing. I didn’t want to be gay," recalls the star of Russell T Davies' It's a Sin.

2021-01-11

Warning: This article contains descriptions of eating disorders and self-harm which some readers may prefer to avoid.

Olly Alexander has opened up about his past battles with bulimia and self-harm, which he says were promoted by "self-loathing" about his sexuality as a teenager.

The Years & Years frontman, who stars in Russell T Davies Aids drama It's a Sin, told the Guardian that he was once admitted to hospital with an irregular heartbeat as a result of the eating disorder bulimia. 

"It’s a bit dark. I used to write that I really wanted to be skinny,” Olly said of his teenage years.

"My mantra was always: I’m not going to eat this again, I’m not going to eat cake again. I’m never going to eat pasta."

“I was writing down: don’t eat, don’t eat, don’t eat."

The 30-year-old continued: "It was something I could control. I felt very out of control in the rest of my life. I was struggling with my sexuality, my parents were divorcing, and I wanted to punish myself.

"It was self-loathing. I didn’t want to be gay. I was convinced I was the reason my parents were splitting up."

Olly, who previously opened up about his experiences of an eating disorder and self-harm in 2017 BBC Three documentary Growing Up Gay, added that he also turned to cutting himself during the same period.

"I was deeply ashamed of doing it," he said. "I wanted to hide it."

The chart-topper went on: "A friend saw a plaster on my arm and jokingly asked if I’d been cutting myself. After that, I was so embarrassed that I mostly stopped doing it.

"Bulimia carried on well into my 20s, but it became less and less frequent. It’s really hard to hold down any kind of job if you’re throwing up food all the time, and ultimately you have to choose." 

Explaining that when you're in the throes of an eating disorder it's "all you think about", Olly recalled he was once taken into hospital due to health complications caused by his eating disorder.

"You’re doing so much damage to your organs. I got taken into hospital once with my mum because I had this irregular heartbeat, which can happen through constant purging, and that really scared me. I thought I’d done something irreparable to my body, and my mum was so distraught," he said.

"She couldn’t understand why her son was throwing up all the food she was trying to give him. She found out because I hadn’t cleaned the toilet properly."

If you're struggling with issues related to eating or food contact the Beat helpline on 0808 801 0677.

If you're struggling with self-harm or negative thoughts contact the Mind helpline on 0300 123 3393.