Of all the eating disorders, anorexia is the one that presents itself in the most feminine form. Often, male patients wallow in extreme silence for fear of being attacked on their “virility”. Morgan has long struggled with anorexia. Through his speech, the young man provides information on the ravages of this mental illness and the consequences on his life.
“An essentially female disorder, on the border of somatic medicine and psychiatry”, it is in these words that INSERM, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, defines anorexia nervosa. The term “essentially female” proves how often anorexia is considered a “women’s disease”.
Morgan’s relationship with anorexia differs little from the testimonies already collected on the subject. At the age of 16, following an emotional shock, the teenager plunged into the throes of anorexia. Losing control over his feelings, he balances his emotions by scrupulously controlling his food.
Morgan eats less, drinks a lot of water and inflicts an intense and painful practice of sport. “At that age, we give a lot of importance to the physical. There was this side: ‘I want to be more muscular’ and also the side where I wanted to look like the person with whom my girlfriend had cheated on me. there was this mixture of anger and this desire to be like the other that made me gradually fall into anorexia nervosa.
“I was conscious but I couldn’t stop”
Morgan distinguishes two phases in his illness. The first is directly associated with denial. “Nothing stops you. Mentally, you can raise all the problems. Nothing stops you. It allows you to refine your image, your skills. We are perpetually in control. We want to control our appearance but also our skills. anorexia doesn’t give you a choice: you have to be the best,” Morgan explains.
As for the second phase “of the crisis”, it explodes in your face. These are all the physical consequences that appear: “joint pain, mental suffering, insomnia, cold sweats…”, for Morgan, anorexia is an addiction. He is aware that this addiction is slowly killing him but he cannot stop.
Video. Morgan: “I exercised continuously. I squeezed my ankles with sand weights”
“I’m bleeding my ankles with sand weights”
Morgan continues to eat very little and inflicts on his malnourished body an abusive practice of sport: “My high school was an hour’s walk from my home. Voluntarily, I overloaded my bag to have a higher caloric activity. I was I also managed to strap my ankles with sand weights. We lived in a public housing project and I walked continuously up 9 floors for 45 minutes. The rest of the day, I walked constantly.” In the evening, he does bodybuilding at home. Morgan became addicted to the sport. This intense practice of physical exertion is called bigorexia. Although it is not currently considered to be part of the spectrum of eating disorders, it remains one of the most cited addictions by people who commit themselves to voluntary and obsessive weight loss.
Morgan drops to 45 kilos. His attending physician encouraged him to be hospitalized by presenting him with a hospitalization contract, but the young man did not care. He sinks into illness “and can’t stop”.
In 2016, Pr. Gorwood, head of the Mental and Brain Diseases Clinic (CMME) at the Sainte-Anne hospital center, put forward the hypothesis that the development of the disease would be more linked to an addiction to weight loss than “to the feeling of fear in the face of weight gain”. The feeling of losing weight would activate the reward system in the brain and make them “addicted”.
To validate this hypothesis, Pr. Gorwood and his team conducted a study with 70 patients with anorexia. They compared the reactions of the sick patients with those of another group made up of about twenty people showing no signs of illness. Patients with anorexia did not show more fear when viewing images of normal weight or overweight people.
If at the time of writing these lines, several avenues are being studied to explain the disease, the addiction hypothesis is the one that best reflects the phase experienced by Morgan.
Video. Morgan: “At 36 kilos, I’m going to hospital”
In August 2022, more than a year after the first signs of the onset of the disease, Morgan was hospitalized to treat his disorder. “I was losing a kilo a day,” he says. The teenager weighs only 36 kilos. His body is on high alert and one morning, illness strikes him down. “I’m having an evening with my friends and the next day, I can’t get up. There I realize that anorexia and cancer will kill me if I don’t do something. At 36 kilos, I’m going to hospitalization,” he says. He then signs the hospitalization contract drawn up by his attending physician and enters treatment for several weeks.
“I am developing liver cancer”
Morgan keeps important sequelae of his past. The most serious is the cancer that has eaten away at his liver. When he was drastically restricting his diet, the young man had mononucleosis. His weak immune system did not allow him to fight against Epstein-Barr serology which, in rare cases, attacks the liver by degrading it. As the disease takes hold, Morgan becomes exhausted but fails to recover due to his anorexia which prevents him from sleeping. This is an almost unknown consequence of the disorder. Patients sleep poorly or very little because the body is starving for food. At the microphone of Yahoo, Morgan admits to having developed phases of paranoia in the darkest moments of his illness. In 2021, the young man is completely cured of his liver cancer.
If it is on the psychological level that the disease has left the most traces, Morgan also evokes his tired joints, a consequence of an intense sporting activity coupled with his state of malnutrition.
Video. When you have anorexia, you don’t even think about sex.
“Sex, you don’t even think about it”
Morgan’s testimony provides information on the lack of differentiation of the disease according to sex. In an interview granted to Santé Magazine, Jean-Michel Huet, psychologist-psychoanalyst, explains that if anorexia is a disorder more developed by women it is because they are more subject to the diktat of appearance. It is estimated that 10% of patients with anorexia nervosa are men.
On the other hand, if it is so taboo within the male sex, it is because it tarnishes the very image of virility, or at least, old clichés about the alpha male. An anorexic man doesn’t “hard,” as Morgan explains. “Sex is not a priority at all. You don’t even think about it.”
In a second step, when the desire returns, it does not materialize as desired. “Mentally, you feel ready or you feel like it. Physically, the connection between the brain and the body is not made at all. You end up with either an erectile disorder or a semi-mold.” Morgan speaks of the “heaviest healing phase”. “There is a real blow in self-confidence. It’s a very, very long way to heal from that because it’s a pure mental block”.
Morgan believes he is cured. Through his testimony, he hopes to encourage men suffering from anorexia nervosa to come out of the shadows.
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