SELF – Zayn Malik Developed An Eating Disorder While He Was In One Direction

Celebrity disclosures of mental health issues are one of the most powerful things they can do in fighting the stigma that dangerously surrounds people’s attitudes about mental health.  Zayn Malik has previously disclosed his struggles with anxiety, and now he has opened up about his struggles with an eating disorder during his time in One Direction. So insidious were his health and mental health symptoms that he didn’t even recognize them as problematic until he left the band.

To help understand the relationship between his anxiety and eating disorder, as well as the insidiousness of the symptoms, I was very pleased to help out with this piece for SELF.


Indeed, control can be a big factor in anorexia, licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., tells SELF. “It really is about food and hunger being controlled when nothing [else] feels in control,” she says. Ashley Sheil, L.M.F.T., site director at The Renfrew Center of Charlotte, agrees. “Eating disorder behaviors are frequently used to help individuals cope with stressors, and these stressors often include many factors that are outside of their control,” she tells SELF. “When life becomes stressful and we cannot change our circumstances, controlling our food intake provides a temporary feeling of order and relief.”


Depending on the severity of a person’s condition, talk therapy may provide some benefit. “It is about trying to get at the control piece and finding other ways of exerting control that are less disruptive,” Clark says. “People say they get a high from knowing they can control their hunger and other people can’t—they have to learn how to control other things in life that matter more and embrace their body and its needs.”


Alicia H. Clark, PsyD