The singer opened up to U.K. publication The Times about living with anxiety and an eating disorder. He explained that he felt the need to control certain areas of his life, given his crazy schedule as a member of One Direction. That mostly came through an extreme focus on food, which led to some disordered eating habits.
Malik originally revealed that he was experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder in his autobiography, Zayn, late last year. After quitting the band and learning to manage his anxiety, Malik said he was able to get his health back on track.
He told The Times that he was glad that sharing his story brought more awareness to the fact that mental health is important for everyone.
“People saw strength in that, and they didn’t seem to expect it from a guy, but they expect it from a female, which to me is crazy,” he told the publication. “We’re all human.”
Approximately one in four people globally will experience a mental health issue in a given year ― that includes both women and men. And further, nearly 10 million men will experience a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetimes, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
The notion that women are the only ones to experience disordered eating is incredibly misguided. And until recently, it wasn't just a social misconception, but also supported by experts. The official criteria for diagnosing an eating disorder were only updated to include more symptoms in men in 2013, Stat reported last year.
But, as we know, mental health conditions transcend gender and any other life circumstances. When people in the public eye open up about their own struggles, they help dispel myths like the notion that eating disorders only happen to women.
Malik went on to say that owning your psychological health is something to be proud of and more people should speak out.
“I think there’s a strength in expressing emotion,” he said. “If you were a guy, you used to have to be really masculine, but now expressing emotion is accepted and respected.”
Respect and acceptance for everyone? That’s a message we can get behind.