survivors manchester

Physical Health Issues


Sexual Abuse, Rape and Sexual Exploitation don’t just have an emotional, psychological or mental health impact on us, but can also have a number of physical health impacts.

Since we opened our doors in 2009, hundreds of boys and men have sought support from us about issues connected to their physical health, including alcohol and substance use, eating disorders or self harm and suicide.

We have also built a great Self Help Resource, thanks to NHS England; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, and Jam Creative where you can download a wide range of guides dealing with a range of issues. Each guide is also accompanied by a audio version. Its an amazing resource and we want you to have access to it, which you can do by clicking here.

Click on one of the following Physical Health Impact links to open the relevant impact information:

Typically, eating disorders are perceived to be illnesses which solely affect women, with the most common association being with young teenage girls. This is a grave, but widespread assumption and the fact is anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, including people of any age, race, social background, sexuality and indeed gender.

Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical illnesses in which sufferers use food and sometimes exercise in different ways to manage difficult circumstances in their lives and the feelings that come with them. It is important to remember that food and weight is not necessarily the problem, it is the embedded in the underlying factors which can be low self-esteem and lack of self worth.

Sufferers will use their eating disorder as a coping mechanism to be able to get from one day to the next and/or through times when they feel unable to cope.

The commonality between anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorders, compulsive eating/exercising and ‘bigorexia’ (muscle dysmorphia) is that people use them as strategies for dealing with difficult life situations and/or emotions which they feel are beyond their control.


Anorexia (nervosa), or ‘Manorexia’ as dubbed in the press for males, is an illness in which you continually diet and starve yourself. You may be frightened of putting on weight and act this out by restricting your food and drink intake. You may also binge, vomit, use laxatives or exercise excessively in order to control your weight.


Bulimia (nervosa) is a condition which a sufferer will eat a large amount of food, many hundreds of calories, quickly and without control. In some cases the issue is not the amount of food but the secretive, hurried and shameful way it is eaten. In bulimia, their binges will follow by an attempt to compensate their behaviours most commonly by making themselves vomit (purge). Sometimes a sufferer will deliberately starve themselves, take laxatives or use diuretics. This forms a bulimic cycle in which they may carry out this behaviour on a daily basis, once in a while, or consistently over a number of months or years.

Binge Eating

Similar to bulimia, someone who experiences binge eating disorder will binge but do not compensate their behaviours. They experience the same emptiness that someone who has bulimia does, but will retain what they have eaten, which will usually make them overweight/obese.

EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified)

EDNOS may be diagnosed to individuals who clearly have symptoms of disordered eating, but do not fit the diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia.

EDNOS could mean many things: it may mean that someone has the symptoms of anorexia such as restrictive thinking and using food as a punishment or by not eating their favourite foods as they feel they don’t deserve them. It can also mean either spoiling the food through over seasoning or only feeling that they can eat when they have exercised or will in the near future. They can still maintain the weight of a ‘healthy’ person but have no pleasure in food and can view it as an evil necessity.

Exercise disorders

There are two types of exercise disorders: compulsive and ‘bigorexia’ (also known as ’Muscle Dysmorphia’). Please read both definitions as there are some overlaps between the two.

What you must keep in mind with anyone who is a compulsive exerciser or ‘bigorexic’ will take exercise to the extreme and in many cases push themselves to a limit, which is beyond healthy and often beyond their own physical abilities but they cannot resist the compulsion. This can result in a hatred of exercise even though they cannot stop.

Men with eating disorders may not always recognise their symptoms and therefore it can take a long time for them to seek the help they need. It is common for someone affected by an eating disorder to deny it and they may refuse to acknowledge anything is wrong if someone tries to confront them about it.

Getting support

If you have or think you may have an eating disorder, it’s important that you consider speaking to someone about it. Telling someone for the first time can be a huge relief. The chances are you are bottling up your feelings and hiding from your friends, family, or you’re partner. By being open it might help you to think about what your next steps are and be supported by those around you.

Whoever you decide to talk to, it will help you to make the next step – whatever that may be for you. Remember you are not alone.

For further information and support, we have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:

  • Eating Disorders
  • Food for Thought
  • Obsessions and Compulsions

To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here

mgedt logo

Men Get Eating Disorders Too (MGEDT) is a national charity dedicated to representing and supporting the needs of men with eating disorders. They have created a fantastic and well researched website that provides essential information that is specific to the unique needs of men and an online space for men to get their voices heard as well as offer peer support through the MGEDT forum and live chat service.

Survivors Manchester would like to thank MGEDT Founder and Director, Sam Thomas, for generously creating this page for our website. We know how busy small charities are but Sam felt it was important to show MGEDT recognise the links often found between eating disorders and sexual abuse legacy.

For more information about males with eating disorders go to Men Get Eating Disorders Too website.


Some people have no idea why they self-harm. Some people hear the word and are scared to talk about it, others are scared to say it.

The reality for most is that self-harm is a way of expressing distress, deep distress; a way of communicating how much hurt is inside, like a very loud scream that happens inside. I’ve heard it described as being “a way I can communicate stuff that words cant say”.

After someone has harmed themselves, they often report feeling like they are more able to cope with life, shit and feel somehow better.

The first thing that generally springs to people’s minds when they hear self-harm is someone cutting themselves. That’s one action, but not everyone harms themselves in this way. Some burn themselves, others will take drug overdoses, punch and smack themselves. We believe that self-harm also includes problems with lack of eating or purposefully neglecting immediate health (kind of like not looking after your own emotional or physical needs). Self-harm is not always obvious.

But don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a judgment, it’s a coping mechanism, admittedly there are healthier and safer ones, but its still a coping mechanism.

Everyone has their own way of ‘letting off steam’ for instance… a cigarette, a glass of wine, a pint, screaming into a pillow. It’s the same principle with those that self-harm, it’s like the steam comes out through the cut or the release valve.

If someone is holding a tone of emotional pain that’s too hard to deal with, then cutting for instance can be a release, a way of feeling pain that’s viewable. Make sense?

If someone feels like they have done wrong and should be punished, hitting themselves or not allowing themselves food or basic needs can be the penalty. Does that make sense?

If someone has had control taken away from them that’s caused pain, then burning themselves is a way of feeling pain that they are in control of. Does that make sense now?

Marks, cuts, burns, scratches, all possible signs of self-harm and usually things that need to be hidden away from prying eyes. Long sleeves, never wearing shorts, tattoo cover ups. All ways of hiding the mark.

It’s often thought that people that self-harm have gone through incredibly difficult times in their childhood and that thought is generally correct. As survivors, we find ways of dealing with the emotional pain, not all of them seen by people as healthy.

As you’ll notice throughout this site, the biggest thing to remember is that YOU have choices now, you can stop ‘self-injury’, there are other ways to heal.

If you’re cutting, one common method is to swop the blade for an ice cube. Yeah, I know it might sound stupid but try it. You might be surprised at the familiar sensation. If you need something visual then use coloured liquids in the ice tray.

For those that are biting (that was my way), then replace your arm, hand, knee for something else. Lollypop stick, apple, banana, even chewing gum. You still get that bite!

For further information and support, we have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:

  • Obsessions and Compulsions
  • Self Harm

To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here

The American Self Harm site has been written by someone with personal experience of self-harm with some help from nurses.

American Self Harm

The National Self Harm Network is a registered charity offering a variety of support and self help.


Self Harm is a site written by an individual with experience of working with those that self harm, academic journals, website and some research documents.

Self Harm Net

MIND produce a fantastic resource for Self-Harm with some great tips on other coping mechanisms.


Crisis Support

samaritans logo

You know, if you feel in crisis and need to talk to someone then you can always call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (24hrs) or in an emergency please dial 999 for free. There is always someone at the end of the phone that can and will help and although it may feel like it, your never on your own! Pick up the phone and reach out, please don’t suffer in silence


Substance misuse is widespread in society. How many times have you seen on the news about people in this country ‘binge drinking’? It’s all the same thing… escape! As a survivor myself and as someone with an issue surrounding substance misuse, I would like to offer some ‘insider’ thoughts and opinions, as well as some useful information and facts.

I’ll start off with a brief introduction on why I think as survivors we can use drugs to such an extent that once we get into them, we can’t seem to stop. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people involved in drug and alcohol services have been the victims of sexual abuse, in fact research

“found that males were more likely than females to experience denial and to control their emotional response through the use of drug abuse”

(Kaufman, et al. 1980)

In my own experience, drugs were the ultimate form and vehicle for escapism, to change my head space so I didn’t have to deal with the thoughts and feelings of the past. I wasn’t dealing with the past at all, shit, I couldn’t deal with the past. I couldn’t deal with the here and now. Inevitably, it led to one unproductive, unfulfilled human being heading nowhere other than prison, or a section at the local psychiatric ward (if lucky enough for them to take you).

For me, and many others and possibly you reading this now, drugs seemed to be the ultimate way to escape from past negative experiences. It wasn’t until I found a good therapist that I realised what I was doing and made the connection between my drug use and being a victim of sexual abuse. I used to beat myself up for taking drugs and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stop relapsing, I just thought I was basically thick and a waste of time. But my detox worker put it to me that it was totally the opposite to what I thought, he said to me “it was big and clever to take drugs to forget about the shit, it just wasn’t healthy or adaptive way to cope with the past”.

Basically what he was saying was I’d developed an excellent coping mechanism to deal with the abusive past because if I hadn’t what would have been the alternative? I’d say suicide, for me anyway. That’s another reason why we are called survivors because we have the ability to come up with ingenious ways to tell ourselves so many lies that we start believing them just to cope with the past. To put it temporarily on a shelf somewhere thus creating a new identity. Genius I say… at the time but also dangerous, as I came to find out. I’d bottled things up for so long that it resulted in a nervous breakdown. What I came to realise was that I was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – a result of keeping secrets. It wasn’t untill I broke the silence to my specialist support worker that I truly started to heal.

Drug addiction can be a life sentence just like being a victim of sexual abuse. It means were handing our control over to another perpetrator, only this time it’s called drugs. We are certainly not in the habit of doing that anymore because “where did that plan get us last time….”. We need to clear ourselves of everything that is torturing us in order to move on.

So that’s the story so far, lets look at some of the different kinds of dugs we can end up taking and the different stages of addiction.

The Drugs

There are many other drugs but it would be impossible to list them all. There are already dozens of sites that do that, look for your local drug service or voluntary sector organisation.

The next bit I would like to discus are the different levels of dependency and how basically one thing can lead to another and next thing you know “BINGO” you’ve got a habit.

We will first start of with of with the first stage there are 3 stages or levels of dependency.

The first stage is experimental this is when were first starting off and don’t know nothing about drugs normally at a young age 13 plus. We hear about drugs and older peers experiences and it sounds exciting maybe just what we are looking for a chance to change the way we feel. So we start off with the basics smoking a bit of weed maybe trying a trip (lsd), gas, glue etc. so we start trying the different drugs find out what sort we like, uppers or downers. Nothings problematic at this stage its just fun, funded by pocket money or given to us by an older friend or sibling. No major problems really?

The next stage is a little more serious this is when we are a little bit more experienced trying other things like coke, ecstasy, speed and like we call this the recreational stage not too problematic at this stage just using drugs at weekends maybe to enhance our nights out a good way to describe this is going out clubbing at weekends still holding down a job, maybe a bit of social supplying to friends but nothing life wrecking. Still fun at this stage?

The next stage is dependency this is when we cant function or go out without having drugs in our system and are possibly physically addicted. Now we are masters of drug abuse. Not fun anymore we will more than definitely be committing serious crime at this stage or selling our body’s to fund the habit whatever our drug of choice. I don’t differentiate what the drug is if it’s taking over your life you got a problem alcohol certainly included. An example of this is forming a dependency on a physically or psychologically addictive substance like heroin or any of the so called party drugs. But the party is well and truly over. This is when a serious intervention from a professional is required to help us learn to control our problem and understand how to unravel our addiction.

In my personal view, as a survivor and drug user, is that with the psychological damage from childhood or adult abuse issues, we are more likely to form a habit on substances to cope with past traumatic experiences. If you’re laden with issues, drugs seem to be the perfect coping mechanism to get by but take it from me, they are certainly not the long term answer.

I hope this has been of some help to all those survivors and their friends out there reading this. I have also proud to have written my story on drugs that you can find on this site under ‘Survivors Stories’, its called ‘First Chance to Escape”. If you can relate to anything in this article, have a look, it might be of some interest and help. I personally took drugs to combat the abuse and it was like a light being turned on when I realised this. That’s when I started to unpick my drug use and work on the legacy issue so I can build a better future for myself. There is nothing special about me I have no magic powers or ain’t been tapped with a magic wand. Anyone can turn there life around and have a fulfilling future with the correct support in place. It is a relief and a release to fully understand why we have kicked the arse out of our drug use when we have seen others take or leave them, (no resentments there honest), it can also give enlightenment to loved ones in our life when they realise why we took drugs, it wasn’t there fault nor could they have done anything at the time to make us stop – it was more deep rooted than simply putting the drugs down, but disclosures a whole other minefield.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help to get rid of that shame and guilt surrounding drug use and move proudly on. you’ve made it this far, your reading this.

For further information and support, we have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:

Alcohol and You

To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here

FRANK is a national drug education service jointly established by the Department of Health and Home Office of the British government in 2003.

Talk To Frank

ADS is the leading provider of alcohol and drug treatment services in the North West and beyond.


Lifeline works with individuals, families and communities both to prevent and reduce harm, to promote recovery, and to challenge the inequalities linked to alcohol and drug misuse.

Lifeline Project


The word that frightens most people.

The word that people don’t want to talk about.

But it’s not the word that causes the damage. Don’t be scared to talk about it, don’t be scared to say that you’re feeling suicidal, at some point most adult male survivors have. I know I have, to the point of thinking through the reality of when and where and how. But something stopped me, talking stopped me.

Lots has been written on the subject and there are some fantastic pieces out there. So rather than reinventing the wheel, we have gathered together some of the best pages that can help.

Having difficulty starting the conversation? The Samaritans have put together a number of brilliant resources for those times, along with some suggestions of how to talk about suicide. They have also written a brilliant page on the subject of suicide that may help you understand more, including the myths about the subject and a page that includes information on the myths about suicide.

Check out C.A.L.M (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) which is one of the best resources aimed at men. Seriously, have a look.


Additionally, NHS Choices have put together a really good page.

NHS Choices

Papyrus is a voluntary UK organisation committed to the prevention of young suicide and the promotion of mental health and emotional wellbeing


Mind have additional specially written resources, certified by the Information Standard.

Mind (Feelings)Mind (Help)


For those for those bereaved through suicide Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) exists to meet the needs and break the isolation of those bereaved by the suicide of a close relative or friend. They are a self-help organization, many of their volunteers have themselves been bereaved by suicide.


Just take a moment and read some of what we have listed. It may be worth it.


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