Ed Sheeran Opens up About Depression and Bulimia Struggles: 'I Didn't Want to Live Anymore'

Ed Sheeran says his upcoming album, Subtract, is full of emotions. As part of his April cover story interview for Rolling Stone, the British singer recounted the events that triggered his heightened emotional state last year, including the death of his best friend and his wife's tumor diagnosis. According to Rolling Stone, the 32-year-old, whose four-part Disney+ docuseries The Sum of It All begins May 3, reflected on his life and is "so grateful to be alive." In February 2022, Sheeran lost his closest friend, Jamal Edwards, a music entrepreneur who died due to a cocaine-induced cardiac arrhythmia. The death of another friend, Australian cricket star Shane Warne, and the discovery that his expecting wife Seaborn was pregnant with a tumor that could not be removed before she gave birth exacerbated Sheeran's downward spiral.

"I felt like I didn't want to live anymore," he told Rolling Stone. "You're under the waves drowning. You're just sort of in this thing. And you can't get out of it." As a result of Seaborn's encouragement, Sheeran said he sought help. "No one really talks about their feelings where I come from," he said. "People think it's weird getting a therapist in England.… I think it's very helpful to be able to speak with someone and just vent and not feel guilty about venting.

"Obviously, like, I've lived a very privileged life. So my friends would always look at me like, 'Oh, it's not that bad.' The help isn't a button that is pressed, where you're automatically OK," he continued. "It is something that will always be there and just has to be managed." Last May, Seaborn underwent successful surgery after giving birth to Jupiter, her second daughter. 

The singer and songwriter also acknowledged that he suffered from body image issues, telling Rolling Stone that he struggled with insecurities about his body and appearance. "I'm self-conscious anyway, but you get into an industry where you're getting compared to every other pop star," the pop star told the publication. "I was in the One Direction wave, and I'm like, 'Well, why don't I have a six-pack?' And I was like, 'Oh because you love kebabs and drink beer.' Then you do songs with Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes. All these people have fantastic figures. And I was always like, 'Well, why am I so … fat?'"

During the interview, the "Shape of You" singer discussed his experience of being a "nerd" and an outcast as a child and how that had a lasting impact on his self-confidence. However, Sheeran stated that those feelings were amplified due to comparisons with other male singers gaining popularity at the same time.

"I am quite quote-unquote 'ordinary-looking.' I look like someone's older brother's mate who came back from college and works in a pizza shop," he said. "I am a bloke in a T-shirt." Also, he talked about how a negative body image led him to adopt unhealthy habits.

"I found myself doing what Elton [John] talks about in his book — gorging, and then it would come up again," Sheeran said. Rolling Stone reported that John acknowledged that his behavior was bulimia-related. "There's certain things that, as a man talking about them, I feel mad uncomfortable. I know people are going to see it a type of way, but it's good to be honest about them. Because so many people do the same thing and hide it as well."

It was ultimately therapy that helped him recognize and overcome his difficulties. "I'm a real binge eater. I'm a binge-everything," he said. "But I'm now more of a binge exerciser, and a binge dad. And work, obviously."

The Subtract album is due out on May 5, and Sheeran says he had another version ready for release last year, but the hardships he experienced changed his plans. In an attempt to reflect on his current life, he quickly wrote a cycle of songs and later pulled three from the record because he felt that they were "too joyous."