Eating disorders kill one person every 52 minutes. That accounts for over 10,000 deaths a year, a number that only includes the cases officially reported (in actuality, the number is suspected to be much higher).
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), body dysmorphic disorders affect 1–3 percent of the overall population, including over 13 percent of male military members and over 21% of female military members. This might be surprising to some, but high rates of body dissatisfaction and weight requirement-driven disordered eating habits are nothing new within the military.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the causes and prevalence of eating disorders among veteran men and women.
Breaking the Stigma
What kind of individual first comes to mind when you think of eating disorders? People often imagine an adolescent female who immerses herself in weight loss magazines and is constantly trying extreme dieting methods in order to fit into a smaller dress or a smaller swimsuit.
Most people aren’t going to picture a middle-aged male veteran who can’t eat in front of other people. They wouldn’t imagine that he can never finish what’s on his plate because he can barely take a bite of food, let alone chew, swallow and keep it down. This is a common reality, though, and many veterans struggling with eating disorders largely attribute the development of the disorder to their experience in the military.
Understanding this better is the first step to breaking the stigmas around military members and food as well as a step closer to helping promote more widespread treatment for them.
What are the Causes of Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that are rarely rooted in a single cause. For many individuals, there are several potential factors that can influence the development and perpetuation of an eating disorder and may include genetic influences and unhealthy peer trends and pressures.
Since each case is unique to the individual, what might contribute to the development of an eating disorder for one person might not influence another.
The military can contribute many additional factors that have a negative influence on a service member’s relationship with food, exercise, body image and worth.
Eating Disorders in the Military
Veterans can be especially vulnerable to developing eating disorders both during and after their time in the military. Due to enforced appearance ideals or the perception of an ideal physique, men and women in the military can develop disordered eating behaviors in order to try and meet those standards.
Some of the factors that can also contribute to these disorders include:
The development of PTSD (can be a trigger for eating disorders)
The military’s significant emphasis on physical fitness and appearance
Challenges accompanying the transition back to civilian life
Traumatic brain injuries that impact cognition and emotional regulation
If you or someone you love struggles to experience peace, joy and balance surrounding food, send our team a message here at Tapestry today.
Find a Veteran Program Near You
Embarking on the road to recovery is difficult and requires patience and perseverance. Without the proper support systems in place, many people fail to achieve long-lasting healing. We’re here to serve you at every step in your recovery journey.
Tapestry is proud to be a member of the Veterans Affairs Community Care Network (VA-CCN).
The VA-CCN is comprised of facilities that are pre-approved to accept veteran benefits, giving veterans faster and more convenient access to mental health and substance use treatment. The Community Care Network (CCN) uses industry-standard guidelines to administer treatment and quickly pay for services.
There’s no shortcut to recovery, but there are countless recovery programs available for veterans. If you don’t know where to start with finding the right one for you, send us a message.
Speak with an Advisor Today
Tapestry is a premier behavioral health treatment center that specializes in helping adolescents, and families heal from various mental disorders and eating disorders.
Understanding that every person is a unique individual, we work closely with you from day one to curate a treatment plan designed to meet your specific needs. Whether you’re experiencing a mental health disorder, eating disorder or co-occurring disorders, Tapestry is here to help.