Military Personnel and Eating Disorders

Military Personnel and Eating DisordersEating disorders like anorexia and bulimia affect many people, and anyone can develop an eating disorder. This increasingly common problem is seen in both males and females, and it is appearing among military personnel.

Stress as a Contributing Factor to Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are not about food, but instead about using food to escape from stress, to self-medicate painful emotions or to control one’s life. Where people resort to drug use for these same reasons, eating disorders often develop in patients with a negative body image or unrealistic expectations about the way they should look.

Stress from military service can trigger an eating disorder. Military personnel are often away from home, separated from family, living and working in unfamiliar surroundings and performing a difficult job. Overseas duty, especially in combat, can be extremely stressful, so many veterans return with stress disorders that may manifest themselves in a variety of unhealthy reactions, including disordered eating.

How the Military Spawns Eating Disorders

The military has traditionally held a philosophy of toughing out any personal problem. Unfortunately, this has made it difficult for military personnel to recognize or admit that they have a problem and need treatment. Service personnel are often reluctant to admit that they have stress-related issues such as depression or an eating disorder.

However, philosophies are changing in the military. Many veterans return from war with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and have forced the military to rethink treating psychological issues among its personnel. The military is also becoming increasingly sensitive to the needs of female personnel. As a result, the Veteran’s Administration now staffs many people devoted to treating psychological issues, and every VA center now has a Women Veterans Program Manager.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common approach for treating eating disorders. It teaches patients to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, as well as ways they react to them. Patients learn to recognize feelings and emotions that trigger disordered eating and how to respond in healthier ways. Treatment for eating disorders should also include nutritional education and healthy techniques to manage weight.

If you want help finding treatment for an eating disorder, call our toll-free helpline today. Counselors are available 24 hours a day who can answer any questions you have and to help you find the best treatment options.