Over 24 million people in the United States struggle with an eating disorder. And that number is particularly troubling because of its dangers; in fact, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Unfortunately, veterans with eating disorders often struggle to find access to quality care, causing them to struggle to find the help they need. For this reason, Heroes’ Mile provides anorexia nervosa treatment in a veteran-centered treatment center to ensure veterans have the support necessary for recovery. Below you’ll learn more about how our veteran rehabilitation center can help you.
Signs of Anorexia Nervosa in Veterans
There’s a common misconception that eating disorders are easy to spot. However, identifying anorexia can be challenging because many people with anorexia can be secretive or in denial about their condition. This is particularly true among veterans, who may not feel comfortable reaching out for help. As a result, many veterans struggle to get anorexia nervosa treatment.
Body image issues and eating disorders are stigmatized and underreported in the military but anorexia nervosa treatment for veterans is available. You no longer have to suffer in silence. Your eating disorder is not a sign of weakness but may be related to PTSD as a result of military trauma. If you or a loved one are exhibiting the symptoms below, it’s time to consider how veteran-centered treatment for anorexia can help you recover from this debilitating yet treatable illness.
Emotional Symptoms of Anorexia
- Food obsession
- Obsessive fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body image
- Inability to reasonably assess body weight and appearance
- Striving for perfection and being overly self-critical
- A need to feel in control
- Suicidal ideation
Behavioral Symptoms of Anorexia
- Frequent dieting or restricted eating
- Constant and excessive exercise
- Spending large amounts of time exercising, especially in response to having larger meals
- Wearing loose clothing to hide weight loss
- Following strict rules and guidelines about food such as obsessively counting calories
- Refusing food from others or eating alone
- Rapid decrease in body weight
- Low blood pressure
- Feeling cold nearly all of the time
- Slow or irregular heartbeat
- Absent or irregular menstrual cycle
- Frequent illness
- Hair loss
- Tooth decay
Risk Factors for Veterans
Part of military life for active duty members often includes regular weigh-ins. And as an unintended side effect of this focus on weight and body fat percentages, military personnel can develop an obsession with these numbers. In a way, the need to meet frequent physical fitness evaluations and weight limitations can cause soldiers to develop disorganized eating habits that persist beyond their time in the service.
Are you or a loved one in need of help?
The unique relationship veterans have with food is often a direct result of their military experiences. There may have been times when you were required to eat copious amounts of food in a short period in basic training or relied on caloric deficits to survive deployment. Additionally, witnessing death and violence during combat is associated with increased chances of eating disorder development, making anorexia nervosa treatment even more vital for veterans.
Moreover, food deprivation and sensory input associated with eating during a traumatic time can cause long-term effects on your relationship to food. Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST) are also at an increased risk, as sexual assault can have a highly destructive impact on body image.
Military-based trauma is frequently the cause of anorexia in active duty soldiers and veterans. As a result, these adverse experiences must be addressed to heal and overcome anorexia. Veteran-centered anorexia nervosa treatment can help veterans process their trauma and get to the root of their eating disorder.
Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders
In addition to the unique risk factors that veterans face, they are also at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are a common form of mental illness that accompanies anorexia. Around 50 percent of adults with an eating disorder also struggle with alcohol or drug abuse. This comes out to roughly one in 10 people who could benefit from anorexia nervosa treatment and addiction treatment.
This high correlation is due to a link between eating disorders and addiction because of compulsive behavioral patterns. The characteristics of anorexia parallel the cycle of addiction because restricting food intake and the obsession to lose weight disrupts daily activities. Keep in mind that anorexia nervosa stems from the need to be in control, especially as it pertains to preventing weight gain, rather than being about the food itself. Similarly, alcohol can be a way for people to take “control” of negative emotions that feel overwhelming.
This emphasizes the importance of getting anorexia nervosa treatment as soon as possible. Seeking help to treat anorexia and addiction is essential for your physical and emotional healing. The comprehensive treatment approaches available through the residential rehab at Heroes’ Mile can help you overcome your anorexia and addiction one step at a time.
Anorexia Nervosa Treatment Options
Seeking out anorexia nervosa treatment can be overwhelming. But the goal of treatment is to recover. The physicians and mental health professionals at our recovery center will provide the resources you need to take back control from anorexia. You’ll start with individual therapy methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR therapy, and TIR therapy to begin connecting your eating disorder to your trauma.
Anorexia thrives in isolation, which is why the support of family members, friends, and other veterans can have a positive impact on those in recovery. While group therapy is an integral part of treatment, family therapy can be included toward the end of your anorexia nervosa treatment plan to improve at-home support. A support system is crucial in preventing relapse after completing a residential program.
Additional treatment modalities that are effective in anorexia recovery include nutrition education and art therapy. These evidence-based approaches are included in recovery treatment programs to provide healthy outlets while improving your relationship with food. With the support of other veterans at our center, you can recover at your own pace in a judgment-free environment.
Where to Find Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Veterans
Any veteran seeking help to overcome anorexia can rely on the care provided at Heroes’ Mile. Every mental health professional and staff member understands what you went through in the military because they’re veterans too. Moreover, they’re trained in helping you at every stage in your recovery journey.