by Lisa Dean
The VA has taken a focus on not only the physical health of veterans but the mental health of men and women who suffer from Eating Disorders (ED). Dr. Robin Masheb conducted the first study to examine Atypical Anorexia Nervosa (ANN) that associated post 9/11 veterans who suffer from bulimia, binge eating, and AAN are associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and insomnia. Research studies also associated persistent suicide ideations and suicide attempts with veterans having erroneous beliefs of food and strict weight requirements.
Dr. Sara Rubin, a psychiatrist who heads the Eating Disorders Program at VA Connecticut Healthcare concluded Veterans’ eating disorders are associated with exposure to combat trauma, military sexual trauma, and pressure to meet military weight and fitness requirements. Also, AAN has symptoms of starvation and extreme fear of weight gain. A calamitous military regulation of strict requirement to lose weight, women veterans often experience shame, anxiety, and unworthiness. Women service members continually starve themselves before military weigh ins, to include women having to quickly lose weight after giving birth.
AAN is not only associated with women veterans. Ex-marine veteran, Tom Burke learned during basic training food was a crutch and made you weak, an implicit message from the drill instructors. When deployed to Iraq, Burke was responsible for gathering the dead bodies of Iraqi children killed by roadside bombs. The trauma of perpetual images of children’s body parts resulted in severe PSTD and eventually resulted of Burke’s [illegal] use of cannabis. He felt he “didn’t deserve to eat.” Burke was released from active duty with an other than honorable discharge and subsequently suffered with anorexia and bulimia for over a decade.
Harmony Hills Behavioral Health is mindful of the differences between veterans and civilians who suffer from eating disorders. The expert staff are experienced in treating veterans with ED and provide comprehensive treatment to address medical, nutritional, and therapeutic needs. Call 855.494.0357 today to learn more about our mental health services.