Women in the Army with Eating Disorders

Women in the Army with Eating DisordersThe U.S. Army sets weight guidelines for its active duty members. When a woman is suffering from an eating disorder, treatment is necessary.

Eating Disorders in the Military

Studies show the number of women and men who suffer from eating disorders may be higher in the military. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a study conducted on one Army base found 8 percent of women had an eating disorder, compared to 1 percent to 3 percent in the civilian population.

There are three eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa is experienced by individuals who choose to starve themselves and experience dramatic weight loss.
  • Binge eating disorder is experienced by individuals who repeatedly eat large amounts of food during a short time without purging.
  • Bulimia nervosa is experienced by individuals who go through a cycle of eating large amounts of food followed by a period of voluntary vomiting to compensate for the binge eating.

Individuals who struggle with an eating disorder have a particularly difficult time in the military. While goals of perfect physical fitness lead some women to an eating disorder, the U.S. Department of the Army sets strict standards governing overall health. In the Army’s Standards of Medical Fitness, the department requires women and men to meet certain minimum and maximum weight guidelines based on height and body mass index. Eating disorders that last more than three months and occur after the 13th birthday prevent women from meeting the standard.

Personality and Eating Disorders

Further studies have identified a relationship between personality and the likelihood of developing an eating disorder. Individuals with the following personality disorders or mental illnesses may be more likely to develop an eating disorder, according to UMMC:

  • Avoidant personality—the need to avoid criticism and be perfect
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality—preoccupation with rules and order
  • Borderline personality—self-destructive and impulsive behaviors
  • Narcissistic personality—need for admiration and inability to empathize with others
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder—need to perform rituals to alleviate fears
  • Anxiety disorders—phobias, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder

On the whole, women are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than men. Around 7 million women and 1 million men suffer from the disorder in the United States, according to the UMMC.

Need Help Finding Treatment for an Eating Disorder?

The demands of a military career are intense. When a woman in the army suffers from an eating disorder, she is especially vulnerable. If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please call our toll-free, 24 hour number for help. We are here to offer advice. Call us today and get started on the path to recovery.