The end of the year holidays can be a joyous yet stressful time. While many embrace the holiday season as a festive time to eat, drink and celebrate with friends and family, those with eating disorders such as binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa see it as a nightmare. Individuals with eating disorders usually begin to worry about food consumption at holiday gatherings weeks, sometimes even months before the event. For those who know someone struggling with an eating disorder, there are many helpful ways to support them through the holiday season.
What’s great about these tips is that they can be applied to almost any situation. Work, for example, can be stressful for those with eating disorders. It’s difficult to pack lunch everyday, and sometimes they have to eat out for business meetings over lunch. They may feel pressured to order something and finish it. Another situation could be that they don’t have time to eat a proper meal so they have to grab something fast yet unhealthy. This can result in feelings of guilt and subsequent purging. Working in a fast paced environment can make it difficult to maintain a healthy lunch routine. It’s important to remember that eating out in moderation can be beneficial and that no one should feel pressured to eat anything they don’t want to. Be firm in your beliefs.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Delgado, D. (2018). Eating disorders and the holiday season. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/eating-disorders/201811/eating-disorders-and-the-holiday-season
Many veterans experience a group of mental health conditions that tend to disproportionately affect military personnel. These conditions include post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse. Due to the traumatic environment in which active military combatants serve, veterans are at a significantly higher risk for developing these health concerns. These issues can often be addressed and resolved with the support of a mental health professional.
PTSD in Veterans
Post-traumatic stress is an anxiety issue that may develop after an individual is exposed to a traumatic or overwhelming life experience. While the human body tends to return to baseline levels after experiencing a stressful event, people experiencing PTSD continue to release stress-related hormones and chemicals. Post-traumatic stress is characterized by four types of symptoms: reliving the event, avoidance, hyperarousal, and negative thoughts or feelings. Events that cause PTSD can include combat and/or sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is a significant concern in the military. Some studies estimate that approximately 1% of veteran males and 22% of veteran females are exposed to sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment during their military service. Between 10% and 33% of servicewomen may experience attempted rape during this time period. There are a variety of emotional, behavioral, physical, and mental health issues that have been linked to military sexual trauma (MST). Primary among these are depression, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, substance dependency, and an increased risk of suicide. Roughly 50-60% of female veterans who experience MST eventually develop PTSD. Of servicewomen who develop PTSD due to military sexual trauma, an estimated 75% develop co-morbid depression, and over 30% may develop anxiety.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are also prevalent among veterans. Upon returning home, some veterans report feeling disconnected from family members and friends. The belief that no one is able to relate to their experiences or offer meaningful emotional support can prompt service members to bottle up their feelings or even seek social isolation. Additionally, the grief of losing one’s friends during combat, coupled with feelings of survivor’s guilt can lead to the development of depression and anxiety if they are not effectively treated.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injury is one of the most discussed topics among veterans. People who experience a brain injury may become confused, disoriented, experience slow or delayed thinking, and may even slip into a coma. Other symptoms associated with TBI are headaches, dizziness, memory loss, and difficulty paying attention. In some cases, traumatic brain injury can result in physical deficits, behavioral changes, emotional deficiencies, and loss of cognitive ability. In the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, 78% of all combat injuries are caused by explosive munitions. Mild TBI or concussion is one of the most prevalent combat injuries, affecting roughly 15% of all active military combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to the devastating effect of roadside bombs in these countries, the ability to effectively treat traumatic brain injury is of great importance in veteran care.
Sometimes, veterans may turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to relieve stress or the symptoms of PTSD, depression, or other mental health conditions. But misusing alcohol and drugs can lead to substance use disorders (SUD) and other serious issues. Fortunately, there are many proven ways to help veterans recover from substance use disorders.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a wide range of mental health services and treatments to aid military veterans. They have many resources on how to help veterans and their loved ones get answers to their questions, find support, access treatment, and recover. Treatments range from cognitive processing therapy (CPT) to residential care. Because there is extensive research on mental health conditions in the military, specific therapies can be designed to help target the conditions discussed above. Coupled with support from loved ones, there is great hope in recovery for our veterans.
Hankin, C. S., Spiro, A., Miller, D. R. & Kazis, L. (2009). Mental disorders and mental health treatment among U.S. department of veterans affairs outpatients: The veterans health study. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(12), 1924-1930.
Maguen, S., Cohen, B., Ren, L., Bosch, J., Kimerling, R. & Seal, K. (2012). Gender differences in military sexual trauma and mental health diagnoses among iraq and afghanistan veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Women’s Health Issues, 22(1), 61-66. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2011.07.010
In honor of Veteran’s Day, it’s important to address the mental health stigma of veterans and their lack of support. Many avoid seeking out help for psychological problems because of the perceived stigma associated with needing mental health care. They may worry about what others think and how they are perceived. Stigma stems from misinformation, and can be resolved by spreading proper awareness.
Because of stigma, some people may believe things about mental health problems that aren't true. Stigma happens when others:
Unfortunately, other people’s stigma can lead one to feel shame or guilt about having a mental health problem.
Soldiers face a number of highly stressful situations, including deployment, combat exposure, and reintegration. Given this, it’s not surprising that veterans are showing high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol use, anger management issues, physical health problems, and suicide. Unfortunately, many do not seek out treatment. Multiple studies suggest only about half of veterans get treatment. It seems that many service members are worried that disclosing psychological difficulties or seeking out treatment will negatively affect their military careers and personal lives. However, the consequences of not seeking out treatment can be dangerous. Untreated psychological difficulties may only get worse and could have a major impact on a soldier's ability to perform in combat or at home when they return from duty.
Fortunately, a lot is being done to combat stigma. The Department of Defense has recognized that stigma is a major problem in the armed forces, and as a result, every branch of the military is taking steps to combat the stigma associated with mental health problems and seeking out treatment. For example, to limit fear that the report of psychological difficulties will negatively impact security clearance, the Department of Defense no longer requires people to report if they have sought out mental health care for combat-related reasons. For those seeking treatment after their service, an anti-stigma campaign called the Real Warriors Campaign was launched. It’s designed to promote resilience, recovery, and support for returning service members, veterans, and their families. Additionally, we can do our part by spreading awareness on the importance of mental health recovery for our military and veterans.
Nash, W. P., Silva, C. & Litz, B. (2009). The historic origins of military and veteran mental health stigma and the stress injury model as a means to reduce it. Psychiatric Annals, 39(8). doi: 10.3928/00485713-20090728-05