Study at 2017 iaedp™ Symposium Reveals the Long Journey Home for Female Veterans

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The study, “Taking off the Uniform: Body Image Among Female Veterans,” Primary Presenter Martha B. Womack, PhD and co-presenters Elizabeth P. Dizney, PsyD and Sarah Patton, PsyD examine and make the case that studying body image in female veterans is of the utmost importance to increase body satisfaction in order to decrease the worsening of depression and suicide attempts.

The role of females in the military, particularly over the past decade, has challenges as they transition from military to civilian life. Body image dissatisfaction is largely unexamined among female veterans, a rapidly growing population of over two million who experience poorer health and greater occurrence of chronic mental health conditions than female civilians. Female veterans also are more vulnerable to disordered eating and suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders than their male counterparts. The impact of military experiences and subsequent reintegration into civilian culture upon female body image deserves examination.

Female service members are exposed to unique sociocultural influences and undergo bodily-focused experiences such as completing boot camp, upholding weight/ fitness requirements and wearing a uniform. The study, “Taking off the Uniform: Body Image Among Female Veterans,” Primary Presenter Martha B. Womack, PhD and co-presenters Elizabeth P. Dizney, PsyD and Sarah Patton, PsyD examine and make the case that studying body image in female veterans is of the utmost importance to increase body satisfaction in order to decrease the worsening of depression and suicide attempts.
The research is one of nearly 60 presentations to be featured during the 2017 iaedp Symposium in Las Vegas, March 22 – 26, at the Green Valley Resort. For more information, visit iaedp.com.
Body dissatisfaction predicts the onset and worsening of depression and suicide attempts. The researchers will argue that improving female veterans’ body image may reduce risk to psychiatric conditions and improve overall health. They also will describe a brief therapeutic study designed to explore body image issues among female veterans and develop research questions.
Following the presentation, the researchers state that participants will be able to identify the common medical and psychological co-morbidities associated with body image disturbances experienced by female veterans. Participants also will be able to identify key factors influencing body image development prior to military service and the ways military experiences impact development of body image and acceptance among female veterans.

The research team has unprecedented experience with the study of female veterans, particularly the little understood and rarely recognized challenges faced by so many. Dr. Womack is a staff psychologist with the North Florida/South Georgia VA health system. She works primarily with female veterans through the women's primary health care clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
Dr. Dizney is the previous clinical director for the University of Florida Eating Disorder Recovery Center. She currently works full-time as a staff psychologist in the Women's Clinic at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System.

Dr. Patton is a staff psychologist for the North Florida/South Georgia VA. She has published body image research in the Journal of Developmental Psychology. She completed her doctoral training at Baylor University, followed by a trauma-focused internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She also completed two trauma-focused postdoctoral fellowships in child and adult psychology at UC Davis Medical School and the North Florida/South Georgia VA. Her clinical interests include attachment, body image, and complex trauma.

About iaedp: Since 1985, the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals has provided education and training standards to an international and multidisciplinary group of various healthcare treatment providers and helping professions.

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Susan Lomelino
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