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National Eating Disorders Week hopes to raise awareness: How to get help

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Designed to raise awareness of conditions such as anorexia and bulimia, National Eating Disorders Week occurs Feb. 23 to March 1. It's also intended to help sufferers, parents and friends discover how to get help as well as what to do to prevent these diseases, reported Forbes on Feb. 22.

The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, but the causes and solutions are not so easily categorized, say experts.

"Eating disorders are complicated and vexing problems and we don’t exactly understand the pathophysiology of them," noted Dr. Aaron Krasner, a practicing psychiatrist, and Director of the Adolescent Transitional Living Program at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut.

"Certainly there is both a genetic component and an environmental component," he added. But "it is not a one size fits all remedy or a preventive strategy."

An estimated 10 million women and one million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder, according to the Eating Disorder Foundation.

And eating disorders do not discriminate: Addiction specialist Drew Pinksy's daughter Paulina just revealed that she battled bulimia and anorexia for seven years, reported USA Today on Feb. 24.

"Purging eight times in one day to cope with the emotional stress of being home during spring break had finally scared me enough to take action," she wrote in an essay on body shame.

One of the keys to recovery: Talking about it rather than trying to hide the disorder, says Paulina.

"For me, talking about it normalizes talking about it. Eating disorders shouldn't be a secret because that's what perpetuates them," she explained.

Dr. Drew said he takes pride in his daughter's decision to get help.

"When she recognized she needed help she sought treatment and actively engaged in the process. And now she is using her insights to help others," he stated.

But for those with eating disorders, the path to recovery can be long and difficult, revealed Jenni Schaefer recently in the Huffington Post. She's the author of "Almost Anorexic: Is My (or My Loved One's) Relationship with Food a Problem? (The Almost Effect)" and "Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too" (click for details).

Even after getting professional help, Jenni remained too thin. And she was obsessed with the "thigh gap" look symptomatic of women who are unnaturally slender.

I struggled for years to maintain an unnaturally low weight while simultaneously trying to be recovered. This doesn't work.)

With the added weight, it took lots of strategic effort, but I could still position my legs in such a way that my thighs wouldn't meet. I would let out an even bigger sigh of relief. For me, this was a tool by which I falsely measured happiness, success and self-worth.

And even after she began eating more, it took a long period to achieve a healthy weight, says Jenni. To her, recovery means: "I am in touch with my hunger and fullness cues and I don't get the urge to binge. I feel energetic, healthy and happy."

Learn about resources such as books and DVDs on eating disorders by clicking here.

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