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Health: Eating Disorder Awareness

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- There's a lot of buzz about eating disorders with the revelations this week that several celebrities have struggled with anorexia and bulimia. Experts say their confessions help to raise awareness.

Millions of people, mainly women, have eating disorders. But most are too guilty or embarrassed to admit it. Now, with some famous people leading the way, experts say it's starting to change.

Lady Gaga and TV host Stacy London are two of the more recent celebrities revealing long battles with bulimia and anorexia.

Lady Gaga, who's recently gained 25 pounds, released a picture of herself and revealed that she's had eating disorders since she was 15.

"The more people are talking about this, there's increased awareness", says Becky Walter, a therapist with the Renfrew Center, which specializes in treating eating disorders.

She says celebrity confessions help reduce the stigmas often linked to extreme thinness. She says that "within eating disorders, there's a lot of shame and guilt, and so when people are actively speaking about it in their own journeys, it can be very helpful."

On her web page, Lady Gaga has launched what she calls "a body revolution." That's prompted a deluge of complaints about body hating.

Experts say self esteem and control issues are usually at the core of anorexia and bulimia. "The vast majority of our groups incorporate some type of work around developing self esteem, and part of that can be body acceptance," Walter explains.

Eating disorders usually start in high school and college, but there's recently been a surge in middle-aged women seeking treatment for the problem.

"When you have people in the media talking about eating disorders across ages, it speaks to the pervasiveness we see at Renfrew in our patient population," according to Walter.

Experts say therapy is the most effective way to treat eating disorders, but it can be a long and difficult process.

For more on the Renfrew Center, visit:

For more on Lady Gaga, visit:

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