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Demi Lovato talks about eating disorders -- but why are they so hard to shake?

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July 13, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
(Andrew H. Walker / Getty…)

Admitting you have an eating disorder after living with it for years is no easy task -- but that's exactly what Demi Lovato told Ryan Seacrest in an interview.

The 18-year-old Disney Channel alumna, who said her family had known about her eating issues for six years, has had the words "stay" and "strong" tatooed over self-mutilation scars on her wrists.

Why does it all too often take so long to recognize and deal with a problem such as an eating disorder? Lovato called her situation the "elephant in the room."

It's certainly true that being immersed in an environment that values thinness at a premium probably doesn't help matters much.

But it may also be that people suffering from eating disorders actually tend to cling to them. A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry compared patients' responses to a rapid-response visual test and found that anorexic patients tend to stick to "familiar" behavioral responses more often than healthy subjects do.

Thus, they're less likely to engage in an "alternative" behavior -- such as breaking out of the vicious cycle of eating disorders.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, here are some resources that might be able to help.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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