Body of research
Katie Ashley is a former ballet scholarship student who gave up dancing because of struggles with anorexia nervosa.
Now 30 and healthy, she has a new lease on life. She is a yoga instructor specializing in movement therapy, finishing up an online degree in the psychology of substance abuse and preparing for a life of helping others and -- not to mention, much to her delight -- being a new mom.
"I have been at a healthy weight and free of eating disordered behaviors and thought patterns for 10 years. I am currently pregnant and very happy and healthy," says Ashley. "As many who struggled with anorexia long term, I was told that I would never be able to have children, so this is a very welcome surprise."
Ashley doesn't like to dwell on her past but is doing everything she can to learn about eating disorders.
Sometimes that means flying across the country to attend conferences of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. But this month, all she'll have to do is get in her car and drive to the Charleston Marriott to attend the four-day 2012 IAEDP Symposium on March 22-25.
The association is expecting 450 attendees at the symposium to hear presentations from leading experts on eating disorders, including psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, nurses, therapists and registered dietitians, as well as representatives from eating disorder treatment centers across the country.
Among them will be local expert Dr. Timothy Brewerton, who will present "Trauma, Eating Disorders and Complex PTSD: The Long and Winding Road to Recovery." His workshop will focus on helping clinicians understand how trauma and PTSD influence and complicate the course of treatment for eating disorders.
"Estimates indicate that at least one in three women in the United States will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, and traumatization is associated with the emergence or worsening of multiple psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses, including eating disorders," says Brewerton in his abstract. "Thus, traumatized individuals are likely to present with complicated clinical presentations for which there is currently no single treatment of choice."
Bonnie Harkin, managing director of IAEDP, says Charleston was chosen for the 2012 symposium because the city had never hosted a major eating disorders conference and would make a "wonderful destination" for the events' attendees.
Harkin added that being featured at the symposium, which features five keynote talks, four preconference meetings and more than 40 workshops, was highly competitive. Only one-third of the abstracts submitted for presentations were accepted.
Of particular note to those in the field, Harkin says one preconference session on March 21 will be of interest: mental health parity.
The presenter will be attorney Lisa Kantor, who won a precedent-setting case (Harlick v. Blue Shield of California) requiring the payment of insurance benefits for patients with eating disorders who are in a residential treatment facility, based on level of care issues.
The talk will be part of an array of groundbreaking topics and research, some of which may not be typically associated with eating disorders, such as picky eaters, sexualizing children and athletes with eating disorders.