What is meant by eating disorder? It may be much broader in scope than you think, and includes avoiding eating, binge eating and other unhealthy behaviors. There is often a strong link between an eating disorder and unrealistic body image. Athletes are vulnerable to obsessing over their bodies, which can lead to unhealthy eating patterns.

Eating disorders are a type of mental illness. Getting a diagnosis is the first step toward being free of the bonds of the compulsive behavior. The chance for recovery is better when an eating disorder is detected early; therefore knowing the warning signs is important.

Go to www.nationaleatingdisorder.org for some excellent general information and suggestions for friends and family of persons suffering from an eating disorder.

As with any mental illness, eating disorders are equal opportunity diseases, impacting persons of many ages, income levels and ethnic groups. Eating disorders can strain relationships, so treatment for the disease is often more successful when family and/or friends are included in counseling.

A live chat line for support, resources and treatment options can be found at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline. Helpline chat hours are Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. You may phone the Helpline at 800-931-2237; phone hours are Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Friday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.