By Stephanie Elliot —

What is an eating disorder? Over the next five weeks, we’ll break down different types of eating disorders to help shed some light on these mental health disorders which affect the body and mind, emotionally and physically.

When it comes to eating disorders, no one is immune to them – there is no discrimination. While in the past, it was believed that mostly teen girls are afflicted with eating disorders, we now know that any person from any gender, age, race, or socioeconomic demographic can get an eating disorder. In fact, a shockingly high amount of people will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives – surveys have indicated that 20 million women and 10 million men will battle with an eating disorder. Those numbers are staggering, and while there is no simple way to cure an eating disorder, with the right type of treatment, including nutritional and mental support, recovery is very much a possibility.

We spoke with some very smart teens, anonymously, to find out what they thought about eating disorders. Here is what some of them had to say:

“My definition of an eating disorder is like a game of Russian roulette with your body.”   Age 16

“Eating disorders may not always be visible. No one can ‘look’ like they have an eating disorder, they come in all shapes and sizes, and can affect a person of every gender, race, religion, etc.”   Age 15

“An ED is… a drastic disruption in eating habits that cause physical and emotional distress.”   Age 16

“An eating disorder… not only takes over your mental state but also your physical. It isn’t a choice, a lifestyle, or a diet…It happens to both guys and girls but does not mean the individual suffering is underweight or thin… it’s an illness where someone has such a poor and abnormal relationship with food and it’s beyond dangerous.”   Age 18

“My definition of an eating disorder would be any consistent behavior that involves eating and causes harm to the person with the behavior.”   Age 18

“An eating disorder is having any problem with consuming food that the average population normally wouldn’t face, whether it be over-eating, under-eating, being afraid of foods, or anything else. An eating disorder is beyond physical though, it is as much of a mental illness as a physical one.”   Age 16

“An unnatural relation with food. For example, when someone eats food to bury their emotions or they use it as a coping mechanism.” Age 16

“An eating disorder is where eating causes a struggle every day of your life, and causes your life to revolve around it.”   Age 15

If you have an eating disorder or know someone with one and you need help, contact NEDA, National Eating Disorder Association, for support or more information. You can also call their helpline Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

NEDA HELPLINE: (800) 931-2237