I struggled with an eating disorder for half my life.

My issues with food started around age 10, and I only really began to recover in my mid-twenties. Despite being a writer and comedian, I’ve never publicly addressed my disorder; perhaps that's because I feel like no one wants to hear a thin, white(ish) girl discuss her self-inflicted “problems,” when there are people who struggle to get food on the table.

Despite all the stereotypes about eating disorders and their sufferers, they can happen to anyone. An eating disorder is—without question—an illness. In fact, of all mental illnesses, they have the highest mortality rate. And those who survive must continue dealing with the disorder's long-term effects, including a lifetime of health complications.

One of the primary characteristics of an eating disorder is secrecy, so it can be hard to tell if someone you know is struggling. And it can be even harder to know how to act or what to do after you find out. In my experience, many people tend to react in a way that makes the problem worse.

With that in mind, here are five behaviors to avoid when trying to support a loved one with an eating disorder (disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be a medical professional):