It's a common assumption that eating disorders are limited to a certain group in society, or that they are by choice.
And they're assumptions that are completely wrong.
Eating Disorders Association New Zealand chairwoman Nicki Wilson wants to dispel some of the misconceptions around these illnesses.
Her organisation has been invited to talk at an information evening at Tararua REAP next Thursday.
"We're pleased to do that because the more people that are informed and in a position to support people who need treatment and need support to recover the better."
Many people are aware of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, but there are a whole range of such disorders that most would probably never even consider, such as disordered eating patterns.
Wilson said eating disorders were not a choice.
"They are really serious biological brain disorders."
She said it was important to ensure people understood that "individuals don't choose to become ill with an eating disorder and families don't cause eating disorders".
Research indicates there was a strong genetic influence, with experts saying it was perhaps 60 per cent genetics.
"Genes aren't destiny but people – those that do become unwell – have a genetic vulnerability," Wilson said.
"It's multi-faceted. Things in the environment may occur to trigger that genetic vulnerability."
One of the most common misconceptions was that eating disorders only affected young, white, teenage girls. In fact they can affect people of all ages, genders, nationalities and socio-economic groups.
"We're supporting families with children as young as eight and loved ones as old as 74. Males and females. And every socio-economic group."
It was also a misconception that social media was to blame, although it does make it more difficult for people to either seek help or recover.
"If we think social media plays a role in causing eating disorders, we're playing into that idea that they're a choice.
"Society's obsession with fitness and thinness and appearance is not helpful to those individuals trying to recover."
Wilson said that as long as there were misconceptions about who was affected by an eating disorder, they were creating barriers for those wanting help.
One of the key messages EDANZ wants to get across is that these disorders are not only treatable, but it is also possible to fully recover from one.
While the organisation is not a treatment provider itself, Wilson said they obtain information on the latest in the knowledge of treatment of disorders through associations with professionals working in those areas.
"We keep abreast of the latest in research and treatment and it's information that we'll be passing on."
The information evening will be at REAP in Dannevirke for families at 7pm on July 29.