Eating disorders are serious health problems that usually start in childhood or adolescence and affect both girls and boys. With early diagnosis, eating disorders are treatable with a combination of nutritional, medical, and therapeutic supports. Recognizing the importance of early identification of at-risk students, the 2013 Virginia General Assembly passed a law requiring each school board to provide parent educational information regarding eating disorders on an annual basis to students in the fifth through twelfth grades.
It is important to note that eating disorders are not diagnosed based on weight changes as much as behaviors, attitudes, and mindset. Symptoms may vary between males and females and in different age groups. Often, a young person with an eating disorder may not be aware that he/she has a problem or keeps the issues secret. Parents/guardians and family members are in a unique position to notice symptoms or behaviors that cause concern. Noting behaviors common to people with eating disorders may lead to early referral to the primary care provider. It is important for eating disorders to be treated by someone who specializes in this type of care.