National Eating Disorders Association

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Should I let my college daughter go back to school?

My 19 year old daughter left college in the middle of the semester because she has an ED. She said that she would get help so that she could go back to school. She's gone to the doctor, 3 different therapists and a nutritionist. But now she refuses to see anyone or get any help. Her answers range from "there's no problem" to "I don't want to talk to strangers". She continues to lose weight, starve, binge & purge, etc. She insists that she just wants to go back to school, but I know that she is not well, and will only get worse without help. She's already in debt with school loans and since she withdrew she won't get credit for the classes. Plus she still owes for tuition, which I will have to pay. I've told her she shouldn't go back to school until she starts working on getting well, but she refuses to do that. I'm not sure if she will be able to keep up, and then financially things will be worse. But right now she just stays at home without anything to do, so of course that keeps her focused on the ED. I really don't know what to do. Should I let her continue on with school for summer and fall classes? Should she drive? (Her doctor told her she shouldn't)
I can see that her being stuck at home all day while the rest of us are at work and school, make her depressed. But I don't know if she can complete school this way - and the schools, and federal loans don't care that she's sick - they just want their money.

Hi Lilac, thanks for sharing

Hi Lilac, thanks for sharing your story. This is a difficult question because ultimately, recovery is up to your daughter. Legally she is an adult and can't be forced into treatment, but even in treatment the ability and will to recovery must come from her. However, you know your daughter best, do you think that letting her go back to school will help her? Does she have any plans set in place (a therapist to see/call on a regular basis or for emergencies, or a support network of friends that know what she is going through) when she gets back to school and finds herself slipping again? I know it may be difficult or scary, but maybe talk to her about your concerns and see if you can come to an agreement on things, or even set up plans if things don't work out if she goes back. Most college campuses have counseling services that are included in the tuition fees, she might be able to go there if her college offers those services. You mentioned her driving, but also seem to have a feeling based on the recommendation of her doctor that she shouldn't be, trust your judgement, you know her and her situation best.
If you need more support, to talk through some of your feelings/concerns about your daughter, the NEDA helpline is there to help 1800-931-2237 M-Th 9-9, Fri 9-5 EST
Here is a handout that you can share with your daughter about identifying when she might be slipping backwards in recovery and ways she can help get back on track:

I hope this helps, stay strong!
Briana, NEDA Volunteer

Have her commute but have

Have her commute but have someone pick her up and drop her off. I'm not a professional but i feel the WORST thing is to let her stay at home and do nothing because thats when ED is most comfortable. Local community college? Classes online?