National Eating Disorders Association

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Should I send my daughter to college?

My daughter has been out of residential treatment for 6 months but is still struggling with her weight. She was a senior in high school and therefore was eager to get back to her final year before heading off to college. After being released from the hospital she was within her goal weight range for nearly four months, all while being active and like her "old self". Things looked really good and it was amazing to see my daughter back after the demons had been running her life for so long. The fact that she is 18 has made it difficult to find the right balance between taking total control of her recovery and letting her do it herself. She's an independent woman but she's always going to be my baby girl. However, I had been noticing some changing habits in her eating routine and despite my worries, her weigh ins with the dietician looked good and she was in range. However, once I knew she was comfortable on the scale, I asked her to weigh in for me at home. She had no heads up, and was evidently not eager to get on but she did. Sure enough, she was a couple pounds underweight. Her father and I are scared. We don't know what to do. There are 2 weeks before she's supposed to head off to college (3+ hours away) and I am seriously considering keeping her home, getting her in partial treatment so she can focus on recovery and start school after this first semester if all goes well. I know she wants to go away so badly, and has been looking forward to college for a long time so I know that if I do keep her home, she'll be angry and sad and all sorts of negative emotions. I just want what's best for her. If you have any tips or experience or ways I should go about this, please help.

i wish i could give you

i wish i could give you answers. our daughter came home from college last year with an eating disorder and she is preparing to return to school this fall. we are feeling all of the same things that you are! what we are doing is working with her therapist on a contract for returning to school. we are making it very clear of what the parameters are that she must do to stay at school and when we will bring her home. we are all signing it. she will be meeting doctor at school every two weeks for weigh in and medical check up and we have found her a therapist in nashville for her to meet with.
her doctor and therapist think she is ready but we are not going to know until we try. i have to go with my gut and give it a try. she wants to and this is a fresh start because she has transferred schools. (even though this one is farther away!)
i would ask her doctor and therapist what they think. make sure she has a team there to keep her on track and maybe try the contract idea. you can find sample ones on line. i hope this helps. it is all so hard.

Hang in there!

Hi pschuh!

Welcome to the NEDA online forum community! We are so glad to have you here for some help and support. I am so sorry to hear what you and your family are going through with your daughter. From my own personal experience, I was the daughter who went off to college and my mother had very similar concerns and worries.

I can't tell you directly what to do in this situation because everyone and every situation is different, but I honestly know that I should have waited to go to college. I was very sick the summer before I went to college and the college I attended was two hours away (I ended up transferring to a college that was closer to home). At this point in my life (the summer before college and after I was at college), I struggled with anorexia and exercise. It definitely was the scariest point in my life and I honestly don't know how I lived through it. I ended up dropping out half way through the first quarter of college and a month later was in an in-patient facility.

Have you discussed your concerns and worries with your daughter? Does she currently see a therapist/nutritionist/doctor? If she does, I would address some of these concerns with a professional and get their opinion. The NEDA website also has a Information and Referral Helpline phone number you can call. The Information and Referral Helpline has trained volunteers that can help find resources (i.e. therapist/nutritionist/doctor) in your area and help assess different treatment options for you and your daughter. The NEDA Helpline is available Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM Eastern Time and Friday 9AM to 5PM. The phone number is (800) 931-2237.

Please me know how else I can help and I will definitely be thinking of you and your family right now! <3 <3


sending daughter to college

I too am in this dilemma with my own daughter. She has been doing great with recovery over the years and now is Senior in high school and we are at the stage where she should start applying to colleges, and she is really excited about this stage in her life, but I am having doubts about having her go away. Over the last 6 months she has picked up OCD tendencies where she has to exercise excessively. Also, her menstrual cycle has stopped again (close to a year ago). The GYN has told her that she is too lean and needs to add fats to her meal plan. We can't put her on the pill to get the period back because she suffers from migraines with aura. I have her seeing a therapist and a nutritionist to help her work through OCD issues and the fact that she just cries at the drop of a hat, especially when you tell her that after an hour she needs to stop exercising. I find I am increasing getting depressed over the situation and that for a girl with a 4.23 GPA, this disease is robbing her of a bright future. Everyone has told me that I have to let her take ownership of this and that she truly has to want to get past this.

Checking in!

Hi pschuh!

I just wanted to check in with you since you last posted a few weeks ago! I know you and your family are going through a difficult time right now and I hope everything is okay! I am keeping you and your family in my thoughts! Feel free to check in whenever you need to! Wishing you and your family the best!


I don't know what to do

My daughter is 12 years old, she was diagnosed with anorexia in may 2016. We are working with therapy with a psychologist and she is attending a new school this school year. My concern is if it will be convenient if she stops going to school? She said that the school stressed her too much and I told her to stay at home but she doesn't want to lose the school year. She said that is not concentrated at school. All the time she is thinking about what I will cook for dinner. But I think also to be at home without much to do may affect her. So I don't know what to do? Thanks so much for any opinion at this point. God bless all of you!

Hi mireyac,

Hi mireyac,
I am sorry to hear your daughter is struggling with an eating disorder. I am not a professional, so I can’t advise on what would be right for her, but I can share my own experiences.

I found that time away from school that wasn’t structured around activities supporting my recovery wasn’t always productive. Sitting around without distractions or commitments can make things worse. On the flip side, being overwhelmed at school or work often pushed me to turn to eating disorder behaviors as a coping mechanism. I don’t think there is a perfect solution. The key for me was finding balance. When I was really struggling, I just needed to focus on recovery, but I also needed to have some “normal” activities to take my mind off things and motivate me.

Does it have to be all or nothing? Does she have to miss the whole year? Could she take some time away from school to focus solely on recovery and then return? Or could she attend school part time and work with her psychologist and other medical professionals towards recovery in her time off?

You mentioned you are working with a psychologist. Have you asked them about how they think missing school would impact her? Perhaps, your psychologist might have some ideas about a course of action that might work for your daughter specifically.

Hope this is helpful. I wish you and your family the best as you work through this with your daughter.


Thanks Liz for your response

liz489 I really appreciate all your help!

We reluctantly sent our

We reluctantly sent our daughter back to college after a year off as we did not think she was ready. She was very determined and
surprised everyone in a positive way.
At the end of the day being on her own again has allowed her to take some big strides forward. There are ups and downs, but at least there are more ups. I think that getting back to school has been wonderful, and fun for us to see her growing and being more independent.