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Will College and Outpatient Recovery Work for Me?

by: Joy Cox, PhD, Center for Discovery
September 27, 2022
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Will College and Outpatient Recovery Work for Me?

Are you wondering if it’s possible to balance both school and outpatient treatment? The answer is yes! While college can be stressful, you don’t need to give up on getting the care that you need for your eating disorder.

Understanding Outpatient Eating Disorder Treatment

Outpatient treatment is offered to individuals who would like to proceed with eating disorder recovery without staying in an overnight treatment center. This is an option for those who must work or attend college. The option of outpatient treatment can be an excellent way for them to still receive the care they need while managing the demands of other obligations.

Remember that outpatient treatment is typically reserved for those who are both medically and psychiatrically stable. Those considering outpatient treatment while attending school should also keep in mind the pervasiveness of diet culture and the demands of academics.

The Stress of the College Experience

While there is pressure for college to feel like one of the most exciting times of your adult life, along with the enjoyment of new friends, experiences, and freedom comes the stress of completing assignments and preparing for next steps in a career.

While increased stress is a normal part of the college experience, this stress can impact how one handles eating disorder recovery. Significant bouts of stress have been found to impact academic achievement, which sometimes leads to a student dropping out. With mental health centers located on most campuses, students have an outlet to help mitigate these impacts.

How Do I Know if Outpatient Treatment is for Me?

If you have an eating disorder and are interested in participating in outpatient care, consider the following factors:

1. Are you able to manage your triggers? Triggers and learning how to manage them is a big part of eating disorder recovery. It’s no secret that on school campuses across the country, students are inundated with information that reinforces the toxicity of diet culture such as the “Freshman 15” or “Healthy” foods in dining halls. One should question whether notions such as these, along with the stress of academics, would trigger them, and if so, what remedies they have to remain focused on their educational and eating disorder recovery goals.

2. Do you have a network of social support? Those in recovery from eating disorders attribute their success, in part, to the individuals and groups they found to be reliable during the process. If you are a student who would like to remain in classes, ask yourself if you have friends in school who would be around to support your recovery? Do you have individuals you can reach to bear witness with you in the event you are triggered? How reliable do you believe your network of professionals, family, and friends would be based on the type of support that you need?

3. What type of recovery services are you in need of? Inpatient services typically assist individuals whose recovery includes special attention to nutrition, medical needs, and therapy. Those interested in outpatient treatment should weigh the pros and cons of this because nutrition and medical attention are not usually offered.

Don’t let school stop you from getting eating disorder treatment. Outpatient programs are here to make treatment work for you. If you would like to inquire about possible options for receiving outpatient treatment, contact Center for Discovery to speak to a recovery specialist today.


Joy Cox, PhD is a body justice advocate using her skill set in research and leadership to foster social change through the promotion of fat acceptance, diversity, and inclusion. She currently sits as the Chair for the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH), and hosts the podcast, Fresh Out the Cocoon which focuses on the lived experiences of Black fat women.

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