Overcoming OCD
Information for College Students

About Medical Leaves of Absence

If your coursework is suffering because of OCD and you are concerned about your grades, you may be thinking of taking a medical leave of absence from college so you can concentrate on treatment for OCD.

Many cognitive behavior therapists who treat college students with OCD encourage students to stay in school during treatment.  The main reason is that you need to be around the things that “trigger” your obsessions and compulsions.  Your therapy can be more effective when you are around the things that produce your anxiety—such as your dorm room or apartment, roommates, cafeteria food, the library or shared computers, exams and exam forms, classrooms or the open spaces of a large campus.

It’s a big decision to take a medical leave of absence.  You may have become familiar with your current surroundings, classes, professors and roommates.  A leave could mean that when you return you could find yourself in a different dorm or apartment with different teachers, class times and classmates.  If you have a job on campus, it may not be available when you return from a leave.

If you have student loans, a scholarship, fellowship or other financial assistance, you’ll want to talk with your school’s financial aid office (or the entity that awarded you a private scholarship or grant) to advise them of your plans to take a leave of absence.  You’ll want to make sure the assistance will continue when you return from the leave.  In the case of student loans, make sure the leave of absence is recorded so that your loan time is extended before you have to worry about making loan payments.

In very severe cases, however, a leave of absence may be justified.  This decision is one you should discuss with your therapist (or the therapist you are thinking of undergoing treatment with).  You may also want to include your parents in the decision process.

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