About Medical Leaves of Absence

If your coursework is suffering because of OCD, and you’re 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.  If your OCD is triggered by cafeteria food, your dorm or apartment, roommates, or computerized exam forms, for example, you’ll need to deal with those issues where they occur.

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.

But when OCD is very severe, a leave of absence may be warranted to allow you to focus on your recovery.  Enlist the support of your therapist and trusted family members to help you with this decision.  Before taking a leave of absence, check with the campus disability office to be sure you’ve considered accommodations that might help you remain at school.  For example, a student with a disability may be able to take a reduced load yet still be considered a full-time student.

If you have student loans, a scholarship, fellowship or other financial assistance, you should 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 ensure that this assistance continues when you return from the leave.  If you have a student loan, make sure the leave of absence is recorded so your loan time is extended before you have to worry about making loan payments.  In addition, check with your school regarding policies for returning to school after a leave of absence.

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