COVID-19 and Online College: A Good Time to Seek ED Treatment

College student reading a book on Poly-substance Abuse

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s life in one way or another. With the school year upon us, it’s created an entirely new normal for many students around the world. A June 2020 report revealed 97 percent of college students enrolled in a 4-year institution before March 1st of 2020 had switched to online instruction [1]. The switch to online college provides a great opportunity for students to seek eating disorder treatment while still pursuing their education.

Obstacles to Eating Disorder Treatment

Seeking eating disorder (ED) treatment is one of the most important steps you’ll ever take. Research shows that up to 80 percent of those who receive and complete ED treatment improve significantly or fully recover [2]. Tragically, however, over 70 percent of individuals with eating disorders never seek treatment, many of them suffering from the illness for the rest of their lives, and some even dying from it [3].

While there are numerous reasons why people fail to seek (or drop out of) treatment for their eating disorder, two common reasons are a lack of access to care and extenuating life circumstances that get in the way of treatment. College often incites both of these reasons, as many young people on campus don’t live near a treatment center and are unwilling to drop out of school to pursue professional care. But with many students pursuing college online this year, now is the perfect time to seek ED treatment.

College Online Gives More Flexibility to Pursue Treatment During COVID-19

College girl leaning on tree reading a book during COVID-19Online college means students don’t have to choose between eating disorder treatment and pursuing their education. The flexibility of online classes gives students plenty of time to participate in eating disorder treatment while still keeping up with their studies.

Depending on the level of care you need, many inpatient eating disorder treatment centers allow students to pursue online classes during the program. So even if you decide to enroll in a residential treatment program away from home, you’ll most likely have the freedom to keep up with college while you’re in treatment.

Online School Means More Accountability During ED Treatment

For many with an eating disorder, the lack of accountability and isolation that comes with living on campus creates a difficult environment for recovery. Without family members or close friends around, it can be easy for those in recovery to slip back into harmful behaviors, skip therapy sessions, and isolate themselves from other people. But since many students are now living at home while pursuing college online, they have an extra layer of accountability and support to help them during treatment.

Online College Creates a More Focused Treatment Experience

Recovering from an eating disorder takes time and hard work. Treatment may bring up difficult emotions, and discontinuing ED behaviors can be challenging. While pursuing treatment is possible in a college campus setting, life on campus can make recovery much more challenging. Unstructured meal times, diet and weight loss talk from roommates, and body image pressures are common occurrences in college and can be triggering for those in treatment.

This is another reason why you should pursue ED treatment if you’re doing college online due to COVID-19. Without the numerous triggers and distractions that often make recovery at college difficult, you will now be able to better focus your time and energy on healing.

Seek Treatment Today

If you are doing college online in COVID-19, know that this is one of the best times to seek treatment. Online college gives you the added flexibility to pursue your degree while staying in school, may give you a more supportive environment and added accountability, and helps eliminate distractions and triggers so you can better focus on your recovery and healing.


[1] Distance Learning Statistics [2020]: Online Education Trends. EducationData.

[2] Eating Disorder Facts & Statistics. Eating Disorder Facts & Eating Disorder Statistics | Eating Recovery Center.

[3] Treatment and recovery. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders.

About the Author:

Sarah Musick PhotoSarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.

Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published September 2, 2020, on
Reviewed & Approved on September 2, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.