Hospitalization for eating disorders

Hospitalization may be necessary if you have serious physical or mental health problems or if you have anorexia and are unable to eat or gain weight. Severe or life-threatening physical health problems that occur with anorexia can be a medical emergency.

In many cases, the most important goal of hospitalization is to get back to a healthy weight. Achieving your healthy weight can take months, so you'll probably need to continue outpatient treatment to accomplish your goals once you get out of the hospital.

Hospital day treatment programs

Day treatment programs are structured and generally require attendance for eight or more hours a day, several days a week. Day treatment can include medical care, group, individual and family counseling, structured eating sessions, and nutrition counseling.

Residential treatment for eating disorders

With residential treatment, you temporarily live at an eating disorder treatment facility. A residential treatment program may be necessary if you need long-term care for your eating disorder or you've been in the hospital a number of times but your mental or physical health hasn't improved.

Ongoing treatment for health problems

Eating disorders can cause serious health problems related to inadequate nutrition, overeating, bingeing and other factors. The type of health problems caused by eating disorders depends on the type and severity of the eating disorder. In many cases, problems caused by an eating disorder require ongoing treatment and monitoring.

Health problems linked to eating disorders may include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances, which can interfere with the functioning of your muscles, heart and nerves
  • Heart problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Dental cavities and erosion of the surface of your teeth from frequent vomiting (bulimia)
  • Low bone density (osteoporosis) as a result of irregular or absent menstruation or long-term malnutrition (anorexia)
  • Stunted growth caused by poor nutrition (anorexia)
  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Lack of menstruation and problems with infertility and pregnancy

Taking an active role

You are the most important member of your treatment team. For successful treatment, you need to be actively involved in your treatment and so do your family members and other loved ones. Your treatment team can provide education and tell you where to find more information and support.

There's a lot of misinformation about eating disorders on the Web, so it's important that you follow the advice of your treatment team and get suggestions on reputable websites to learn more about your eating disorder. Examples of helpful websites include the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), and Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.).

Jul. 29, 2014 See more In-depth