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 ideal 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 programs that generally require attendance for three to eight hours a day. Day treatment can include medical care, group, individual and family counseling, structured eating sessions, and nutrition counseling. You may still be able to work or attend school if you're in a day treatment program.

Residential treatment for eating disorders

With residential treatment, you 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 particular type of eating disorder and its severity. In many cases, problems caused by an eating disorder require ongoing treatment and monitoring. Health problems linked to eating disorders can 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 long-term malnutrition (anorexia)
  • Stunted growth caused by poor nutrition (anorexia)
  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Taking an active role

You are the most important member of your treatment team. In order for your treatment to be a success, you need to be actively involved in your treatment and informed about your eating disorder, and so do your family members. Your psychiatrist or other members of your treatment team can provide education and tell you where to find information and support. It's a good idea to search for resources on your own as well.

Resources that can help you understand and cope with your eating disorder include:

  • Books and self-help workbooks
  • Community resources such as support groups
  • Internet resources such as nonprofit organizations and online support groups
Aug. 17, 2011 See more In-depth