Anorexia Inpatient Care Treatment: What to Expect


Entering an inpatient treatment facility for the first time can feel scary, especially if you’ve been struggling with eating disorder behaviors for a while. You’ll need to get used to a new routine with meetings with doctors, nutritionists, and therapists, both one-on-one and in groups. Sometimes, there are unexpected aspects to the treatment. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa can have serious, even deadly consequences, with a mortality rate second only to opioid addiction. Residential or inpatient anorexia treatment programs may seem extreme, but they’re crucial for helping people break free from harmful patterns. With a team of professionals supporting you, the journey to recovery can become easier, hopefully leading to long-term healing.

Preparing for Anorexia Inpatient Treatment

When you get to the hospital, staff will check your bags to make sure you don’t have anything that could be harmful. It’s a good idea to think about this when packing.

Check the hospital’s website to see what you can bring. Some important things to remember are:

  • Clothes: Bring comfy and warm clothes.
  • Personal items: You can bring things like photos or a favorite pillow, but remember you might share a room.
  • Medicines: Bring any pills you need in their bottles so the staff can give them to you when you need them.

If you’re not feeling up to packing, ask someone you trust to help. But if you prefer, you can oversee the packing yourself. Bringing items from home can help you feel better, so pack with your needs in mind.

What to Expect Upon Checking in the Inpatient Treatment Program for Anorexia Nervosa

When you arrive, the team will take your bags, check what’s inside, and keep them safe. They usually store suitcases in a locked room. You can’t keep backpacks or containers in your room. If you have any medicines, staff will usually take care of them. They’ll store and give you your medicines as needed. Once you’re checked in, you’ll go to your room and get a chance to settle in before starting the program.

The First Few Days of ED Inpatient Treatment Program

On your first day, the staff will check some basic medical information like your weight, height, and blood pressure. You’ll also meet with your medical team, which can include dietitians, therapists, and other specialists. They’ll learn about your medical history and needs to create a meal plan for you. This plan helps you get to a healthy weight while you’re staying in the hospital. At first, the main goal is to make sure you’re medically okay. Later, as you start feeling better physically, the plan might change to focus on other health goals.

What does inpatient anorexia treatment look like?

Residential treatment programs usually have a strict schedule. Your day will likely be packed from morning until night with activities like meetings with your medical team, therapy sessions alone or with others, required meals, and sometimes, relaxing activities like art or mindfulness. These programs aim to give you support and treatment for your condition through self-reflection, learning new skills, and finding comfort in your routine. Here’s what a day might look like in a program for anorexia nervosa:

Wake up

You’ll probably have to wake up early to fit everything in your day. Staff might come to check on you to ensure you’re up and getting ready. After waking up, you can use the bathroom and get ready for the day. Staff keep track of bathroom visits to make sure everyone gets a fair time.


In these programs, you’ll likely have individual and group therapy sessions. How often you have them depends on your treatment plan. These sessions help you learn about your anorexia nervosa (AN) diagnosis and what factors in your past and present have led to it. You’ll also learn important skills to handle triggers and prevent relapses in the future.

Physical check-ups

Inpatient facilities usually have a doctor who comes to visit regularly. This doctor will meet with or treat the patients while they’re on duty. They’ll check your weight, take your blood pressure, and see if you’re having any other physical issues during your stay.


In most inpatient treatment centers for anorexia nervosa, you’ll eat meals or snacks every two to three hours. If you can’t finish your food, you might get a high-calorie drink or another replacement. Your meals will be planned out for you based on your needs. Chefs or students studying dietetics prepare all the meals, though this can differ from place to place.

Some programs also have counselors or helpers who may sit with you during meals if you want to talk or need support. After eating, you’ll typically spend up to an hour with your team talking about how you feel. Staff usually watch bathroom breaks during this time to make sure everyone’s okay.


If you go to school while you’re in the facility, the staff might offer tutoring and assistance with your schoolwork to make sure you stay on track with your education. You can do your homework during your free time each day, or you can choose to do art projects, write letters, or join in other activities.


Some programs might give extra privileges, but this changes a lot and might only be for patients who are doing well or have improved a lot. These privileges could include using an electronic device, spending time with family, or going to a salon.


Going to bed on time is very important for healing, so it’s closely followed. Staff might check on residents during the night to make sure they’re sleeping well and that everything’s quiet.

How long is inpatient eating disorder treatment?

Many treatment programs use a “phase” or “level” system. You move up levels by meeting goals set for you. Once you reach a certain level, they check if you’re ready to leave. You can earn privileges, like going out, as you progress. The goal is to help you recover at a good pace. Leaving treatment too soon can be harmful because relapse is common in anorexia nervosa. Most mental health conditions need long-term treatment. You might stay in the inpatient program for weeks or months before moving to a less intense program.

Inpatient Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, know that you’re not alone. Seeking help is the first step toward recovery. Take the initiative to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or healthcare professional. Remember, recovery is possible, and there are resources available to support you on your journey. Don’t hesitate to take that first step toward a healthier and happier life.


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