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January 15, 2017

Effectiveness of Specialized Eating Disorder Units in Hospitals

Woman considering eating disorder recovery

In the most acute cases of eating disorders, hospitalization is often needed for treatment and intervention. While hospitalization care is not necessarily for any great lengths of time, it is often the most intense. Individuals who are hospitalized for eating disorders typically have a medical/psychological emergency that warrants such interventions. Hospitalization can provide around the clock care, which is crucial in life and death emergencies or in situations where physical and mental health are fragile.

Understanding Options Available in Hospitals for Eating Disorders

In many instances, a person who is struggling with acute symptoms for an eating disorder will be admitted for issues related to the eating disorder, rather than the eating disorder itself. Examples of medical/psychological emergencies might include cardiovascular complications, electrolyte instability, self-harm or suicidal ideations, internal bleeding, esophageal ruptures, panic attacks, and more.

While hospitals have emergency services that are able to accommodate these types of complications, not all hospitals are necessary equipped with the resources for individuals suffering with eating disorders.

Some hospitals do have a behavioral health unit that can effectively manage various psychiatric illnesses, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and more. Specialized eating disorder units within hospitals are more rare but can be particularly effective for the most severe eating disorders that need care and intervention beyond symptom resolution. These units may be within a main hospital or a separate inpatient center on its own.

The main purpose for these specialized inpatient programs are to provide medical and psychiatric stabilization as well as a comprehensive therapeutic environment that promotes holistic healing.

Knowing When Specialized Care is NeededYoung couple researching treatment

If you have struggled with an eating disorder, you may have found yourself in an emergency room from time to time, or perhaps staying in a hospital for a few nights at a time to manage some of the most severe symptoms resulting from this illness. Any recurring hospital visits are indicative of a more serious issue at hand, such as in the case of an eating disorder.

While inpatient care can help temporarily stabilize issues resulting from an eating disorder, seeking treatment within a specialized eating disorder unity can be more effective in addressing the root of the problem at hand.

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

What do you think are the benefits of specialized treatment in an inpatient setting?


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer 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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 15, 2017
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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