What to Pack for Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

Group of ladies laughing

It is a long journey to even acknowledge the need for residential eating disorder treatment. To refer to a now-famous Lord of the Rings quote and meme, “one does not simply walk into residential eating disorder treatment.”

Much like the journey this quote originally referenced, it is a daunting task to find a treatment center that you can get to that will take your payment method and treat the challenges you are facing.

Imagine, you finally gather the courage to open yourself up to help, you work through all of the phases of finding a treatment center that is right for you, then you have to consider how to even pack for something you never have in your life planned for or experienced.

Like I said, daunting. Hopefully, the tips below will provide some insight to make at least this part of your journey less overwhelming.


Contrary to popular belief, technology is allowed in most facilities, but there are specific guidelines. As mentioned above, you cannot bring laptops most of the time, which is fairly obvious considering the internet opens you up to an entire world of potentially triggering materials.

Most treatment centers will let you bring a phone, but it must be a track phone and cannot have a camera attached to it. Even if you were to bring a track phone, there are only specific times you are allowed to use it. You can also bring an iPod or MP3 player, again as long as it does not have a camera.

Leaving our technology at home is a foreign concept to most of us these days, but research indicates that increased engagement with technology and social media also increases the likelihood of disordered thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. It might be tough for you, but we could all likely benefit from a break with our technology.


Most facilities recommend bringing appropriate weather clothing to a certain extent. Even in August, you will likely benefit from having a long-sleeve shirt and pair of pants as facilities may be air-conditioned, or it may simply feel more comforting to have these clothes.

Treatment centers also often ask that you avoid bringing any revealing or unnecessary clothing such as tank tops, short skirts or shorts, or high heels. The reasons for this include practicality as well as not wanting any clothing to be triggering to yourself or other residents.


Residents at most treatment facilities are encouraged to bring hobbies such as crafting materials, books, word puzzles, Sudoku, and even movies, as long as they are not R-rated.

However, musical instruments are often on the “do not bring” list, possible because of liability, possibly because of disturbing other residents, and, likely, both.

Ask the Treatment Center

Girls on Beach in Residential Eating Disorder treatmentWhen in doubt, as the treatment center. Most centers have a list of what you can and cannot bring. Some forbidden items are obvious such as diet pills, laxatives, fashion magazines, laptops, food, alcohol, or illegal drugs.

Others are more surprising, and may include items such as stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, or musical instruments. You can bring photos of your friends or family. However, they may question possibly triggering images.

It will feel less overwhelming to start with a list, as they advise you what to bring and what not to bring to their facility. Ultimately, don’t worry too much about bringing something on the “do not bring” list that you didn’t know was forbidden as you won’t get in any trouble.

When you enter the treatment center, the standard procedure is to check your belongings. At this time, they will review what you can and cannot have and confiscate anything you may not have been aware you couldn’t bring.


Aside from the logistical aspects of what to bring or not bring, there is also the human aspect of having a one-bag limit of clothing, hobbies, and connections to the outside world to comfort you in a completely new situation.

It is understandable to feel fearful about entering into a residential eating disorder treatment program where you will be limited on what you can bring, and your things will be searched, possibly more than once. Remember that these guidelines are in place to help you, not harm you.

The rules of what you can and can’t have in a facility exist to help you create an environment where you are safe, not triggered, and able to focus fully on your recovery.

Your eating disorder voice will want to fight this tooth-and-nail because such an environment makes it harder for disordered thoughts and behaviors to flourish. Remind yourself that this is a good thing.

Your musical instruments, laptops, cellphone, stuffed animals, etc. will be there for you when you leave, and, hopefully, you will look at them differently than you may have when you entered.

About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

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 April 22, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on April 22, 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.