How Long is Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment?

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What is an Eating Disorder? 

Most people associate the term “eating disorder” with anorexia and bulimia. However, there are currently twelve diagnosable eating disorders recognized by the National Eating Disorders Association and the Eating Disorders Coalition, five of which are recognized in the DSM and by most mental health professionals. Here are the most common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa - The most severe of all eating disorders, anorexia is marked by extreme restriction of food, as well as other habits like purging and extreme exercise.
  • Bulimia Nervosa - This disorder involves excessive eating to the point of physical pain. It can also involve purging or extreme food hiding behaviors.
  • Binge Eating Disorder - This disorder involves a combination of the symptoms of either anorexia or bulimia with shortened spurts of excessive eating called “binges.” Usually they are not as frequent or consistent as bulimia.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder - Newer in the eating disorders community, it is commonly known as ARFID and involves extreme restriction and food avoidance more than the typical picky eating.

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What Does Inpatient Eating Disorder
Treatment Involve?

If you are struggling with an eating disorder on your own, it may be time to consider intensive eating disorder treatment program for professional help. There are both residential treatment and outpatient treatment options for recovery.

Intensive outpatient treatment programs or partial hospitalization programs are usually an intensive option that involves the patient driving to a treatment center multiple days a week to participate in a full or half day of programming.

These programs can include patient support groups, art therapy, guest speakers, workshops, and individual therapy to aid in the recovery process on an outpatient basis. Many of these programs are also offered in residential treatment programs.

However, for those that need a closer watch or need more intensive eating disorder recovery, an intensive inpatient treatment center may be a better fit.

Once arriving at the inpatient treatment center, you will go through an intake process that will allow the clinical team to gather more information on your disorder, your past medical history, mental health history, and treatment goals. From there, the program can be tailored to best fit your needs.

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What Therapies Are Involved in Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment? 

There are a variety of therapies offered during residential treatment, usually designed to fit your specific needs. These therapies can be conducted one-on-one between the therapist and the mental health specialist, or in a group setting with those who are struggling with the same issues. Here are some common therapies used in inpatient eating disorder treatment at Enlight Treatment Center:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - This therapeutic approach involves identifying negative thought patterns and changing them. This may include identifying harmful body image thoughts and changing the resulting actions of those thoughts.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) - This approach involves focusing in on specific eating disorder behaviors or events to change the unhealthy behaviors surrounding them.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) - This approach focuses on changing actions rather than changing your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and your eating disorder. By identifying your core values, you can work towards creating actions that align with them.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) - For eating disorders tied to trauma, you may find EMDR beneficial. This technique allows for reprocessing and alleviating distress surrounding trauma.

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Length of Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment

One important factor in deciding on eating disorder treatment centers is figuring out the length of time you will be in inpatient care. The length of your stay in inpatient eating disorder treatment varies but usually falls somewhere between thirty days to a few months.

When arriving at the center, it is important to ask the treatment team about length, therapy offerings, and residential setups to determine if it is the right fit.

When you are admitted to an inpatient treatment facility, the length of time you stay will usually be determined during your initial intake. There are a few things that will affect the time you spend in residential treatment and the time needed to make a full recovery.

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Treatment Time Factors:

Severity of the Eating Disorder

Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, a longer length of treatment may be required for your treatment team to address all aspects of the condition.

Co-Occurring Conditions

If you have an additional diagnosis in addition to an eating disorder, like a substance use disorder, you may need additional time in treatment to fully address both disorders and restore psychological health.

Medical and Physical Needs

If your eating disorder has caused an additional medical condition, it may be necessary to stay in treatment past the standard 30 days in order to allow for healing or medication management.

Prior Treatment History

If you have been in a treatment program or inpatient hospitalization before, you have likely picked up some coping skills and therapy. Previous treatment history may allow you to shorten your time in inpatient treatment.

Insurance and Payment

Depending on your payment method, your treatment time may vary. If you are self-paying, you will likely have more control over the amount of time you spend in treatment. If you are covered by insurance benefits, you may have a set treatment time frame based on your insurance’s treatment and discharge planning.

- Reviewed by Lilit Asulyan, Psy. D

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