Eating Disorder Treatment as an Inpatient Vs. an Outpatient

In a culture that has become increasingly focused on unrealistic body standards, eating disorders such as bulimia, binge eating, and anorexia are more prevalent than ever before. In addition to having devastating physical effects, they also present many psychological and emotional challenges for both patients and their families. While some people refuse to accept the seriousness of their disorder, others, fortunately, seek help at eating disorder treatment centers.

Some of these programs are inpatient, in which residents live on-site for 30, 60, or even 90 days. Other programs are offered on an outpatient basis, making it convenient for those who wish to maintain personal and professional responsibilities while treating their disorder. While both treatment methods have proven to be effective, there are major differences between them.

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient eating disorder treatment programs typically involve people living at a facility for up to 90 days. During their stays, they are closely monitored by physicians, psychiatrists, and counselors, ensuring their physical and psychological recovery is complete. Inpatient treatment involves individual as well as group counseling sessions, specialized classes teach patients how to properly plan meals, understand the importance of portion sizes, and learn how to look at food in a positive manner.

Most therapy is designed to work on the patient’s self-esteem and view of themselves, which is largely distorted due to their disorder. Family visits are usually allowed, and most eating disorder treatment centers are built to provide proper areas for treatment while staying in peaceful surroundings. Most are set off to themselves and on many acres of land, offering plenty of places to take peaceful walks during their stay.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment programs are usually conducted for several months, with most programs consisting of 3-4 hours of treatment per day up to six days per week. These programs offer many of the same benefits as inpatient programs, including psychotherapy sessions, classes on proper nutrition and monitoring of patients’ physical conditions.

These programs are designed primarily for those patients who have been diagnosed with mild forms of an eating disorder or who are making the transition from inpatient treatment back to their normal lives. The major benefit for patients in these programs is the ability to keep certain aspects of their lives intact, such as maintaining employment or attending school. As patients make positive progress in their treatment programs, visits are reduced to 2-3 times a week as they show the ability to once again take charge of their lives.


While eating disorders can be very difficult to overcome, patients and their families who are very proactive in finding an eating disorder treatment center have the greatest chances to see successful results. As a patient’s body image and view of food begin to return to normal, life begins to become much easier. However, to help with the recovery, most treatment facilities offer lifetime aftercare support in the event patients have a relapse. By finding the courage to admit a problem exists and seek treatment, you or a loved one can overcome an eating disorder.

Featured Image: depositphotos/TatyanaGl

Posted on May 5, 2023