Inpatient Eating Disorders Program

Untreated eating disorders may lead to significant medical complications, and can also be extremely difficult on teens and their families. At CHOC, we offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment as a part of our comprehensive eating disorder program that includes adolescent medicine doctors, mental health professionals and specialized nutritionists to care for our patients.

Teen girl eating an apple

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Treating eating disorders in adolescents and young adults can be complex and often requires a team of caregivers. We work with patients who have serious medical complications and/or are severely underweight and require medical and nutrition intervention and monitoring under expert care.

  • We treat all eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
  • Our specialists address the unique physical, emotional and social needs of eating disorder patients.
  • We address the special nutritional needs of adolescents and teens.
  • Your child will have access to a program case manager who arranges all appointments in the program.
  • We coordinate any required inpatient care through the outpatient program to ensure continued treatment and recovery.

A Team Approach

At CHOC, our board-certified pediatricians and psychiatrists understand the specialized expertise and multidisciplinary approach needed to care for eating disorders. Depending on your child’s condition, your appointment may include CHOC experts from our many specialties, such as adolescent medicine, psychology, psychiatry and nutrition. Our multidisciplinary approach allows our program to offer a wide range of services, including:

  • Individualized treatment plan including vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Cardiac and respiratory monitoring
  • Nutritional assessment and management by a registered dietitian
  • Psychological assessment and individual/family therapy
  • Behavioral interventions, including supervised meals and personalized motivation plan
  • Therapeutic group meals, music therapy, art therapy and child life activity groups
  • Physical therapy, complete physical exam and lab testing
  • Parent education classes on topics such as nutrition, meal support, behavior management and understanding eating disorders

Inpatient Care

When your child has medical issues due to an eating disorder, it is important to stabilize them as quickly and safely as possible. The Eating Disorder Medical Stabilization Program at CHOC at Mission Hospital provides inpatient care for children and adolescents with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID).

What to expect during a hospital stay

The average length of stay in our program is 2-3 weeks. Every day, our care team will:

  • Prescribe and monitor the appropriate activity level to support your child. All patients are initially on bed rest.
  • Closely monitor vital signs and weight as well as nutritional intake.
  • Our dietitians will partner closely with you to provide your child the food they need to recover.

Family resources

Our goal is to empower parents with education and skills to be able to support your child following discharge from our program. Parents are considered an essential part of a child’s care team, from admittance to recovery. During your child’s stay, the following family resources are available:

  • Access to the Ronald McDonald Family Room, a space for parents to rest, eat and shower, located down the hall from your child’s room.
  • Bi-weekly parent support group

When your child is stable and ready to leave the hospital, our case management team will work with you to determine the next phase of your child’s recovery based on their individual needs.

Podcast: Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

Dr. Alexandra Roche and Dr. Wayne Nguyen in Seacrest Studio for eating disorders podcast

Parents encourage their children to develop healthy eating habits, but extreme changes in a child’s behavior or attitude towards food could be a warning sign of an eating disorder. Learn the warning signs of an eating disorder, and what to do if you suspect a family member or friend has an eating disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions About Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is an unhealthy obsession with food and weight. People with eating disorders eat – or avoid eating – in extreme ways. At least 8 million people in the U.S. are living with an eating disorder. The overwhelming majority – about 90% – are female. These are the 3 main types of eating disorders:
  • Anorexia nervosa. People with anorexia severely restrict calories to the point of starvation. They are obsessed with being thin and have an unhealthy and distorted body image. They may refuse to eat at all or only eat tiny amounts of food that has few calories. Anorexics are extremely thin, yet constantly think of themselves as overweight.
  • Bulimia nervosa. Bulimics binge on huge quantities of food, then force themselves to vomit. They may also exercise compulsively and take laxatives to help rid their body of the calories they've eaten. Bulimics continue this cycle of binging and purging and may also excessively restrict calories in between binges. Bulimics aren't necessarily extremely thin and may often seem to be of normal weight.
  • Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). Some people are not overly concerned with their weight or body image, but nonetheless refuse to consume enough calories to stay healthy. These are not simply picky eaters; their restrictive eating can lead to serious medical consequences in ways that are very similar to anorexia and bulimia.
  • Binge-eating disorder. This is also known as compulsive overeating. Binge eaters consume excessive amounts of food without purging. They often eat uncontrollably despite feeling full. Binge eaters may feel guilty or ashamed after a binge and go on an extreme diet as a result. Binge eaters may be of normal weight, overweight, or obese. Although anorexia and bulimia aren't common in men, binge eating disorder affects about as many males as it does females. At this time, the CHOC Eating Disorders Program does not treat patients with binge-eating disorder; please talk to your child's pediatrician about a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist or weight management program.

Other eating disorders don't quite fit into any of the above categories and are usually classified as "eating disorders not otherwise specified."
Eating disorders can be treated successfully, but the answer isn't as simple as changing eating habits because eating disorders are about much more than food. Therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, is a crucial part of treating and managing eating disorders. Eating the right amount of food and managing an appropriate level of physical activity are also key elements of a treatment plan. Some people may need medications, such as antidepressants, to manage other conditions affecting their eating disorder.

No one-size-fits-all treatment is available for eating disorders. Rather, treatment is specifically tailored to each individual.
Experts don't truly understand what causes eating disorders. There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders, including personality traits, stress and societal expectations. Fortunately, you can take steps to help prevent eating disorders, both before the first symptoms appear or in the early stages.

Programs that promote healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle are one prevention method. A better understanding of how society's unrealistic expectations influence body image are can also promote a healthier body image and prevent eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Locations

The eating disorders program does not currently see patients with binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder patients are best served by individual counseling, psychiatry to address compulsions related related to eating, an exercise program and a weight loss program associated with support groups. Please reach out to your child's primary care provider for resources.

Exterior view of CHOC Children's Mission Hospital
CHOC at Mission Hospital

27700 Medical Center Rd. | Mission Viejo, CA 92691 | 949-364-1400

Map showing location of CHOC Children’s Health Center, Centrum
CHOC Health Center, Centrum

Building: Centrum North | 1120 W. La Veta Ave. | Suite 125 | Orange, CA 92868 | 888-770-2462