Self-admission to inpatient treatment for patients with anorexia nervosa: The patient's perspective

Int J Eat Disord. 2017 Apr;50(4):398-405. doi: 10.1002/eat.22659. Epub 2017 Jan 20.


The aim of the present study was to explore patients' experiences of participating in a self-admission program at a specialist eating disorders clinic. Sixteen adult program participants with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa were interviewed at 6 months about their experiences in the self-admission program. A qualitative content analysis approach was applied to identify recurring themes. Four themes were identified: Agency and Flexibility, Functions, Barriers, and Applicability. Participants used self-admission to boost healthy behaviors, to prevent deterioration, to forestall the need for longer periods of hospitalizations, and to get a break from overwhelming demands. Quick access to brief admissions provides a safety net that can increase feelings of security in everyday life, even for patients who do not actually make use of the opportunity to self-admit. It also provided relief to participants' relatives. Furthermore, participants experienced that self-admission may foster agency and motivation. However, the model also requires a certain level of maturity and an encouraging environment to overcome barriers that could otherwise hinder optimal use, such as ambivalence in asking for help. Informants experienced that self-admission could allow them to gain greater insight into their disease process, take greater responsibility for their recovery, and transform their health care from crisis-driven to proactive. By offering a shift in perspective on help-seeking and participation, self-admission may potentially strengthen participants' internal responsibility for their treatment and promote partnership in treatment.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; eating disorders; inpatients; patient admissions; patient participation; patient-centered care; voluntary admissions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Male
  • Motivation*