National Eating Disorders Association

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Second thoughts about residential care

My daughter has orthorexia/anorexia. Basically an obsession with eating healthy and organic to the point where she restricted heavily, and her weight and vitals got down to threatening levels. We admitted her to a highly-recommended residential treatment program 4 days ago. Today was her first day for a phone call. She cried the entire time and wants to go home. She says it is like a prison. She is not even allowed to go outside. I understand that the program provides more freedoms as she improves, but I had no idea it was this restrictive. She insists this is not the right program for her. I am wondering if she is right? Or is this what's needed in order to change her behavior and allow herself to eat again? We meet with the therapist in a couple of days, but I am feeling very anxious now.

Though I don't have personal

Though I don't have personal experience with residential care, I do know from others that the first few days are always the hardest. It definitely takes adjustment, but I understand your concerns. I think it's good that you're going to speak to her therapist soon, and I definitely think you should express your concerns to her. I hope the situation improves, and I wish you the best of luck.


Hi Gail,

Hi Gail,
You sound exactly like my mom. Every person's disorder and recovery is unique but I honestly cannot think of one single person who has ever liked being in a treatment program. Rehab is never a fun time for anyone. I was very emotional the first weeks of treatment and would also call my mom crying and explaining that the program wasn't what I thought it would be. It did feel a lot like prison in that you had to follow a ton of rules and abide by a strict schedule. I hope you can discuss all of your concerns with her therapist and then you will hopefully have a better sense of if this is a normal response to inpatient treatment or if the program really is a bad fit for your daughter.

I hope your anxiety can be eased knowing that she is getting treatment regardless of her response to it. It's a scary, stressful thing to go through and recovery isn't a quick process but each day she is there is one more day she is putting all of her effort and energy into a recovery plan.

You're a wonderful mother who has every right to be concerned, but remember this disorder is really tough on everyone. We're all here to support you and your daughter. I hope the therapy session helps.

Hello, Gail202!

First, I want to acknowledge what great, positive steps you and your daughter have taken towards her recovery by seeking professional help. I'm glad you were able to find a treatment program with a good reputation. That's great news.

I remember when my younger sister began treatment for her ED, it was very hard. She was very young at the time, so initially she did an outpatient program where she would spend evenings at home. However, when her condition worsened she joined the inpatient program at the same facility. I recall that anytime my family visited her in person or talked to her about treatment, she expressed similar sentiments to your daughter's. These programs have a lot of rules, and the staff/professionals can be very strict. However, this is often for good reason, as EDs can cause people to go to great lengths to try and continue the disordered behavior. If your daughter's program is like my sister's, she will gradually be given more freedoms (within reason) as she moves towards recovery. But these restrictions are intended to help her, and are designed in her best interest. As other commenters have said, I would recommend you voice your concerns to the therapist, and perhaps ask the therapist what you can say to your daughter when she says she wants to come home, etc. Remember that it's only been a few days since your daughter began treatment, and it can take time to adjust and to start seeing "results". If the treatment center is highly-recommended, then try to trust that they know what they're doing. But don't be afraid to ask questions or voice your concerns. EDs don't just affect individuals, they impact families, and understanding the treatment process will be helpful in getting you through this alongside your daughter.

Remember, recovery is possible. It's obvious that you care for your daughter and you want the best for her, and your commitment to her recovery will be a great asset as you move forward. Best of luck! Please keep posting here on the forum; we all want the best for you and your family!