Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complicated and can be influenced by any number of factors. It is not just about food and weight; those are just signs of a more complicated problem.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is world-renowned for successful treatment of eating disorders. Our multidisciplinary team includes psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, dietitians, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, and educational consultants who work together to help individuals replace dysfunctional eating habits with effective, healthy ways of thinking and eating.

Comprehensive Care

Caring for the Mind and Body

Individuals with eating disorders may also be struggling with other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse as well as medical conditions that often occur with these disorders. Our team starts by identifying all the areas of concern, and then designs a treatment plan that addresses each concern. Because we are housed in the state's only academic medical center, we have immediate access to any type of care that might be needed.

Preparing for the Future

While inpatient care is a chance for individuals to remove themselves from society and all its pressures, we recognize that they will eventually return to their life outside of the UI Hospitals and Clinics. We prepare individuals for this return by:

  • Helping them understand negative thoughts and symptoms from their personal history
  • Improving how they feel about themselves and encouraging them to stick up for themselves
  • Improving their coping skills and how they manage stress
  • Restoring their body weight to a normal range
  • Teaching them healthy eating and exercise habits

Building a Support Network

A strong support network is crucial to a successful recovery. Our team involves family and friends in the treatment process by inviting them to participate in therapy sessions. The goal of family therapy is to improve communication, and ultimately help a loved one lead a happy, productive life.

Levels of Care

Inpatient Services

Treatment for an eating disorder often begins with a stay on our inpatient unit. Here, our team conducts a thorough physical and psychological assessment, including a review of coping skills and family dynamics. From there, a comprehensive treatment plan is designed to meet the individual’s unique needs.

While on the unit, individuals are closely supervised by our staff while they get used to normal, healthy eating. Gradually, as they make good progress, individuals gain more freedom and independence.

A typical day on the inpatient unit might include all or some combination of the following:

  • Supervised meals and snacks
  • Meeting with care team
  • Meeting with an educational consultant if attending high school or college; school and study hall on weekdays
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Recreational therapy (art therapy, exercise education, community outings)
  • Occupational therapy (plan, shop, and prepare a meal)
  • Psychiatric education group
  • Body perception group
  • Ecumenical services on Sundays (optional)

Some specific signs that an individual needs to receive inpatient care include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Heart problems or other medical symptoms from binging and purging
  • Struggling with other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse
  • Not able to improve through outpatient care

Outpatient Services

Adult Psychiatry Clinic

Regular or as-needed care is available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm in the Adult Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic for individuals with eating disorders. Treatment options in an outpatient setting include individual therapy, nutrition assessments, and medication management.

Partial Hospital - Eating Disorders Track

Individuals in the Eating Disorders Track in the Partial Hospital participate in structured therapy programs during the day and spend the night at home. This program serves as a step-down from inpatient care and a step-up from outpatient care. Treatment may last from several weeks to a few months.

A typical day in the program might include all or some combination of the following:

  • Supervised meals and snacks
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medication management
  • Dietary guidance

Care Team

Physician, Psychiatry

Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatry

Social Worker, Psychiatry