Inpatient Psychiatric Care

Inpatient Psychiatric Care

Summary

Inpatient psychiatric care refers to mental health treatment that requires hospitalization. In the past, people would remain in institutions for months or years, with little in the way of actual therapy or medical treatment. Today, inpatient treatment is generally reserved for emergency situations including suicide attempts or self-injuries that are severe and dangerous. Most forms of mental illness can be treated outside the hospital using psychotherapy, medications and/or shorter day treatment programs.

Typically, inpatient care may be required by patients experiencing acute symptoms of mental illnesses, such as severe psychosis or mania, an inability to care for themselves and/or severe substance abuse problems. Inpatient care is also necessary when individuals pose a threat to themselves or others, such as suicidal ideation or homicidal ideation. Patients or their families may agree to the care. In most states, people can be admitted for inpatient psychiatric care involuntarily for a brief period if it is believed they may harm themselves or others. 

During inpatient psychiatric care, a team of medical practitioners that includes mental health professionals and general health physicians administer emergency care and implement a treatment plan suitable for a patient’s emotional disorder or mental illness.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average length of hospitalization for inpatient psychiatric care is about seven days. In most cases, inpatient psychiatric care is brief and voluntary with patients able to check themselves in when experiencing severe symptoms.

According to the National Mental Health Association, more than half of patients who need inpatient care are treated for schizophrenia. Other conditions in which inpatient care may be considered include mood, personality and eating disorders.

Prior to being admitted to a hospital or mental health facility for inpatient psychiatric care, patients usually undergo a complete physical examination that includes a medical history and various diagnostic tests (e.g., blood tests) to determine the overall state of their health.

Patients also undergo a series of extensive psychiatric evaluations that often involve numerous mental health professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, professional counselors and therapists as well as health professionals from other fields.

Treatment during inpatient psychiatric care is usually intensive and highly structured. Patients are observed closely by the mental health staff to ensure their physical well being and prevent any suicide attempts.

As the severity of symptoms lessen and patients are better able to assume responsibility, the mental health care staff will help them to plan for discharge and additional treatment (e.g., day treatment programs).

Inpatient psychiatric care can be beneficial because it reduces the daily stresses of life for patients for a brief period of time, allowing them to concentrate on recovery. In addition, mental health professionals have the opportunity to more closely observe the patient and monitor the mental illness in an inpatient setting.

About inpatient psychiatric care

Inpatient psychiatric care is mental health treatment that requires hospitalization of the patient. In this type of treatment, patients typically receive 24-hour care in the psychiatric ward or unit of a general hospital or at a mental health facility such as a psychiatric hospital.

For much of the 20th century, inpatient psychiatric care involved institutionalization of patients and little else in the way of therapy. Patients were monitored and protected from the outside world. Medications were available for some conditions, but many had severe side effects or only served to sedate patients. Rapid changes in the mental health field have led to fewer long-term uses of inpatient psychiatric care. These include more forms of outpatient therapy, newer medications and greater understanding of the course of many mental disorders.

During inpatient psychiatric care, a team of medical practitioners provides emergency care and implements a treatment plan suitable to a patient’s emotional disorder or mental illness.

Admission to a mental health facility for inpatient psychiatric care depends primarily on the severity of the patient’s condition. In most cases, this type of treatment is reserved for emergency situations including suicide attempts or self-injuries that are severe and dangerous.

Typically, patients may need to be hospitalized when they experience acute symptoms of psychosis, such as severe delusions or hallucinations, an inability to care for themselves and/or severe substance abuse problems. Hospitalization is also necessary when patients pose a threat to themselves or others (e.g. suicidal ideation).

In severe cases of dehydration and malnutrition resulting from an eating disorder (e.g., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa), inpatient psychiatric care may also be necessary to rehydrate the patient and restore electrolyte imbalance through intravenous (into a vein) feeding as well as to begin nutritional and psychological rehabilitation.

Sometimes, a patient may need medical observation when taking a new medication such as an antipsychotic. In such cases, a physician may recommend inpatient psychiatric care so that they can monitor the patient and see how well the medication is working.

The average length of hospitalization for inpatient psychiatric care is about seven days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In most cases, inpatient psychiatric care is brief and voluntary, with patients being able to check themselves in when experiencing severe symptoms (e.g., mania). However, sometimes individuals may need to be hospitalized against their will if they are considered to be a risk to themselves or others.

In the United States, patients who are so severely disabled by their mental illness that they do not fully recognize the need for inpatient psychiatric care and who refuse such treatment can be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The laws vary by state, but in many cases a person can be admitted involuntarily for a brief period of time (e.g., up to three days) if a medical professional or in some cases, law enforcement officer, believes the person is a danger to themself or others. But, this only occurs following an examination by a mental health professional, typically a psychiatrist.

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