What It’s Like Inside of a Psychiatric Hospital

Before ever going to the hospital to get help for my mental health I was afraid of what it might be like. I wish that I would have had a way to know more about what it would be like before I had gone. So, I thought I would write about what it is like to be on the psychiatric floor of a hospital. I have only been to one hospital so I can only speak for my experiences there, but I hope to give a decent overview of what the experience is like.

Once I got on the unit, I met with a nurse who did my intake. During the intake, they will ask you questions about your health history so that the doctor will have the information that they need. Since I was there for an eating disorder, they asked some questions about specific eating disorder behaviors. Some of the questions might be a little uncomfortable to go over, but they’re imperative for the doctor to know so that they can provide you with the best care possible. After the assessment, the nurse showed me around the unit and got me settled in. A nursing assistant came in with my belongings and went through them with me to make sure that everything was ok for me to have. Certain items like clothing with drawstrings are not allowed for safety reasons.

I suggest taking books with you and clothes that are comfy. You basically spend all day sitting around, so there is no reason to worry about wearing anything fancy. You are there to get better above all else. Coloring books and crossword puzzle type books can also be good. The occupational therapists also had some of that stuff available for us, and we also had some puzzles/games on the unit. There were TV rooms so sometimes I would also watch shows depending on what everyone decided to watch. I swear Bones is literally always on at least one channel!

At the hospital I have stayed at there is a separate table for those who have eating disorders. This might be different where you go depending on how equipped they are to deal with eating disorders. We had a different table because the nursing assistants sat next to our table so that they could watch over us. At the end of meals, they would record the amounts we had eaten for our doctor and dietitian to see.

We met with the dietitian every weekday. My first time I was there I was too anxious to fill out my menus myself, so I had her make the choices for me. Where I was would have all the patients circle things on the menu, so we also did that if we were on an eating disorder meal plan and then we went over it with the dietitian so she could make sure we had all of the different foods we needed. She was also there for us to discuss any concerns with her related to food, our eating disorders, etc.

Our doctor would meet with us six out of seven days. Each doctor is different, and some of the spend more time with you than others. My psychiatrist is older so he is the type of doctor who does some therapy along with medication management. Again, each doctor has a different style, so I can only speak for the one I have worked with.

During the day there were different groups. The first group was where we could do arts and crafts type things, paint our fingernails, use a curling iron or hair straightener, do puzzles, etc. It was definitely my favorite group of the day because I like doing creative things. After that, we had group therapy with one of the social workers. Group therapy was a place where we could talk about what had brought us to the hospital, how we were feeling, get support, connect to others who could relate, and work to get better.

In the afternoon we had a group that would change each day. Sometimes we would play a game as a group, have discussions about mental health topics, did yoga (in a chair…) or even did karaoke. One of my favorite nursing assistants and I would always do a song together, and it was a lot of fun. This group was based around finding ways to cope in healthier ways. After that, we were able to spend time relaxing until dinner time and visiting hours. A lot of the time I would nap because days in the hospital can be tiring when you are spending so much time dealing with really tough emotions.

To be honest, being inpatient can be pretty boring at times because you spend a lot of time just sitting around. However, despite how scary it can be at first to choose to go it is really important because inpatient is there to help you become healthier. Give it a chance because you deserve to be happier! Please, if you are struggling and need inpatient care then go and get it because life is so worth it and I promise it is not as bad as it may seem.


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