5150 Involuntary Psychiatric Hold and Anorexia

When an anorexic is under a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold, what happens if the anorexic doesn’t eat? (In many parts of the U.S., I think a 5150 is known as the Baker Act)

Is solid food ever shoved down the anorexic’s throat, or is that unheard of? I hope no anorexic ever has solid food shoved down their throat.

Are anorexics force fed some other way? (i.e. feeding tube, IV)

I want to be reassured that no one will ever shove solid food down my throat.

Wow.  You know, it had never even crossed my mind that someone would try to force feed me with solid food.  I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for many years and my biggest fear was always the feeding tube.  I had read so many books, watched movies and heard stories of people receiving the feeding tube when they would refuse to eat while being hospitalized.  I scrutinized and analyzed every aspect of how someone could possibly add any calories to my diet, but I guess I never really thought that anyone, hospital employee or not, would try to force feed me with actual solid foods, so when I read this question, I actually sat in amazement that I HAD’NT thought of that!!!! ( And to be quite honest, I actually sat here baffled at how I could have overlooked something so completely obvious with all those years, months, weeks, days, and hours of obsessing and scrutinizing)  But, back to your question…….

Just because you are on a 5150 hold (or under the Baker Act), that does NOT mean that the hospital staff and doctors can do whatever they want to you.  You still have the right to be treated like any other patient when it comes to methods of treatment.  Any method that is not allowed on patients who are not on a 5150 hold is not allowed to be done on you.  So this would include solid food being force fed.  I also have never heard any stories of anyone being force fed solid foods, but just to be sure, I did a little research and did not find any stories regarding that either. *Big sigh of relief*  However, if you refuse to eat, they might first try to get you to drink some nutritional drinks like Ensure.  If you refuse those, then the doctor can make the decision to insert a feeding tube.  I believe that the doctors or nurses will warn you before they put the tube in (kind of like giving you the last chance to either eat the food or drink the Ensure before the “punishment” like when your mom or dad would say “this is the last time I’m going to tell you this and if it happens again, I’m turning this car around…”)

I know the thought of calories, no matter what form, is terrifying.  Unfortunately, if you don’t eat, they probably are not going to let you out until they believe that you no longer malnourished or in any sort of danger physically.  When you stop eating and start getting to dangerously low weights, you then begin to put your body organs in danger, including your heart.  The doctors will not let you go if your body organs are still in danger.  On the plus side (not that there really is ANY plus side when you are trying so hard to keep the weight off and the calories at an extreme minimum) they do not put the feeding tube in and feed you mass quantities of food in a short period of time, so you don’t have to worry about inflating like a balloon (even though, any food probably makes you feel that way, it really won’t do that to you physically).  Since your body is not used to large amounts of food, the food is given to you slowly and in small quantities which gradually get larger.

This is a picture of me during one of the times I was headed down to an extremely low weight. I remember waking up that morning thinking I was getting so skinny and was looking so pretty. Now, I see a completely different image, but back then, you couldn’t get me to eat anything that had butter, or fat grams, or meat, and the list goes on……..

I have been very fortunate to not have been hospitalized for my eating disorder.  All of the information I gave you is from what I have heard from others who have been hospitalized and what I have read during my own research about my illness.  I also did some research to verify that things hadn’t changed since I was last reading about it, and things haven’t.  The one thing that I can warn you about that might be super scary is IF you refuse to eat AND refuse the feeding tube, as long as the feeding tube is deemed necessary for your health, they can take measures to make sure the tube does go in.I know having a feeding tube is not a pleasant thought and so my honest advice would be to just eat.  Even if you only eat small amounts, eat that little bit. They are going to make sure that you get calories one way or another.  If they offer classes or sessions at the hospital, try sitting in on those.  You might find some comfort in those as well.  Having an eating disorder is not as easy as “just eating” like the world likes to think.  I can completely understand the fears you have going into this, and even though I wasn’t hospitalized for it, my attitude about food and mentality was very much the same.  When I first started to eat again, I felt uncomfortable and gross, I’m not going to lie.  It felt horrible.  However, once that initial discomfort subsided, I actually started to feel better physically.  Mentally, well, that took a whole lot longer.  It’s been 6 years sinceI stopped the behaviors, but I can still remember the calorie count on hundreds of foods, as well as the grams of fat.  It still takes me 2 or more hours at the grocery store because I still read every label (its just a habit).  I still go through periods of time where I see pictures of myself from those days and think I looked beautiful and want to look that way again.  But, then I remember what it was like when I looked like that.  How my eating disorder WAS my life.  My schedule wasn’t based on things I liked to do, but based on what time I could eat, how much or how little I could eat, exercising, or looking up new ways and things to eat for the least amount of calories to still feel full.   Then I look at those pictures and I suddenly look ugly and I am glad I don’t look like that and have time to do things like write for this site.  I know that this question wasn’t about recovery from eating disorders, but the point of them putting you in the hospital is to get you better and on the path to wellness.  Its not always that simple though, and I know that.

The good news:  no solid foods will be force fed to you.

The bad news:  you could get a feeding tube, and with the feeding tube you don’t get to monitor what goes in.

The good news:  you could choose to eat (even if its at the minimum the doctor recommends) and have a little control in your path to getting out of the hospital.

I hope this helps a little bit, and I sincerely wish you the best of luck with this.  This is a rough road ahead of you, but if you can get through it, you can get through anything!!!!


2 thoughts on “5150 Involuntary Psychiatric Hold and Anorexia

  1. Pingback:anorexic tubes | Bulimia Therapy

  2. That’s an amazing share !! I’m so glad you are better now! Now I feel like I can speak up on my own experience.
    The closest I got to force feeding was when I was forced to take ensure in the mental health hopsital. I don’t know what a 5150 is exactly, (i guess its your rights)nor did I know or was fully conceptual aware due to my force of being brought to the hospital after my diagnosis. When I was diagnosed I was brought into Southern Nevada State mental hospital. I had been so manic(up for days on end) and within my episode an element of “I don’t need food to survive”,was in place. I had been given ensure drinks to gain weight.Once I couldn’t get it down and was about to gag,when I told them i couldn’t do it,they said yes you can,and put the drink up to my face,and forced it on me,I gagged most of it and it was left on the floor and me to clean up. Looking back I understand now why it was so critical I took the ensure,i was malnourished and when your body is malnourished and you’re being given medication up the wazoo,the medication can work differently in your body and cause you to have more side effects. This wasn’t a tie me down and force it to me,it was a yes you can do it force.I was not physically harmed,though I recall crying because I felt threatened.

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