Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. However, for some people, anxiety becomes so frequent, intense, and overwhelming that it causes significant distress and impairs their ability to function in daily life. This is known as an anxiety disorder. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.
When anxiety reaches the level of a disorder, it is important to seek help. Treatment can relieve symptoms and allow you to regain control of your life. One treatment option that is sometimes necessary for severe anxiety is hospitalization. Here we will explore when and why someone might need to go to the hospital for anxiety.
When is hospitalization needed for anxiety?
Most people with anxiety disorders are treated through outpatient methods like psychotherapy and medications. However, in some circumstances, anxiety may become so extreme that hospitalization is required to keep the individual safe. Reasons a person may need to be hospitalized for anxiety include:
If anxiety is accompanied by suicidal thoughts or intentions, hospitalization may be needed to protect the person’s safety. Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation often go hand-in-hand. The constant worry, dread, and distress of anxiety can make some people feel like they want to escape their own thoughts and feelings through suicide. If a mental health professional assesses that a person with severe anxiety is at imminent risk of self-harm, hospitalization provides a safe environment to stabilize the individual until the suicidal crisis passes.
Inability to care for oneself
Severe anxiety can sometimes make it difficult for a person to carry out basic self-care like eating, bathing, and sleeping. Anxiety may cause lack of appetite, insomnia, and overwhelming feelings of fatigue or lethargy. If anxiety has progressed to the point that a person is unable to feed, bathe, or otherwise care for themselves, hospitalization may be necessary until the anxiety can be brought back under control. Hospital staff can assist with meeting basic needs during this time.
Although rare, anxiety disorders can sometimes lead to brief psychotic episodes. Symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. Psychosis requires rapid treatment to prevent harm to self or others. Initial treatment usually involves hospitalization and medication. Once psychotic symptoms have stabilized, remaining anxiety treatment can continue on an outpatient basis.
Safety concerns related to panic attacks
Panic attacks often involve rapid heartbeat, dizziness, trembling, and feeling faint. For some people with panic disorder, these symptoms can be so terrifying they may fear they are dying or losing control. In very extreme cases, people may injure themselves while fleeing during a panic attack. Hospitalization can provide medical monitoring and a safe environment until panic symptoms dissipate.
Danger due to anxiety avoidance
Some people with anxiety disorders try to avoid the things they fear to an extreme degree. For example, someone with contamination anxiety may avoid bathing, or someone with driving anxiety may refuse to drive or ride in cars. In severe cases where anxiety leads to dangerous avoidance behavior, hospitalization can provide staff intervention to prevent further harm. Once anxiety symptoms improve, exposure therapy can help the person confront feared situations in a therapeutic setting.
Need for intensive multidisciplinary treatment
For some people with severe, complex anxiety disorders, multiple types of around-the-clock clinical care are needed. A hospital setting allows quick access to psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, nurses and other professionals to provide comprehensive care. Intensive inpatient anxiety treatment may include:
– Medication adjustment
– Individual and group psychotherapy
– Relaxation training
– Art or music therapy
– Occupational therapy
– Family counseling and education
– Planning for discharge and transition to outpatient treatment
The immersive treatment environment of a hospital can help stabilize anxiety symptoms so people can transition to less intensive outpatient care.
What happens when you go to the hospital for anxiety?
The specific procedures and environment vary between hospitals, but in general here is what you can expect if hospitalized for anxiety:
Emergency room intake
If symptoms like panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, or psychosis require urgent evaluation, you may first undergo assessment in the emergency room. The ER staff will ask questions about your anxiety symptoms, mental health history, and current situation. They will check vital signs, perform any necessary lab tests, and determine if hospital admission is needed for your safety. The ER will stabilize any acute physical or psychiatric issues before transfer to a hospital room.
Once admitted to the psychiatric ward of a hospital, you will be shown to your room and oriented to the unit. Nurses will monitor you regularly to keep track of your mental and physical condition. You will meet with doctors and therapists who will evaluate your anxiety symptoms and create a personalized treatment plan. If needed, medication changes will be initiated right away.
Treatment and recovery
A typical day in an anxiety disorder inpatient unit may include:
– Medication administration
– Group psychotherapy and counseling
– Art therapy or music therapy
– Relaxation activities like yoga or meditation
– Outdoor time and exercise
– Visits from loved ones and phone calls
– Healthy meals and snacks
The daily schedule helps distract from anxious thoughts and provides techniques to manage anxiety. As symptoms improve, social workers will develop plans for discharging you from the hospital and transitioning to outpatient treatment.
Discharge & follow-up
Before leaving the hospital, staff will ensure appropriate follow-up is in place. This may involve arranging outpatient psychotherapy, prescribing new anxiety medications, and providing referrals to community resources. Discharge plans should include crisis contacts in case anxiety worsens again. With the right supports in place, many people can continue anxiety recovery from home.
What types of facilities treat anxiety disorders?
There are various facilities that may provide inpatient treatment for anxiety:
Also known as behavioral health hospitals or mental health hospitals, standalone psychiatric hospitals primarily focus on treatment of mental illnesses like anxiety disorders. Compared to psychiatric units within general hospitals, standalone psych hospitals typically have staff more specialized in mental health care.
Psychiatric units of general hospitals
Most hospitals have a separate wing or floor reserved for psychiatric patients. This allows physical and mental healthcare to be provided in one place. Psych units within larger hospitals also make it convenient to call in medical specialists if needed.
Residential treatment centers
Some facilities blend aspects of a hospital and community living. Residential centers provide around-the-clock supervision and intensive treatment, while allowing patients to wear their own clothes and participate in activities like cooking. This helps transition people back to everyday life.
Community mental health centers
For those without full-time inpatient needs, community centers offer daytime partial hospitalization programs. People receive intensive therapy and medical care during the day, then return home each night. This is suitable for those starting to stabilize or transitioning from full hospitalization.
No matter the facility type, the focus is on providing comprehensive care in the most appropriate setting for each person’s needs. The goal is always to stabilize anxiety symptoms so people can get back to their regular lives.
How long does hospitalization last for anxiety?
There is no set timeframe for anxiety hospitalization. The length of stay depends on several factors:
– Severity of symptoms – More severe, unstable anxiety requires longer inpatient treatment. Milder anxiety may stabilize faster.
– Suicide risk – People who were hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts typically stay until risk has resolved.
– Response to treatment – How quickly anxiety improves with inpatient interventions helps determine discharge timing.
– Need for medication adjustment – Finding optimal anxiety medication doses may take a week or more.
– External stressors – Lack of social support or a chaotic living situation may warrant longer hospitalization.
– Availability of step-down programs – Some hospitals transition patients to partial hospitalization as an intermediate step before full discharge.
While there are always exceptions, the average anxiety hospitalization stay ranges from 1-2 weeks. Upper estimates usually top out around one month. This provides enough time for intensive treatment without unnecessary long-term hospitalization.
The treatment team will work with patients and families to discharge people as soon as clinically appropriate. Extended stays should not be needed if post-discharge resources are in place.
What are the costs and insurance coverage for anxiety hospitalization?
Hospitalization for anxiety can be expensive, especially without adequate insurance. Here are some key points about cost and coverage:
– In the U.S., costs for a psychiatric hospital stay average $2,000-$2,500 per day. Some stays cost over $30,000 total.
– The specific facility, treatment types, and length of stay impact the total bill. Private rooms, more staff involvement, tests and procedures may increase costs.
– Most health insurance plans cover mental health hospitalization, but policies differ. Nearly all cover suicide risk. Other anxiety may be covered if deemed “medically necessary.”
– Medicare covers 190 days lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Medicaid policies vary by state. Most cover at least some mental health services.
– Uninsured individuals may qualify for emergency Medicaid to cover an acute inpatient stay. Hospital social workers can assist with applying.
– Hospitals may offer payment plans or financial assistance for those unable to afford the full cost. Providing proof of income may lower the bill.
Anxiety treatment can be expensive, but lack of proper care comes at an even greater cost. Prioritizing mental health is an investment that pays off through improved wellbeing.
Severe anxiety can be debilitating, but hospitalization provides a turning point to regain control. A psychiatric hospital or unit offers round-the-clock monitoring and specialized mental health resources. Hospital staff work to stabilize symptoms and build skills for managing anxiety long-term.
While hospitalization disrupts normal life, it is sometimes necessary for safety during acute anxiety crises. Thankfully, most stays last just weeks until anxiety becomes manageable again. Following up with outpatient treatment and support networks can help maintain mental health after discharge.
If anxiety has reached a point where you or a loved one is unable to function, don’t hesitate to get inpatient help. Treatment can provide relief from anxiety’s grip so you can start living life fully again. The difficulties of hospitalization are temporary, but the benefits of recovery last a lifetime.