Nourishing Calm


Here’s how offering food in psychiatric emergency rooms can soothe agitated patients and build rapport.

Alexander Raths_AdobeStock

Alexander Raths_AdobeStock


In psychiatric emergency rooms, where I have worked for 25 years as an attending psychiatrist, offering food to agitated patients can be a powerful tool to manage their distress and foster a positive relationship. In such a high-stress environment, patients may feel scared, overwhelmed, or alone. By offering food, medical professionals can help alleviate hunger, provide a positive distraction, and create a sense of comfort.

It is interesting to note that despite a search of the internet, including PubMed, I found no studies to back up my claims. However, I felt important to share my lived experience with psychiatric patients in crisis.

Offering food to psychiatric patients in crisis can be an effective means of calming them down. Hunger can contribute to feelings of anxiety and irritability, and offering food can help alleviate these symptoms. Patients who are agitated due to hunger can struggle to focus on their needs or respond positively to medical interventions. Providing food can create a sense of calm and relaxation, helping patients engage in treatment more effectively.

In addition to its calming effects, offering food can be a practical solution for managing agitated patients in emergency room settings. By providing meals, medical professionals can give patients a reason to leave their inner room, take a break from their thoughts, and engage with the outside world. This can help prevent patients from becoming more isolated and reduce the risk of self-harm and other negative behaviors.

Offering food can also be a powerful tool for building rapport with patients in psychiatric emergency rooms. Sharing meals is a social activity that can help create a sense of connection and trust between patients and medical professionals. By offering food, medical professionals show that they care about the patient's wellbeing and are invested in their recovery. This can help create a positive relationship between patients and their health care providers, ultimately improving outcomes.

Moreover, providing food to agitated psychiatric patients can be an opportunity for medical professionals to assess patients’ overall condition. By observing a patient's appetite and food intake, health care providers can gain insight into their mental and physical wellbeing. This can help guide treatment decisions and ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate care.

Although offering food can be an effective means of managing agitated psychiatric patients, it should not be used as a replacement for other interventions. Medical professionals must prioritize patient safety and ensure that patients receive the appropriate medical interventions to manage their symptoms. Offering food should be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as medication, therapy, and behavioral interventions, to provide comprehensive care to the patient.

In conclusion, offering food to agitated psychiatric patients in emergency rooms can be a powerful tool for managing their distress and fostering a positive relationship. By addressing hunger, providing a positive distraction, and building rapport, offering food can help create a sense of comfort and relaxation for patients.

Medical professionals can also use food to assess a patient's overall condition and ensure that they receive the appropriate care. Although offering food should not be used as a replacement for other forms of treatment, it should be considered an important component of a holistic approach to psychiatric emergency care.

Dr Ajluni is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Livonia, Michigan.

During the preparation of this work, the author used ChatGBT in order to synthesize and summarize information based on my ideas, input, and conclusions. After using this tool/service, the author reviewed and edited the content as needed and takes full responsibility for the content of the publication.

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