07/17/2009 at 02:00 PM EDT
, currently hospitalized
at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles under psychiatric evaluation, known as a 5150 hold, could be released as early as Saturday, or held longer, experts say.
"A 5150 is considered a psychiatric emergency, when a person is deemed a danger to themselves, to others or is gravely disabled," explains L.A.-based psychiatrist Daniel B. Borenstein, M.D., who's not involved in the case. "A serious risk of suicide is a primary reason for the hold, as well as those suffering from severe depression or schizophrenia."
A person under a 5150 is typically held for three days, during which time the patient undergoes evaluation and receives treatment – although medication can't be forcibly given. Depending on their condition, patients may or may not be placed on a locked ward.
Barton's troubles are reminiscent of Britney Spears
early last year. The pop singer was twice placed under a 5150 following an incident in which she locked herself in a bathroom with her son.
Experts say doctors will ask Barton whether she'll voluntarily stay for treatment beyond the three days. If she demands to be released or is found to be stable, she could be discharged by Saturday afternoon.
However, if her condition doesn't improve, doctors could request an additional 14-day hold.