Several studies suggest that the patient's experience of being coerced, during the admission process to mental hospitals, does not necessarily correspond with their legal status. Rather, perceived coercion appears to be associated with having experienced force and/or threats (negative pressures), as well as feeling that their views were not taken into consideration in the admission process (process exclusion). We investigated perceived coercion, among patients admitted both voluntarily and involuntarily, to acute wards in Norway. We used a visual analogue scale (the Coercion Ladder, CL) and the MacArthur Perceived Coercion Scale (MPCS), a five-item questionnaire, to measure perceived coercion. Two hundred and twenty-three consecutively admitted patients to four acute wards were included and interviewed within 5 days of admission. Many patients reported high levels of perceived coercion in the admission process, with the involuntary group experiencing significantly higher levels than the voluntary group. However, 32% of voluntarily admitted patients perceived high levels, and 41% of involuntarily admitted patients perceived low levels of coercion. Legal status did not significantly predict perceived coercion on either the MPCS or the CL after taking negative pressures and process exclusion into account. Applying a visual analogue scale (CL) seems to provide a useful measure of patients' perception of coercion and one that largely parallels the MPCS.