Diabulimia – Yet Another Eating Disorder


My sandwich has 30 gm of carbohydrate, my carrots have 5 gm and my juice has 25 gm.  Next, input this information into my insulin pump – alright, I can eat lunch.  Now I just have to repeat this routine every time I eat…

The above situation is just a small example of what it is like to live with type I diabetes.  There is a constant need to manage carbohydrate intake and insulin.  With the increased awareness of food required, it is not surprising that an eating disorder can occur.

“Diabulimia” is the termed used when a person purposely manipulates their insulin intake to try to lose weight.  The etiology of diabulimia is multifaceted – from poor body image to being scared to gain weight from insulin.  Whatever the reason, diabulimia is both a medical and psychological disorder.  Medical in the fact that you still have to manage and treat diabetes and psychological to help heal the eating disorder.

Diabulimia is a serious condition that has numerous negative health impacts.  Complications include diabetic retinopathy, heart failure, neuropathy, kidney failure and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.  There are many signs and symptoms for diabulimia such as recurrent diabetic ketoacidosis, extremely high hemoglobin A1C, unexplained weight loss, and frequent severe low blood sugar.

The facts about diabulimia cannot be ignored.  Girls and women who have type 1 diabetes are two times more likely to develop an eating disorder as compared with those who do not have diabetes.  It is currently known that thirty percent of adolescents have manipulated their insulin.

You can help someone by paying attention to the signs of this disorder and asking questions.  If you or someone you know is suffering from diabulimia contact the Inner Door Center® for help.  We can provide the treatment team needed to gain recovery.  Visit our website at innerdoorcenter.com or call our office today at (248) 336-2868 to make an appointment.

Information obtained with thanks partially from The Renfrew Center presentation by Deborah Westerling titled “Eating Disorders and Patients with Diabetes”.

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