What Is Diabulimia? How Eating Disorders Affect Other Medical Conditions

What Is Diabulimia

Whilst every person with a disordered eating condition is unique, an eating disorder clinic will see certain conditions more frequently than others.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are the most common eating disorders, but there are other conditions that are either connected to other medical conditions or are a combination of different types of disordered eating symptoms.

A relatively rare but extremely serious example of this is type 1 diabetes with disordered eating (T1DE), known non-medically as diabulimia.

Diabulimia affects people who have both a disordered eating condition and type 1 diabetes, a condition where blood glucose increases to dangerous levels because the body cannot produce enough insulin, typically caused by a genetic condition although other factors have been speculated about its causes.

It requires insulin injections to be applied regularly based on blood sugar levels, and at this point, the disorder eating aspects of diabulimia can take effect.

Specifically, it involves someone intentionally not taking insulin medication to avoid the weight gain that can occur as a side effect, although it can sometimes also appear alongside other bulimia symptoms such as purging, overusing laxatives, food restriction, over-exercising and binges.

Not taking insulin is inherently dangerous as uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis, organ damage or damage to blood vessels.

The reasons for diabulimia can differ from other common reasons behind eating disorders. Because type 1 diabetes typically presents itself from a very young age, it fundamentally changes a person’s relationship with food throughout their life.

As well as this, eating disorders can often be about a person regaining control of some aspect of their lives, and insulin dependency can add to that feeling. As well as this, people who are distressed by the feeling of fullness can use insulin omission like restricting food.

If any of this relates to you or someone you know, it is important to speak to someone and together you can help to manage and handle these difficulties.

Published: 21 October 2022