Diabulimia: A Diabetic’s Struggle

Diabetes & Eating Disorders

Type 1 Diabetes

When someone has type 1 diabetes, the insulin producing cells in their pancreas are attacked by the immune system in the body. Due to this problem, the body no longer has enough insulin because the pancreas has stopped making it. Insulin is needed to survive. Someone with this form of diabetes must use an insulin pump or take insulin injections numerous times throughout the day in order to stay healthy.

Insulin is important to the body because it processes blood glucose in the body and glucose is needed in the cells for energy. Without insulin, the body would suffer and glucose levels would rise to unhealthy levels. Specific problems associated with a lack of insulin include nerve damage and kidney failure. Vision problems are another side effect of a lack of insulin in the body. In fact, out of all the reasons for blindness in the United States, diabetes is listed as number one.

Most cases of type 1 diabetes occur among children and young adults. When this disorder first begins in the body, weight loss takes place. However, once the problem is fixed with insulin supplements, weight is put back on the body. When this occurs in a young adult, body image problems easily take place due to the constant pressure to be thin and the numerous changes of adolescence. An eating disorder is often one of these problems. If you or a loved one has an eating disorder it is important to seek eating disorder treatment at an eating disorder residential center as soon as possible. These centers have been proven beneficial to the recovery process.


The condition known to many as diabulimia is a form of eating disorder. This condition exists when someone with diabetes reduces or completely eliminates the amount of insulin they need as a way of loosing weight. This method is extremely bad for one’s health as it causes the blood sugar levels to overflow, causing the kidneys to work harder in an effort to eliminate excess glucose from the body through urination.

Most cases of diabulimia occur in those with type 1 diabetes. Diabulimia is not yet recognized as a medical condition but seems to be very well-known amongst diabetics and the American Diabetes Association. Teenagers are the most common age group in which diabulimia occurs. Diabulimia is often compared to the common eating disorder bulimia because in bulimia a person purges the food they eat and in diabulimia a person metaphorically “purges” sugar from the body.

On average, about 30% of women who have type 1 diabetes say they have skipped and/or entirely eliminated insulin doses in an attempt to lose weight. Weight loss can also be blamed on diabetes because it can be used as a way to hide the eating disorder, diabulimia. Eating disorder treatment is often helpful to those struggling with an eating disorder such as diabulimia. Diabulimia therapies, anorexia treatment and bulimia programs can be found at most eating disorder residential centers.

Obsession with Health & Perfection

One reason eating disorders so often occur in those with diabetes is because each of these complications have a common obsession with food. In someone with diabetes, strict attention must be focused on what is eaten, how much is eaten, when it is eaten and of what quality it is. These individuals must also focus on their level of blood sugar or serious mood swings can occur. Diabetics need to maintain this diet in order to stay as healthy as possible. When so much time and energy is placed into the control of food and health, diabetes can become a leading cause for having an eating disorder.

Weight control is another important factor in both diabetes and eating disorders. Just as a diabetic strives to perfectly control various aspect of their health, someone with an eating disorder desires to find and maintain the “perfect” weight. Because of these similarities diabetes is often used to hide an eating disorder. Recovery for an eating disorder such as diabulimia can be found by taking a look at the programs of many eating disorder treatment centers. Eating disorder treatment has proven helpful to a variety of people and many programs are successful in preventing relapse.

Symptoms of Diabulimia

The symptoms of diabulimia can be very harmful to one’s body. If this process of insulin restriction continues death may even result. Symptoms of diabulimia include:

  • Increased levels of blood sugar
  • Low energy levels
  • Failure of one’s kidneys
  • Dehydration
  • Damage to nerves
  • Tiredness
  • Retinopathy (damage to the eyes)
  • Complications in the heart
  • Quick weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Death
  • Amputations (caused by a vascular disease)
  • Grouchy, moody
  • Coma
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Poor body image
  • Depression in which help from a depression treatment facility may be necessary

Eating disorder treatment is often recommended for those struggling with anorexia, diabulimia or bulimia. Bulimia help, anorexia treatment and therapy for diabulimia is available for those willing to seek treatment at one of many eating disorder treatment centers. Team treatment is one of the many therapies often strongly recommended for those who have diabulimia. A dietician is another important aspect of recovery which is crucial to eating disorder treatment.