What Is Diabulimia

What is diabulimia?

Diabulimia is the media nomenclature coined to describe diabetics who purposely withhold insulin in order to lose weight. It’s a new level of eating disorder that wraps up all the dangerous health consequences of diabetes, bulimia, and anorexia. Also known as “dual diagnosis” a term developed by the medical community to describe a patient who suffers from both diabetes and an eating disorder. Dual diagnosis is not specific to insulin restriction however and can apply to a diabetic who suffers from bulimia, anorexia, or EDNOS. Diabulimics are not non-compliant patients. They are suffering from a very real and very deadly eating disorder.

What am I risking when I skip my insulin?

The short term consequences start with Severe Dehydration, muscle loss, Diabetic Ketoacidosis and quickly escalate to high cholesterol, Bacterial Skin Infections, Yeast Infections, Menstrual Disruption and staph infections. Long term, the consequences become Retinopathy, Neuropathy, Gastroparesis, Nephropathy, Peripheral Arterial Disease, Atherosclerosis, a fattening of the arterial walls, Steatohepatitis, a type of liver disease, Stroke, and even death. For every weekend you go without insulin, you’re saying goodbye to a functioning nerve in your foot! And for every week you’re in the throws of diabulimia you’re upping your chance to end up with retinopathy, dialysis, and sterility. And for every month, your chance of kidney disease rises exponentially. That is, if you don’t fall into a ketoacidosis coma first. This WILL kill you, but only after putting you through some of the most excruciating years of your life. TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR BODY, while you still have the choice to do so!!

What are the signs of diabulimia?

Like any eating disorder the signs of diabulimia vary from person to person but some key factors to watch for are;

  • A1c of 9.0 or higher on a continuous basis.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Persistent thirst/frequent urination.
  • Preoccupation with body image.
  • Blood sugar records that do not match HbA1c results. 
  • Depression, mood swings and/or fatigue.
  • Secrecy about blood sugars, shots and or eating.
  • Repeated bladder and yeast infections.
  • Low sodium/potassium. 
  • Increased appetite especially in sugary foods.
  • Cancelled doctors’ appointments.

What does the term ED-DMT1 mean?

In September 2008 new nomenclature was recommended at an international focus group held in Minneapolis composed of individuals with interest and expertise in Eating Disorders among individuals with Type 1 Diabetes. The group recommended that the term ED-DMT1 be used to designate Eating Disorder - Diabetes Mellitus Type 1. It is representative of the vast range of Eating Disorders that affect Type 1 Diabetics.

What can I do if I think my child or loved one is suffering from diabulimia?

The first step is approaching your loved one in an un-accusatory and caring fashion. Don’t bombard him or her with questions or accusations. It is likely that they don’t even know what they’re doing themselves. Many diabulimics suffer for years from a disease without a name. Sit down and present them with the signs and symptoms of diabulimia, why you’re concerned about them, and some steps the two of you can take together to try and reach recovery. Although they are few and far between, there are some doctors who have expertise dealing with diabulimia, and at last count there were two eating disorder treatment centers that specialize in diabulimia. See the tab on the left for a complete list of Resources.

Most importantly, remember, parents do not cause eating disorders and patients do not choose to have them!

Why hasn’t my doctor told me about diabulimia?

Most endocrinologists still don’t know about or recognize diabulimia, it has only very recently gained notoriety in both the public eye and the medical community. Because diabulimia often presents with the same symptoms of an out of control or non compliant diabetic it usually goes undiagnosed. If you suspect you or a loved one might be suffering from diabulimia DO NOT hesitate to push the issue with your doctor. Remember: You are your own advocate! Fight for your health!

When is my child most at risk of developing an eating disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the average age of eating disorders onset in the U.S. is 19. A 2006 poll of U.S. college campuses conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association found that one in five college students believe that at some point they have suffered from an eating disorder.