Diabetes Week: Talking Diabulimia



Diabetes Week: Talking Diabulimia

Seen as it’s Diabetes Week, we thought it would be the perfect timing to air the topic of diabulimia which sees type 1 diabetics target weight loss by deliberately failing to administer the correct amount of insulin. A disorder which DWED (Diabetics with Eating Disorders) called to be recognised as a mental illness in January of this year. 

Diabetes UK have lots of specific information about diabetes. Find their information webpages about diabulimia here. In case you aren’t too familiar with the diabulimia or type 1 diabetes here’s a quick rundown.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body is no longer able to produce any or sufficient insulin. Insulin is vital to our health, it allows glucose to enter cells throughout the body where it can be used as fuel. Without access to cells glucose builds up in the blood and can cause a whole host of short-term and long-term health issues. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes daily insulin injections, a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

How does restricting insulin result in weight loss?

If there is not enough insulin in the body and the glucose in the blood stream can’t be used as it should be in cells the body has to find other methods of fueling itself turning to stores of fat and protein which causes weight loss.

Is diabulimia that common?

The NHS National Diabetes Audit estimated that about one in three women with Type 1 diabetes under the age of 30 are either currently abusing insulin or have done in the past. And the same Audit showed that in the 12 months up to March 2012 8,000 people were admitted to hospital in England and Wales with symptoms of not taking enough insulin.

How can I spot the signs of diabulimia?

Diabulimia shares some of the common warning signs we associate with anorexia and bulimia – weight loss, fear of gaining weight, body dysmorphia, denial of issues, mood swings or changes in personality and symptoms related to high blood glucose levels.

What help is there available?

Again, our suggestion would be to first speak out about skipping insulin to a family member or friend and ideally a healthcare professional. You can call our Helpline – our team will be able to listen to your worries and offer support. There are also other charitable services available – Diabetes UK offer a Careline and DWED aim to provide support, awareness, advocacy and action for people with Type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder.

This week we also spoke to one of our media volunteers who has struggled with diabetes and an eating disorder, here’s what she had to say:

I became diabetic when I was three year old and my eating disorder developed eight years later. I suffered from bulimia for a further 12 years. I was desperate to lose weight so that I could feel like I could ‘fit in’ with my peers, whom I thought were much thinner than me at the time. I also wanted to please my parents; as they were always criticising me about my weight and I thought if I were thinner they would like me more. I began experimenting with my insulin injections when I was about 16. 

Although I was receiving psychological therapy for my eating disorder, I never disclosed that I was sometimes omitting my insulin injections, as I knew I would be advised against doing this. And although my diabetes consultant knew I had an eating disorder and was receiving therapy for it, he never asked me how it was affecting my diabetes control, and never spoke to me about it during our diabetes appointments. 

I feel very few professionals understand how to treat type-1 diabetics who have eating disorders. The eating disorders team know how to treat the eating disorder; and the diabetes teams know how to assist with diabetes management; but few individuals know how to combine the two and effectively help the diabetic who has an eating disorder.

I’d always tell anyone going through this now to please seek medical and appropriate psychological advice from your diabetes team if you have diabetes and an eating disorder. I feel that diabetes teams and GP practices should be screening their diabetes patients for eating disorders and that importance is placed on this issue during medical, nursing and psychological training time


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The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

The site was created to give the public information to help them understand mental health and addiction issues and to assist people in making better informed decisions about their life and personal choices.

www.haveigotaproblem.com was created and is run by 'Advising Communities’, which is a UK registered charity (Charity No. 1061055)


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