Diabulimia: A Deadly Eating Disorder Few Heard Of


Patients with type 1 diabetes are in vital need of insulin, and indeed should be more sensitive to their health than healthy people. But sometimes patients, most often women, begin to deliberately inject themselves less insulin than they need. They decide to play a deadly game in order to lose weight.

Type 1 diabetes is an insulin-dependent form of the disease. The cells of the pancreas simply do not produce insulin, and therefore patients need to inject it themselves all the time. Among the signs of such diabetes are constant thirst, frequent urination, poorly healing wounds. In laboratory tests, an elevated blood sugar level is found, to lower which insulin is required.

The need for constant injections, adherence to a diet, special attention to the calorie content of foods and, in general, what is eaten – all this often affects the psychological state of patients, and in every tenth case provokes the development of an eating disorder.

What is diabulimia

The word “bulimia” is familiar to many of us. This is an eating disorder in which people first eat quite a lot, and then, fearing weight gain, deliberately provoke vomiting, thus getting rid of what they have eaten. Gradually, such episodes occur more and more often, as a result, a person becomes simply obsessed with this idea and cannot imagine a single meal without a subsequent visit to the toilet and inducing vomiting.

Diabulimia is an eating disorder that occurs exclusively in patients with type 1 diabetes. It is mainly faced by women, often young ones. Against the background of self-doubt, dissatisfaction with their body and the desire for perfection, which often appears in young girls, they go to all kinds of tricks to get rid of excess weight (even if everything is in order with their weight).

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In an effort to lose weight and maintain an ideal (often very low) weight, many inject themselves much less insulin than they need. This is done so that the body begins to absorb glucose worse, and the body itself begins to use fat reserves as energy. Patients share this “life hack” in chats and forums, passing this secret to each other. Quite often they, however, forget to mention the impressive consequences of such tricks with insulin.

Why is diabulimia dangerous?

Injecting less than the required amount of insulin can lead to a myriad of problems. All of them would appear if the patient simply did not receive treatment: severe fatigue, kidney problems, retinopathy – vision problems and even blindness. Often, patients are so addicted to the dangerous game with insulin, trying to lose weight, that they do not just inject themselves with an insufficient amount of this hormone, but simply stop injecting it altogether, and this is deadly.

“I lived in constant fear and conflict,” says Noor, a patient with diabetes. – I was afraid to be fat and afraid to die. I was afraid that my parents would understand what exactly I was doing and would forbid me to do this. At the same time, I was afraid that I would lose their trust. Anyway, the idea of ​​being very thin remained the main one for me. “

Kaitlin, another patient with diabulimia, had the disease on the background of the doctors’ idea that over time they would be able to prescribe her a lower dose of insulin and this, they promised, would help her lose some weight. The girl did not wait for the appointment of doctors, but reduced it on her own. This was also facilitated by the widespread (usually erroneous) point of view in society that a patient with diabetes is necessarily an overweight person who pays for his overeating.

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It is important to remember that type 1 diabetes is a congenital autoimmune disease that has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. 

How to beat diabulimia: fight stories

Noor began her struggle with diabulimia after falling into a diabetic coma, in which she remained for five days. She did not know exactly how to act, she was afraid to gain weight, but at the same time she was absolutely sure that she wanted to live. She had to gradually increase her insulin levels to achieve the dosages she needed. At this stage, not only the help of an endocrinologist turned out to be important, but also psychological support, including communication with patients who also suffered from type 1 diabetes.

For Kaitlyn, her daughter’s opinion turned out to be decisive – she realized that her daughter was looking at her and considered what she saw normal. A constantly tired mother who literally has no strength for anything – is this normal and should the memories from childhood be like that?

By the age of 41, Caitlin was faced with the need to amputate part of her leg – most likely, long-term diabulimia increased the likelihood of this complication, which patients with diabetes face. By that time, the woman had already begun to fight her eating disorder and now considers herself the winner in this battle. She had to turn to psychotherapists, take antidepressants, also take care of her diet and change the endocrinologist in order to find a specialist who would help her in the struggle, and not scold her. 

Her condition has improved. If earlier, on a ten-point scale, she estimated the difficulties she faced while living with diabetes, at 10 points (and this is the maximum), then after defeating diabulimia, this indicator dropped to 2. 

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