Diabulimia occurs when people with Type I diabetes alter or skip insulin doses in order to lose weight or prevent weight gain. People with Diabulimia might also engage in other purging behaviors such as vomiting or excessive exercise. Type I diabetes is most often diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. It can be overwhelming for young women to learn that they will have to take shots of insulin for the rest of their lives. Women with Type I diabetes must also strictly monitor blood sugar levels and food intake, which means that food becomes a constant focus in their lives. Additionally, beginning to take insulin can lead to weight gain.
Limiting insulin can be tempting, but also extremely dangerous, causing a variety of health problems including blindness, kidney failure, and nerve disorders. People with eating disorders tend to conceal their struggles, and Diabulimia is no exception. If you have a child or teen who you suspect is dealing with this illness, some warning signs include consistently elevated hemoglobin A1c, unexplained weight loss, and suspicious blood glucose monitoring results. There might also be no evidence or marks on the person’s fingertips, which is inconsistent with the need to use finger pricks for testing.
Diabulimia might initially require hospitalization if the symptoms are severe. If hospitalization is not yet warranted, a multidisciplinary team approach is necessary. The treatment team should include an endocrinologist, a therapist trained to treat eating disorders, and a dietician who is skilled in the management of blood glucose levels and insulin use. Eating disorder symptoms and medical symptoms must be monitored closely throughout treatment. Here at EDTC, we have experience in treating clients suffering from Diabulima in both individual psychotherapy and in our Intensive Outpatient Program.