In fact, 2.5 times a woman without type 1 diabetes. Those are some pretty significant odds when you think about it. The challenges that managing type 1 diabetes puts on a person, including the psychological struggles can really take a toll. Diabulemia can be difficult to distinguish from a brittle diabetic.
Those with type 1 diabetes have a unique type of relationship when it comes to food and insulin. If you are unfamiliar with the eating disorder of “Diabulimia” that affects those with type 1 diabetes, read on to find out how you can spot the warning signs, how it is treated and what type of behaviors can increase someone’s risk of developing it.
What is Bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder that includes periods of overeating and binging followed by the need to purge. Those with bulimia are fearful that they will gain weight, but this doesn’t mean that everyone who suffers from this condition is underweight. They may just purge what they consume to try to manage their weight and prevent any additional gain.
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What is Anorexia?
Anorexia nervosa is another type of eating disorder where the patient is typically suffering from low body weight. They also have an extreme fear of gaining any weight. Those with anorexia try to control their weight by decreasing the food they consume. They may even purge after eating or use dietary aids, enemas and even laxatives to lose weight.
What is Diabulimia?
Diabulimia is a life threatening condition that involves the unhealthy use of withholding one’s insulin to try to lose weight. Those that suffer from diabulimia often times exhibit many eating disorder symptoms or they may only change how they use their insulin to lose weight rapidly.
What are the Signs?
Warning signs include:
- A higher a1c
- Mood changes
- Fast weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Frequent episodes of DKA
- Lack of concentration or motivation
Think about the symptoms that occur during an early diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. These are some of the more similar symptoms that appear with those that have diabulimia. Those who suffer rationally have a low self-esteem or abnormal body image.
Are You at Risk?
Restricting insulin alone can put you at a much higher risk of developing it over time. It is one of the very first symptoms no matter how infrequent it really is that shows up.
Why is it Dangerous?
When you are not taking insulin as you should be when you have type 1 diabetes, your organs become overall soaked in glucose. You will place your body into a state of DKA much quicker and could suffer long-term complications as a result. These complications include nephropathy, neuropathy and retinopathy. If this condition is left untreated it can be fatal.
When you add type 1 into the mix of an eating disorder it can be even more dangerous. Longer periods of high blood sugar levels can lead to much higher rates of developing complications. You will find that more frequent trips to the ER as a result of DKA occur as well.
How is Diabulimia Treated?
Treatment for diabulimia is a delicate one when it comes to type 1 diabetes. This is because it’s dangerous to go from elevated levels of blood glucose too normal, target numbers quickly. This can also lead to complications. The process of decreasing levels of blood glucose in the body must take place over time to provide you with the best results. Bringing down the glucose quickly is how DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis) is managed in the hospital. The lowering of the glucose needs to be done in conjunction with fluid and electrolyte management. The low range has been raised to lessen any possible hypoglycemic episodes.
Additionally, it’s important to address the underlying issue of psychological stress when it comes to type 1 diabetes. If they are having difficulty managing their condition this can lead to even bigger problems if the stressors and mental exhaustion are not handled as well.
Teaching young girls how to properly manage their condition is extremely important when it comes to the prevention of diabulima. Withholding insulin, no matter how short term it may be can have dire consequences that many young people right now do not consider. It’s all about instant gratification and instant results of losing weight. While they get the instant effects, the long term effects can be deadly.
TheDiabetesCouncil Article | Reviewed by Dr. Jack Isler MD on August 23, 2018