Diabulimia: The Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Often referred to as “diabulimia,” eating disorders complicated by diabetes mellitus type 1 (commonly known as Type 1 Diabetes or T1D), can have significant physical health complications. While diabulimia is not a medically recognized term, it is frequently utilized and widely recognized when referring to this very serious co-occurring condition.

Diabulimia is driven by the same psychological factors and stressors responsible for the development of eating disorders. People with diabulimia may present with a significant preoccupation with and fear of gaining weight, marked symptoms of anxiety, avoidance and secrecy, high levels of shame, and low self-esteem.

Additionally, those struggling with this dual condition may engage in intentional misuse of insulin for weight loss such as restricting insulin by skipping a dose or under-dosing, while engaging in eating disorder behaviors such as binging, restricting, or purging.

Individuals are often living with elevated blood sugars that may have both short- and long-term health consequences. They may experience physical difficulties such as diabetic ketoacidosis, slow wound healing, infections, electrolyte disturbances, dehydration, coma, or stroke. There can be damage to the retina, heart, or kidneys and there is an elevated mortality risk associated with this dual condition.

Signs of diabulimia include:

  • Purposeful restriction of insulin for weight loss
  • Intense focus on numbers such as blood glucose or A1c
  • Neglect of appropriate diabetes management
  • Secrecy around diabetes or avoidance of medical appointments
  • Fear of insulin causing weight gain
  • Feeling uncomfortable injecting insulin in the presence of others
  • Hypoglycemic symptoms such as shakiness, sweating, chills, confusion, or nausea
  • Insulin shock symptoms such as sudden hunger, weakness, pale skin, dizziness, and convulsions
  • Acidosis symptoms such as drowsiness, dry skin, rosy cheeks, stomach aches, and vomiting
  • Inconsistent of high A1c
  • Low potassium or sodium
  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive thirst or hunger
  • Frequent urination

Our Approach to Patient Care

We treat ED-DMT1 or diabulimia across all levels of care with strong medical, nursing and dietary oversight and monitoring to stabilize blood sugars and teach each patient how to best manage their diabetes in diabulimia recovery. We use our nutrition philosophy, the E.A.T model, with various dietary options incorporated and carbohydrate counts available on all foods to assist with managing blood sugar levels. We also utilize a multi-faceted therapeutic approach to address the challenges of living with a chronic illness.

At Reasons, we utilize a phased approach with insulin management. Upon admission, the treatment team takes over management of the insulin while working towards the goal of the patient resuming self-administration over the course of treatment. We collaborate with members of your team such as endocrinologists, family members and dietitians to stabilize blood sugars while developing a diabulimia treatment plan that works for you.

We Hold Hope for Your Recovery

Eating disorder recovery is not always easy, but it is possible. Let us support you in discovering not only the reasons for your eating disorder but the reasons for your recovery. To schedule a no-cost clinical consultation or for more information, please call 844-573-2766 or use our online contact form. In case of a medical emergency or crisis, please call 911 or seek the nearest emergency room.

Eating Disorder Recovery is Possible

We understand that there are reasons for your eating disorder. We’re here to stand with you during this difficult time. Let’s work together to discover the reasons for your recovery.