Diabulimia - Diabetes UK
Mylife young adults


This is when people with diabetes deliberately skip insulin injections in order to lose weight.

Diabulimia isn't a recognised medical term, it is a name coined by the media to describe this phenomenon.

How does it cause weight loss?

If the body doesn't have enough insulin, it can't use glucose properly for energy, so it tries to get it elsewhere by breaking down stores of fat and protein instead, which causes weight loss.

How common is diabulimia?

It's estimated that about one in three women with Type 1 diabetes under the age of 30 may be abusing insulin or may have done so in the past.

How does it affect your health?

When you haven't got enough insulin in your body your blood glucose will go to high. This can seriously affect your health both in the short and long term:

  • Short term – it can cause ketoacidosis, an extremely dangerous condition which requires immediate medical attention.
  • Long term – continual high blood glucose can cause serious complications of diabetes eg strokes, blindness, heart attacks, kidney disease and amputation.

What are the warning signs of diabulimia?

Typical signs include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted perception of body shape or weight
  • Denial of the existence of a problem
  • Changes in personality and mood swings
  • Symptoms of high blood glucose levels – thirst, passing urine frequently (especially at night), extreme tiredness.

Getting help

If you're stuck in a cycle of skipping your insulin and can't seem to break out of it, it's really important you get some help. You're risking your health and even your life.

But it can be difficult to do it alone, so try to open up to somebody:

  • Your family and friends can be a great source of support in helping you to break the cycle.
  • Your healthcare team will have come across this before and can refer you on to a psychologist if you need / want.
  • Diabetes UK Careline, available 9am – 7pm Monday to Friday. Staff are trained counsellors and everything you discuss will be in total confidence. Call them on 0345 123 2399* or email careline@diabetes.org.uk.
  • DWED (Diabetics With Eating Disorders) - DWED is a registered charity whose aim is to provide support, awareness, advocacy and action for people with Type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder. Visit the DWED website.

*Calls to 0345 numbers cost no more than calls to geographic (01 and 02) numbers and must be included in inclusive minutes on mobile phones and discount schemes. Calls from landlines are typically charged between 2p and 10p per minute while calls from mobiles typically cost between 10p and 40p per minute. Calls from landlines and mobiles to 0345 numbers are included in free call packages. Calls may be recorded for quality and training purposes.

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