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.
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 – 5pm Monday to Friday. Staff are trained counsellors and everything you discuss will be in total confidence. Call them on 0845 120 2960* or email email@example.com.
- 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.
*Depending on your phone package, calls to 0845 numbers may be free. Otherwise, calls to this number from a BT landline can incur a 9.05p set-up charge plus an additional charge of up to 5.25p per minute. Please check with your phone provider for further details of costs to 0845 numbers. Alternatively, call 020 7424 1000 and ask Reception to transfer your call.