This is What It’s Like to Have the World’s Most Deadly Eating Disorder

Posted on January 12, 2019

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29-year-old Erin has been suffering from a combination of an eating disorder and Type 1 diabetes since she was 13 years old. She shares with us her experience in battling this disorder and why it is so dangerous. Type I diabetes in and of itself comes with many struggles of having to constantly calculate your insulin dose for every meal with frequent tests for blood sugar levels. Pair that with a desire for weight loss and you get the deadliest eating disorder, diabulimia, simply by restricting your insulin intake. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin for the body to convert the glucose in food to energy. Without insulin, sugar starts to build up in the blood and the body turns to burning fat stores for energy resulting in weight loss.

Diabulimia is sometimes known as the easy eating disorder as well as one could eat as much as they wanted and still lose weight simply by restricting their insulin instead of having to control their diet, or exercise excessively. It is precisely because it is so “easy” that it makes it so dangerous. Restricting of insulin could cause irreparable damage to one’s body and could even lead to fatal lead consequences. Research has shown that almost a third of women with Type 1 diabetes admit to omitting their insulin to lose weight. Further research also showed how over a 14-year period into early adulthood, 32% of 72 girls met the criteria for an eating disorder.

A more commonly known eating disorder, anorexia, has been found to be the most deadly psychiatric condition. This combined with Type 1 diabetes then places an even greater strain on the body. In a study that spanned over 11 years, women with type 1 diabetes that restricted their insulin were reported as three times more likely to die during the study, and those who recovered often are left with catastrophic complications such as blindness, kidney and nerve damage and limb loss.

Perhaps it is because Type 1 diabetes requires individuals to develop a hyper focus on food to track the appropriate dose of insulin they require that makes them more susceptible to developing an eating disorder. That being said, getting a correct diagnosis for diabulimia serves as a challenge as well as the individual would still be eating normally and at times, weight loss is even considered a positive outcome for people suffering from diabetes.

Till this day diabulimia is still poorly understood with only a few handful of experts in this area. It is a disorder that sits at the cross-roads of mental and physical health with little research on its treatment methods. Some methods that has been effective for other eating disorders can be of little use to individuals with type 1 diabetes. An example being how those with anorexia and bulimia are encouraged to avoid reading food labels but those with type 1 diabetes are unable to do so as they must read the labels to accurately calculate their insulin dose.

Presently, diabulimia is still not official recognized as a psychiatric disorder, with no entry into the DSM-5 which is the authoritative catalogue of mental health conditions by the American Psychiatric Association. The hope is then to raise awareness of this issue so that those who might be suffering from it could get the appropriate treatment they need before any irreparable damage could occur.

Category(s):Eating Disorders

Source material from Vice