Thursday, November 8, 2007

Eating Disorder + Diabetes = Diabulimia

Remember when everyone was talking about how Halle Berry claimed to have cured herself of Type 1 diabetes? Then doctors chimed in to say she must be mistaken because it could be life-threatening for a Type 1 diabetic to stop taking insulin. Well, there are thousands of girls and young women with diabetes who are willing to take that risk. The reason? Weight loss.

Salon reports on an eating disorder called diabulimia.
Sufferers are Type 1 diabetics who willingly skip their insulin shots because of the effects it has on their weight. If they take insulin, they plump up and have to carefully regulate everything they eat. If they skip the insulin, they can binge all they want and watch the pounds melt off. But this miracle diet also results in hair loss, extreme fatigue, confusion, and tingling extremities. And that's just in the short term. In the long term, sufferers will likely go blind, lose a limb or suffer a heart attack. Size 2 today and dialysis down the road? Because a high percentage of diabulimics are teenagers, the future dangers may be harder to grasp than the present benefits.

Diabulimia is not a new disorder. I worked at an eating disorders organization ten years ago and we got several calls a week about diabetes and eating disorders. The connection between diabetes and eating disorders makes sense when you consider how carefully diabetics must structure their lives around food and weight management. What is relatively new, say doctors, is the ease with which diabulimics can find each other online and trade tips and tricks. Yep, there are pro-diabulimics online, too.

In a recent study conducted by the Eating Disorders Institute, of 87 patients diagnosed with diabetes in childhood, 36 percent admitted to misusing insulin in order to control their weight -- but only when they were asked a decade later. Patients with diabulimia have a mortality rate of 34.8 percent per year. It is the die in diabulimia that is the harshest wake up call. [Salon]


S.B. Silverman said...

Wow, I had never heard of this disorder. I also have been somewhat active in the non-profit world of ED prevention and awareness. It is scary how far people are willing to go in the name of weight loss.

Kudos for bringing this to brining awareness around this disorder.

Allison said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog! I will check out the Salon article. :-)