Commonly in discussing parity of mental health and substance abuse treatment Diabetes is used as an example for comparison. When someone with diabetes “relapses” and eats a high sugar food like candy, they are simply given medication. Diabetics do not face the socially driven stigma or shame in their “shortcomings” as addicts and alcoholics do. Additionally, a diabetic relapse is not met with the judgmental and condemning labels as an alcoholic or addict relapse does.

diabulimia explained

Eating sweets when it goes against a physical health condition which can be life threatening is not considered immoral or criminal. After all, how many people can truly go through life without the occasional indulgence? A piece of cake is clearly not the same as a bag of heroin, but the craving and impulsive decision making is not too entirely different. In fact, sugar and drugs like amphetamines (think cocaine) act quite similarly in the brain.

A new form of eating disorder combined with Type 1 Diabetes has been taking over headlines. Type 1 Diabetes most frequently occurs in adolescents when the pancreas, which digests sugars, is not capable of producing enough insulin or any insulin at all. Someone with Type 1 Diabetes is who will be taking regular measurement of their blood sugar levels and making sure to maintain normalcy. Dehydration, fatigue, hunger and blurry vision can be symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes.

Diabulimia is raising concern in the treatment of eating disorders and dual diagnosis mental health conditions. Diabulimia is the intentional minimization of insulin in order to achieve weight loss. Weight loss in eating disorders is tied to ideas of perfectionism, acceptance, and control. By accomplishing a certain physique, often people with eating disorders feel their other flaws are compensated for. As with any eating disorder, the core issue is rarely the food or the eating. Putting diabetic health risk with the health risks associated with eating disorders together creates a list of potential health harms. Risks of Diabulimia include:

  • High Glucose levels
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis
  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Menstrual disruption
  • Liver Disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Death

If you are concerned a loved one may be using their Type 1 Diabetes in a disordered manner for weight loss, you can look for these signs:

  • Sudden and inexplicable weight loss
  • Relentless thirst and dehydration
  • Increased appetite plus cravings for sweets
  • Lying about blood sugar level, insulin testing, and eating
  • Obsession with body image, weight, and appearance
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Chronic Fatigue

Aurora Recovery Center treats men and women experience a dual diagnosis of eating disorder with other mental health issues which can include substance abuse. Eating disorders live deep in the habit forming section of the brain and are challenging to overcome. With intensive treatment and therapy to confront underlying issues, Aurora equips patients with a new way of living and feeling. For more information call 844-515-STOP!


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