Thousands of individuals with Type 1 diabetes are currently struggling with diabulimia, a dual diagnosis disorder where patients deliberately manipulate insulin intake for the purpose of weight loss. While the side effects and risks for this behavior are enormous, there has been a surge in diagnosis of diabulimia in young people. The mortality rate from diabetes alone is roughly 2.5 percent annually, anorexia nervosa is 6.5 percent, but patients with diabulimia are suffering a mortality rate of 34 percent, per year.
With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, so all the sugars and simple carbohydrates a diabetic consumes are automatically flushed through the body without being stored. The long term result of this is ketoacidosis, a combination of high blood sugar and dehydration that causes a toxic buildup, deteriorating fat and muscle tissue.
Insulin is an anabolic, which keeps muscle mass from breaking down, but it also encourages fat storage. By skipping doses, patients have found they can eat whatever they want and lose weight instead of gain it. Social media has had mixed effects in providing a source for diabetics to share experiences, so they are both learning a dangerous method for controlling weight, as well as the possible risks.
A young woman posted on her webpage: “By skipping insulin, I lost my friends, my health, my hair, my happiness…I have sores on my mouth, my hair is thin, my heart flutters, it is a struggle to walk, and the docs say I will need dialysis and eye surgery by the time I’m twenty.”
Despite being able to eat anything and never gain weight, diabulimics will have high blood sugar levels, frequent bathroom visits, severe dehydration, and an electrolyte imbalance that can lead to heart irregularities, constant fatigue, and vascular problems that are the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and amputations.
If you or someone you love is currently struggling with Type 1 diabetes, treatment options are available to work with the delicate nature of this condition. It’s important to be informed about the complexity of the disease, and ask for help if struggling with any issue surrounding how to care for and love your body.