Diabulimia: A Growing Phenomena

By: Sandra Kim Leong

Diabulimia is a growing phenomena; yet, few know much about it. This is dangerous as with any condition that has little public awareness, unnecessary deaths can occur. Diabulimia mostly inflicts young teens who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It is a condition that has similar characteristics with a body image disorder.

Type 1 diabetics produce little or no insulin. As there is no cure, patients have no choice but to take daily insulin shots in order to survive. Type 1 diabetes can inflict children from a young age and also young teens. Statistics now show that there are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, with a figure that is rising every year.

With a rising pool of young teens with Type 1 diabetes, other problems such as diabulima, emerge. Some young teens got to learn that their body is dependent on insulin, and that insulin is an anabolic or storage hormone. With insulin encouraging fat storage, they get to know that weight gain is a possible consequence with taking insulin shots. Therefore, to avoid putting on weight, these patients start to skip doses and manipulate taking their insulin shots.

In a bulimics, the sufferers often try to manage their weight through vomiting or other forms of behavior so that their bodies do not put on the calories from being eating. Bulimics suffer from a body image disorder and generally have low self esteem and confidence.

For diabulimics, patients wise up to the technique on using insulin shots pretty quickly. They take just enough insulin to avoid going into diabetic ketoacidosis, and narrowly avoiding hospitalization. However, this is potentially very dangerous. If a Type 1 diabetic does not take the required insulin dosages, he or she risks dehydration, fatigue and a breakdown in muscle tissue. Other complications include eye and kidney failure and a high risk of coma, amputation and even death.

Unfortunately, a diabulimia is not recognized as a medical condition, unlike anorexia or bulimia. In fact, not enough is know about it. On the other hand, the American Diabetes Association has long known about insulin omission as a tactic for weight control. An expert recently provided an estimate. He figures that 450,000 Type 1 diabetic women in the United States, one-third of the total, have skipped or shortchanged their insulin to lose weight and are risking a coma and an early death.

Already, tips about weight control via managing insulin shots are being exchanged in online bulletin boards for diabetics and those with eating disorders. Ironically, almost all diabetics need to go through a diabetic management talk with their doctor. And this talk usually includes some advice for meal planning. However, what is overlooked is the need to address patients who also have body image issues. More awareness is warranted in order to help diabulimics prevent ill health or death .

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