Understanding What Is Diabulimia

The word diabulimia comes from a combination of two words – diabetes and bulimia. Diabetes is a chronic disease associated with the human body’s blood sugar usage. Bulimia is a form of eating disorder where an individual eats food and then gets rid of it by throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight. 

Diabulimia is a severe and life-threatening eating disorder in people with Type 1 diabetes. If left untreated, diabulimia can cause severe complications, and therefore it needs immediate medical treatment. Let us understand in detail what is diabulimia, its symptoms, and available treatment options.

Understanding What Is Diabulimia

What is diabulimia?

Diabulimia is an eating disorder in which a person affected by Type 1 diabetes deliberately withholds insulin in order to lose weight. This tendency can lead to serious complications, including amputations or blindness. 

The term diabulimia originated in the mid-2000s. However, several diabetes health professionals have studied and encountered the issue. In 2019, health experts at BMJ termed it the ‘most dangerous eating disorder in the world.’ 


Other than being excessively concerned about gaining weight, several other triggers can cause diabulimia. These include:

  • difficulty in coping with diabetic symptoms,
  • complicated relationships and past trauma, and
  • an obsessive need to feel in control.

As per the findings of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):

  • 30-35% of women using insulin restrict it in order to lose weight,
  • one out of every six men with diabetes experience diabulimia, and
  • adolescent females with diabetes are much more likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders than others.

Read more: Are PTSD And Eating Disorders Related?

Symptoms of diabulimia

Diabulimia can manifest itself in the form of various psychological, behavioral, and physical symptoms. The most common symptoms of diabulimia include:

  • focusing obsessively on one’s looks and food intake,
  • being extremely occupied with carbohydrates, fats, and dieting,
  • seeking control over one’s behavior and body,
  • imposing unhealthy diet restrictions on one’s self,
  • compulsive exercising,
  • forcefully vomiting or using laxatives after meals to eliminate the eaten food, 
  • being socially isolated,
  • having A1C at 0.9% or higher constantly, 
  • neglecting routine diabetes management activities, and 
  • being secretive about one’s diabetic condition.

Treatment Options

Treating diabulimia is not an easy and quick-fix process. It can take a lot of hard work and professional guidance to change unhealthy behavior patterns and shift toward positive ones. The primary goals of any diabulimia treatment include:

  • learning the correct usage of insulin,
  • managing blood sugar levels healthily,
  • avoiding any form of diabetic complications, and 
  • treating the mental issues that have played a role in the occurrence of diabulimia.

Treatment options for diabulimia often include a combination of several things. These include– counseling, hospitalization, nutritional and diabetic education, and medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and family therapy are commonly used to treat the condition.

Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms.


Diabulimia, as per experts, is the world’s most dangerous eating disorder. It is caused by the tendency to limit insulin in individuals who have Type 1 diabetes. The leading cause behind the disorder is the need to lose weight. Despite not being recognized as an official disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-V), the condition has been extensively reported and has several available treatment options.

Now that you know what is diabulimia, let us take you a step further.

Apart from diabulimia, there exist a variety of psychological disorders that are unknown to a majority of people. To read about the most unusual psychological disorders, click here.

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