Diabulimia: the lesser known eating disorder affecting 40% of diabetics

Approximately 1.6 million people in the UK suffer from some sort of eating disorder. Eating disorders mostly affect people aged 14-25.

Anorexia and bulimia are two of the most common eating disorders, with 1 in 100 women being affected anorexia and 8% suffering from bulimia.

But what about diabulimia?

Unless you have type 1 diabetes, it is unlikely that you’ve heard of this eating disorder. The name ‘diabulimia’ comes from the merging of ‘diabetes’ and ‘bulimia’.

In essence, diabulimia is when someone purposefully reduce the amount of insulin that they take as a means to control weight.


“I felt hopeless. Hopeless, and tired.”


Researcher at Birkbeck University of London and founder of DWED (Diabetics with eating disorders), Jacqueline Allan, spoke to Diabetes UK on the consequences of diabulimia saying: “The long-term impact is severe hyperglycaemia and weight loss, as the body starts to break down its fat and muscle in order to get energy.”

Allan then goes on to state that it is important to note that there are many reasons for diabetics to reduce insulin intake, such as fear of hypoglycaemia (when blood sugars drastically drop causing shaking, sweating, fainting, which could trigger panic attacks) . It is only when “reduction or even omission of insulin is related to weight control and occurs over a long period of time, it is classed as diabulimia.”

Amidst the commencement of diabetes awareness month, many survivors of diabulimia have taken to twitter to share their stories and to support other sufferers. Below are just some of the tweets so far.



According to Diabetes UK, a harrowing 40% of women with type 1 diabetes are affected by the eating disorder.

In September, BBC Three aired a documentary name “Diabulimia: The World’s Most Dangerous Eating Disorder”. The documentary followed three young women who risked losing their eyesight, limbs and fertility in order to be thin. Here are what a couple of people thought about the documentary:

Diabulimia isn’t the only risk that diabetes has. Diabetes and depression often go hand in hand- from diabetes causing depression, as well as depression sufferers at risk of developing diabetes.

When asked about what dealing with both diabetes and depression is like, this is what Jenny, 23, London, had to say: “Dealing with diabetes alone is a hassle. But adding depression into the mix makes life almost unbearable. I first realised I had depression shortly after my diagnosis for diabetes- I was 16. It was very difficult for me. Especially as a teenager with hormones, having to deal with extra issues made everything a hundred times worse. I felt hopeless. Hopeless, and tired.”

Jenny then went on to speak about the importance of diabetics mental health saying: “It is shocking to me that not many people realise how at risk diabetics are of severe mental health issues. It is even more shocking to me that so little people are aware of such a dangerous eating disorder- diabulimia. It is a real shame that it’s not being recognised as much as it should, because how are people expected to get better? Things can get worse way quicker than help can be given, and that’s a real issue. It is incredibly important to get help if you are suffering.”

For more information visit diabetes.org.uk


Words: Brenda Zini I Subbed: Ainaa Mashrique



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