Diabetes and eating disorders: an exploration of ‘Diabulimia'

Coleman, Sophie Elizabeth and Caswell, Noreen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6832-6822 (2020) Diabetes and eating disorders: an exploration of ‘Diabulimia'. BMC Psychology, 8 (101).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-00468-4


Abstract: Background: ‘Diabulimia’ is the term given to the deliberate administration of insufficient insulin for the purpose of weight loss. Although Diabulimia can be life-threatening and prevalence rates in diabetes are high, there is a lack of research for how to effectively support people with the condition. This exploratory study aimed to provide much-needed information to healthcare professionals and guide the focus for future research. Methods: Forty-five individuals with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and a history of insulin misuse completed an online questionnaire. This included an assessment of their eating disorder psychopathology with the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and 16 open-ended questions exploring their experience of Diabulimia. The responses to the open-ended questions were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: The average global EDE-Q score was 3.96 (1.21), which is consistent with eating disorder populations. Common themes identified were concerns about weight, difficulty coping with diabetes, past trauma, and the importance of relationships. Experiences with health professionals were overwhelmingly negative. Most participants had experienced serious medical intervention due to Diabulimia and were fully aware of the consequences of insulin restriction. Conclusions: Overall, individuals believed that a greater awareness of Diabulimia and more training for healthcare professionals is needed. While education on insulin misuse may be a necessary first step in treatment, psychological support is crucial. To deliver effective treatment, clinicians should be aware of the specific issues facing those with Diabulimia. The current study identified themes that clinicians may find useful to consider.

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