Diabulimia: The World’s Most Dangerous Eating Disorder


Diabulimia is the combination of type 1 diabetes with the eating disorder bulimia.

People with type 1 diabetes have a defective pancreas that does not make insulin. And insulin is needed for glucose to enter the body’s cells for energy or storage.

bulimia photo

Photo by olgaberrios

People with bulimia are overly concerned about their weight. They often eat to excess and then cause themselves to purge, usually by vomiting or taking laxatives, but some exercise to an excessive degree.

Combine these physical and psychological illnesses and you have a person that recognizes that by reducing or withholding insulin he or she can prevent their body from utilizing the glucose in the blood. Glucose cannot be used for energy or be converted and stored for future use as fat. This causes their body to use stored fat and protein for energy. In other words, insulin helps build more fat. Withholding insulin is a way of eating whatever you want but still losing weight.

Not getting enough insulin causes blood sugar levels to rise. A condition of high blood glucose levels is called hyperglycemia. Excess sugar (glucose) is secreted in the urine. Calories are in this way purged from the body.

Hyperglycemia is a dangerous condition that can result in permanent damage to the body. High glucose levels cause damage to small blood vessels and nerves. The damaged blood vessels affect organs such as the eye, heart, and kidneys. Nerve damage results in weakness, tingling, pain, and numbness in the feet and hands.

These conditions can worsen over time. Sight can deteriorate and become blurred or blindness can result. Heart disease and stroke are common in patients with diabetes. Kidneys can fail and require dialysis. Foot ulcers can become so bad a patient has to use a wheelchair and eventually amputation may be required.

The Dangers of Diabulimia

Gemma, Nabeelah and Becky are some of thousands of people who suffer from Diabulimia. Usual eating disorder treatment does not work, but medical experts hope to change that.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this documentary, the these organizations within the UK may be able to help.
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The American Diabetes Association tells us that “girls and women with type 1 diabetes are twice as likely to develop an eating disorder as those without diabetes?” It’s not surprising that the death rate of those with type 1 diabetes is three times higher when an eating disorder is present.

My Diabetes Journey” JDRF video contest entry. A story of dance, Type 1 diabetes, eating disorders, diabulimia, and RECOVERY!

Check out the DieOrBeatThis website today.

18 thoughts on “Diabulimia: The World’s Most Dangerous Eating Disorder

  1. Emma J

    So it's just Diabetics with Bulimia. You couldn't just say that BBC without making it a new word could you? Shocked to the the least and just being diabetic myself is a pain

  2. Faith VanVleet

    This is incredibly interesting. Not only because it's something I've never heard of, but also from a medical standpoint. I'm a nursing student and I've known people who use their diabetes to attempt suicide via ketoacidosis. As someone who struggles with their weight I know it would be very tempting for me to do something like this if I had type 1 diabetes.

  3. Garrett Mabel

    Gosh, I'm T1 and had never even heard of this. I've struggled with T1 in different sorts of ways, but I never considered the perspective of someone struggling with T1 and body image issues in a way that leads them to omit insulin.

    My heart goes of to these women, and anyone struggling with diabulimia. As a diabetic, myself, I feel even more motivated to spread support and education for proper management of the disease.

  4. Vanessa L'Heureux

    Honestly, so happy to see that diabetes and all the awful things it can cause are getting more awareness. Nobody understands how dangerous and difficult T1D can be.

  5. brokeViatheinternet

    Come on, do you actually want to look like this. it makes you look alot older than you are. be a healthy weight its so much more atractive

  6. Staci Wiley

    Jemma would get help if she came to Los Angeles. I hope that someone who saw this, either owns an ED treatment center, or works in one and reaches out to her. LA is full of well equipped treatment centers for eating disorders, depression, and addiction but rarely do I see these treatment centers who make millions per year take in people for free, which is why I'm making my own documentary about the industry and knowing there are so many empty beds that could be filled and the centers would still make money, is just unforgivable. If I could. I would open a treatment facility with half paid clients and half "scholarship" clients, the psychology behind that is for instance when I was in a rehab for my opiate addiction, the owner would always be bringing in people he'd meet that wanted and needed inpatient treatment for addiction, because of that I really valued the chance of having a bed in my rehab, even when things got really bad and my detox caused me to vomit, shake, have involuntary spasms in my limbs, go from freezing to sweating, and a lack of depth perception I had lots of clients willing to help me, and other clients that I helped, and that set a decent tone. There were always clients who really didn't need inpatient treatment, rather I think they were just curious about us addicts who were in dire situations, and whose families had so much money that they were all to eager to put their kids into treatment centers when just therapy alone would've sufficed. Jemma will die if she doesn't get help, and there are so many like her who will die without help, and what angers me is that there are plenty of places for them to go, but the amount of money either they or their families have determines their worth as people.

  7. Messalina

    One part of the comments: I wish they get better. The other: Gemma is so beautiful! She's skinniest of them all and her case is the most severe and comment section definitely isn't helping…

  8. myfancylife

    I am an aspiring psychiatrist wanting to specialize in eating disorders. This video was so inspirational for me. Thank you


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