Type I Diabetes and Eating Disorders commonly referred to as “Diabulimia”

Treatment for Individuals with Diabetes and Eating Disorders

The term “diabulmia” has been used to refer to the life threatening combination of diabetes and eating disorders and the unhealthy practice by which type I diabetics manipulate their weight by depriving their bodies of much needed insulin. Studies show that type 1 diabetics are two and a half times more likely to develop an eating disorder than other women.

At Center for Hope of the Sierras, we recognize that the treatment of co-occurring diabetes and eating disorders requires a highly specialized approach. Our staff will help residents find the balance between appropriate insulin intake and, if necessary, slow, gradual restoration while closely monitoring the individual’s progress. Our unique approach includes educating residents about their bodies and their conditions so that they can learn to regulate the amount of sugar and carbohydrates they’re consuming. This way, residents find a balanced, healthy life they can be happy with, without feeling compelled to abuse insulin.

The diabetes program accounts for the biology of co-occurring diabetes and eating disorders as well as the psychological, social, and cultural implications that are interwoven with the two diagnoses. With treatment anchored in the biopsychosocial model, women in the diabetes program receive:

  • Comprehensive medical management including nutrition education and rehabilitation, blood sugar monitoring/testing, insulin administration, and a monitored exercise program.
  • Individual, group, and family therapy that address the food, body image, and interpersonal issues underlying an eating disorder as well as the emotional factors that are interfering with responsible self-care for the treatment of diabetes.
  • A home-like environment with 24-hour nursing and social support where women can connect in a meaningful way with peers, staff, and themselves.
  • Comprehensive care from a team of experts in a CARF-accredited residential program, including a board-certified endocrinologist, a registered dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutritional biochemistry, licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, a psychiatrist, and 24-hour nursing and patient assistants.

Diabetes and eating disorders are both complex diseases when viewed separately; when the conditions exist in the same person, the results can be devastating, with consequences ranging from blindness and nerve disorders to kidney failure and diabetic ketoacidosis (an acidic buildup in the blood resulting from inadequate insulin levels).

With treatment and medical stabilization, residents learn that constant feelings of irritability, dehydration, and fatigue are not “normal” and that they can feel better when managing their diabetes in a healthy way. Individuals learn better ways to cope with the feelings, gain education about nutrition, diabetes management, and healthy living, and develop a support network that understands the implications of this dual diagnosis.

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