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Diabulimia is a serious eating disorder that occurs in people with diabetes, mainly type 1 diabetes, in which the person intentionally reduces or stops taking the amount of insulin needed to control their blood sugar levels. blood, in order to lose weight.
This disorder is due to the fact that people with diabetes are more prone to weight gain and, therefore, have greater excessive control over food and dissatisfaction with their image, making them decide to inject a smaller amount of insulin.
Although this change is not known as a disease by international he alth bodies, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate this disorder, as it can endanger the person's life.Thus, it is recommended that the psychologist, as well as the general practitioner or endocrinologist be consulted to better guide the treatment.
Symptoms of diabulimia
Diabulimia is usually not easily identified and in most cases the person who has this disorder is not aware of their problem, so family members or friends can take into account some characteristics, the main ones being:
- Decrease in the amount of insulin applied or absence of application of some doses;
- Avoid medical check-ups;
- Excessive concern with body image;
- Sudden increase or decrease in food consumption;
- Concern with meals, weight and/or calories;
- Avoid eating with family or in public;
- Depression and/or anxiety;
- Excessive physical activity;
- Weight loss with no apparent cause.
In addition, as the person does not take insulin, which is necessary for the energy from the consumed food to be used by the body's cells, it is possible to result in diabetic ketoacidosis, which has symptoms of excessive thirst, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, frequent tiredness, headache, shortness of breath and fruity smelling breath. Learn more about diabetic ketoacidosis.
Another way to check if a person has this disorder is to compare blood glucose values from a previous period with the current one, in which it is possible to observe an increase in glucose values.
As people with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk of gaining weight due to high doses of insulin, they should pay more attention to their diet and perform permanent control, which can result in emotional and behavioral changes, leading to the development of this type of eating disorder.
How the treatment is done
Since it is a psychological disorder, diabulimia should be discussed with a psychologist, first to confirm the diagnosis and then to initiate the most appropriate treatment. However, other he alth professionals who are used to dealing with diabetes, such as nutritionists or endocrinologists, should also be part of the treatment process.
Typically, the treatment plan starts with psychotherapy sessions to help the person have a more positive body image and demystify the relationship between insulin use and weight changes.
Depending on the degree of the disorder, it may still be necessary to have a more regular check-up with the endocrinologist, as well as involving the whole family to help the person overcome this phase.
As an eating disorder, diabulimia is a very serious, life-threatening condition.
The first complications of this disorder are directly related to the increase in blood sugar levels that end up hindering wound healing, facilitating the emergence of infections, loss of muscle mass, changes in the menstrual cycle and/or dehydration.
In the long term, even more serious complications may arise, such as:
- Progressive vision loss;
- Swelling of the eyes;
- Loss of sensation in fingers and toes;
- Amputation of feet or hands;
- Chronic diarrhea;
- Digestive problems;
- Kidney and liver diseases;
- Heart problems.
In addition, as there is a lack of insulin in the blood, the body cannot properly absorb the nutrients from the food ingested, ending up leaving the body in a situation of malnutrition and hunger that, together with the other complications, can leave the person in a diabetic coma and even lead to death.