What are the different types of eating disorders?
Many people have asked the question – can diabetes cause eating disorders? There are three main types of eating disorders that may be associated with diabetes: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
- Anorexia nervosa occurs when people severely limit the amount of food they eat and become dangerously underweight and malnourished.
- Bulimia occurs when people eat excessively large amounts of food, and then try to get rid of the extra calories in unhealthy ways. Some of the ways they try to shed extra calories include: self-induced vomiting, overuse of laxatives, diuretics (“water pills”) or enemas; fasting; strict dieting; or excessive exercise.
- Binge eating disorder occurs when people frequently eat large quantities of food (often very quickly, and to the point where they experience discomfort).
How common are eating disorders in people with diabetes?
People with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) have a higher incidence of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder than people who do not have the disease. These types of eating disorders are also far more common in women than in men, in both the general population and in people with diabetes. In fact, eating disorders are almost twice as common in adolescent females with type 1 diabetes, compared to males with this condition.
What are the warning signs of eating disorders in people with diabetes?
Some of the common warning signs for eating disorders include:
- Very high A1C and blood sugar levels
- Frequent and severe low blood sugar levels
- In females, irregular or no menstruation
- Exercising more than necessary
- Frequent requests to switch meal-planning approaches
- Expressing dissatisfaction with body weight, and a desire to be thinner
- Restricting insulin doses: this is known as “diabulimia,” and researchers estimate that 30 to 40% of late teenaged girls and young adult women with diabetes skip or alter insulin doses to control their weight
What are the medical risks associated with eating disorders and diabetes?
The medical risks associated with eating disorders in people with diabetes are mostly caused by the poor blood sugar control that results from these conditions. Common complications that occur due to eating disorders include:
- Hospitalizations for dangerously high or low blood sugar
- More frequent episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis
- Earlier onset of diabetes complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease and nerve damage
- A higher risk of developing infections
Eating disorders can be treated, and people do recover from them, but the longer symptoms are ignored, the more difficult it becomes to reverse. Whether you or your child are experiencing warning signs of an eating disorder, it is essential to seek help from a mental health professional as well as your diabetes healthcare team as soon as possible.