When you think of diabetes, you don’t often associate eating disorder symptoms with the condition. Surprisingly though, diabetes and eating disorders do have a connection. People with diabetes suffer from high glucose levels in their blood. It is typically a lifelong disease and if is not treated correctly, it can lead to serious health problems such as blindness, kidney failure or damage, and heart disease. Add the seriousness of an eating disorder to this disease, and it can be a deadly combination.
One reason that diabetes and eating disorders are sometimes connected is because diabetics have to focus intensely on their diet, and the constant review of daily food intake can lead to a preoccupation with food. Individuals begin to focus on every aspect of their meals, instead of just a diabetic aspect. Calorie intake becomes an obsession and the true reason for the diabetic diet gets pushed aside as a new diet takes over.
A second connection is the insulin that diabetics need can cause weight gain, leading to a poor body image. As the diabetic notices the weight increase, their desire to be thinner also increases.
The two most common eating disorders associated with diabetes are anorexia and bulimia. Signs and symptoms for each disorder are as follows.
Signs of anorexia include:
- Decreasing or skipping insulin doses. With anorexia, the individual may begin decreasing insulin doses or omitting the dose altogether, as a way to lose weight.
- Extreme fear of being overweight. Someone suffering from anorexia may begin to worry about every calorie and how it may affect their weight.
- Strange Eating Habits. Individuals may be constantly trying new diets, skipping meals, or refusing to eat in front of other people.
- Decline in mood. Anorexia and poor body image can lead to depression, irritability, and the desire to be alone with the disease.
Signs of Bulimia include:
- A history of binging and purging. Binging is when the individual eats a large amount of food in a short amount of time. To purge the food, the person then either vomits, uses a laxative or exercises obsessively.
- Obsession with body image. A bulimic is constantly monitoring weight and shape of their body.
- Pretending to have a “normal” appetite in front of others. Bulimics tend to be able to hide their disease by forcing normal sized meals down when in the company of others. When no one is looking though, their disease takes over and the binging and purging occurs.
Diabetes left unchecked has its own dangers such as heart or kidney conditions and blindness and eating disorders also have their own dangers. Anorexia increases the risk for osteoporosis and may lead to infertility or miscarriage. Low body weight, water intoxication, depression, and hypoglycemia, and death, are all additional dangers from anorexia. Bulimia can cause digestion problems, anemia, dehydration, tooth decay, and death. Each disease is a danger in its own right, but combining diabetes with an eating disorder can be a deadly mix.
Diabetics have a whole different set of additional health concerns because of the disease, and eating disorders complicate an individuals ability to properly care for her body. Together, the diseases can impact a person’s health, so treatment should be sought immediately.