Friday, January 13, 2006


This is a precursor to a post that I'm in the process of composing.

Since I'm a queen dork, I keep up with words. I love them. I'm interested in the dictionary and I'm thrilled when the New Oxford American and Merriam Webster release their "new word" lists each year. Among the words added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in June of 2005 was the following: "diabulemia" - "the manipulation by diabetic patients of insulin treatments in order to lose weight."

Information about diabulemia is scarce. A Google search on the term brings up these:

Check at the very bottom of this article.

A slightly more in-depth look here.

It's easier for me to present you with the facts before I present you with my own story of hitting rock bottom and dealing with my bulemia and diabulemia.

When I was manipulating and skipping insulin doses to attain weight loss goals, there was no name for what I was doing. From just after my diagnosis in the early 1980s until two or three years ago when a new focus on eating disorders gave birth to a name for this dangerous practice, I knew girls and women who, like me, thought appearance was more important than health; thought that a slimmer figure was worth risking their lives. I am lucky; I was able to stop and I have not yet suffered complication consequences as a result of my dicey behaviors.

Is there a greater awareness of diabulemia now? Have any in the OC heard of the illness -- and did you know there was a clinical term for it? Do you think that the instensifying focus on poor control and resulting complications has reduced or has the potential to reduce incidence of the disorder?


Penny said...

I have never heard of it before. Looking forward to hearing your story.

Ellen said...

Sure, I've heard of this for years. What really worried me is some girls learn about it at diabetes camp! I know it's a quick fix and I don't have diabetes so I won't judge, but it certainly has horrible consequences.

Shannon said...

Martha O'Connor, and maybe AmyT blogged about diabulimia, but I don't think she used that term as I don't recall ever hearing it used.

I wonder if there is a term called diaanorexia. I'm off to look it up now.

Shannon said...

I didn't have time to read through it, but check out this site:

From the quick glance I gave it, it's a diary with a bunch of different girls adding entries. They all have diabetes (all type 1 I believe).

Shannon said...

Go to that site too. On the left side there is a listing of different websites by people with eating disorders. Click on the one named

Diabolical: Diabulimia

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, I have heard of it before, but not with the term Diabulimia. I think I read it in a book my mom got me when I was first diagnosed... 1 year ago.

I am curious to read your next entry.

Allison said...

I've never heard the name, but I've heard of girls who skip insulin injections so their bodies will use up the fat so they lose weight. Really, really scary to think about!

When I hosted Teen Talk over at Diabetes Portal, we had a woman come on the show to talk about eating disorders and diabetes. It was mostly focused on eating disorders in addition to diabetes, however.

We have the transcript archived if anyone is interested:

Allison said...

Well *that* didn't work. Let's try it again:

colleen said...

My sister I believe suffers from diabulemia and I do not know how to help her. I helped her by getting a diabetes/eating disorder counselor, she went twice and stopped going, even though she said she liked the counselor. She was recently hospitalized for DKA and I am really scared for her life. Any suggestions?

Nicole P said...

Hi Colleen -

I'm sorry about your sister. How old is she? If she's younger, there are definitely ways to insist she gets treatment. I'd suggest contacting the Joslin Clinic - or perhaps a local hospital or clinic with an eating disorder unit. When I was treated, it was in a wing of the local Pysch Hospital in their unit focused on eating disorders. Most eating disorders are rooted in the same sort of issues.

If she's older, she's going to need to make the decision to get treatment on her own. The best you can do is provide her with as much information as possible, express your concerns and encourage her to get help.

I wish I could be of more assistance, but really - with an adult or young adult - the person really needs to want to recognize the issue and work to get better.

You can email me (on site) if you want to talk more.


Anonymous said...

SELF just ran a huge article on diabulimia in the November 2007 issue. There is FINALLY a place to go for help.