Eating Disorders & Type 1 Diabetes

Leaders in treating people with eating disorders and type 1 diabetes

Studies show that people with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop an eating disorder. An eating disorder can cause someone with diabetes to mismanage their condition by skipping meals, eating too much, restricting the amount of insulin they take or stopping their insulin altogether. This can result in serious health problems like diabetic ketoacidosis, vision problems or other conditions.

At Melrose Center, we know that your recovery is possible. We’ve successfully treated eating disorders for over 35 years. Our psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, registered dietitians and other specialists are leaders in specialized care for people with type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder. We work closely with endocrinologists and the world-renowned Park Nicollet International Diabetes Center so we can guide you through every step of your recovery.

Signs that someone with type 1 diabetes has an eating disorder

Eating disorders affect each person differently. Most signs and symptoms of depend on the type of eating disorder with which you’re struggling. However, there are some signs of an eating disorder that are specific to someone with type 1 diabetes. These include:

  • An increase in Hemoglobin A1C (blood sugar)
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Not regularly testing blood glucose levels
  • Repeated hospitalizations for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
  • Skipping insulin
  • Weight fluctuations

What is diabulimia?

The word “diabulimia” is a media-coined term used to describe a combination of “diabetes” and “bulimia.” However, people with type 1 diabetes can develop any type of eating disorder, not just bulimia. A dual diagnosis of an eating disorder with type 1 diabetes can have serious health consequences. People with diabulimia restrict their insulin in order to lose weight. This is a form of purging behavior. If left untreated, restricting insulin can cause other health problems like dehydration, organ damage and other concerns.

Up to a third of women with type 1 diabetes struggle with diabulimia. It’s even more common among women ages 15 to 30.

How we diagnose eating disorders

If you’re concerned you might have an eating disorder, the first step is to come in for an initial assessment at Melrose Center. An initial assessment is an appointment where you’ll meet with one of our licensed psychologists and/or a primary care clinician. During the appointment, we’ll talk to you about your symptoms and behaviors, do a physical exam and answer your questions. At the end of the appointment, we’ll be able to determine whether you have an eating disorder and recommend the next steps in your treatment plan.

If you are diagnosed with an eating disorder, you’ll speak with one of our care managers. Our care managers will answer questions you have about treatment and help you schedule your next appointments.

You can schedule an initial assessment by calling 952-993-6200.

Treating eating disorders in people with type 1 diabetes

At Melrose Center, our specialized care for people with eating disorders and type 1 diabetes includes outpatient treatment and residential treatment. It also includes some groups and programs created specifically for people with type 1 diabetes, such as:

  • One-on-one appointments with endocrinologists, certified diabetes educators (CDE), dietitians and psychologists.
  • Diabetes education groups facilitated by a CDE where patients can connect with other people with similar conditions, learn more about diabetes and practice healthy skills.
  • Group meals where many people with type 1 diabetes can work on carbohydrate counting, portion control and proper insulin doses with the guidance of a CDE.
  • Core strategy and recovery groups where patients can learn how to balance normal eating habits and diabetes management. Activities include group meals, therapy and education.

Each person responds to treatment differently. We’ll work with you to develop a unique treatment plan to help you successfully heal from your eating disorder.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)