Does my child have an eating disorder?
It’s a little known fact that young people with diabetes are more at risk of developing an eating disorder. In this special report we look at the issue and how friends and family can help. By Caroline Wood.
It’s something of a hidden problem in the community but people with diabetes are two to three times more likely than the non-diabetes population to have an eating disorder.
People living with type 1 diabetes are most likely to be affected, with young T1D women at most risk. While less common, people with type 2 diabetes can also develop an eating disorder, for example binge eating is more common among T2Ds.
“It’s really important that people get early help,” says Dr Roger Mysliwiec, one of New Zealand’s leading experts in the field of eating disorders.
Dr Mysliwiec is trying to raise awareness about eating disorders and type 1 diabetes in particular because he’s worried that young people aren’t being offered the help they need.
He is calling for more screening and early intervention as treatment is much harder the longer someone has an eating disorder.
“Young people with diabetes can fall through the cracks. On the one hand they may not be getting screened at their diabetes clinic, and on the other their symptoms may not be obvious so they don’t get access to eating disorder services,” he says.
“With diabetes, even if your eating disorder isn’t very severe, if it leads to elevated blood sugars then that is a concern regarding potential complications.
“If it’s severe they should go and see an eating disorder service and make sure they closely collaborate with diabetes treatment.”
The most common eating disorder found in people with diabetes is EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) where someone displays eating behaviours that have a significant impact on their psychological and physical health. Other eating disorders include diabulimia, bulimia, and anorexia, which is less common.
Diabulimia, where a person reduces their insulin in order to reduce their weight, is a particular eating disorder that is only found in people with type 1 diabetes.
“Young people with
diabetes can fall through
the cracks. On the one
hand they may not be
getting screened at their
diabetes clinic, and on
the other their symptoms
may not be obvious so
they don’t get access to
eating disorder services.”
Dr Roger Mysliwiec
Dr Roger Mysliwiec can be contacted at the New Zealand Eating Disorders Clinic, in Grey Lynn, Auckland.