“You can die in a day from this,” Jacqueline Allan, the founder of Diabetics with Eating Disorders (DWED) speaks about Type 1 Eating Disorders. Sufferers of Type 1 Eating Disorders are risking their eyesight, limbs, fertility and lives in order to be thin. It is more dangerous to its sufferers than anorexia or bulimia, and it is not medically recognised in the UK.
The condition has few statistics due to its lack of medical recognition, but the statistics that are reported are staggering. It is reported that 60% of women with Type 1 Diabetes will have experienced an eating disorder by the age of 25. Type 1 Diabetics are struggling with this debilitating eating disorder and putting their lives on the line every day.
Type 1 Diabetes is an auto immune disease often diagnosed in childhood; it’s when the body doesn’t produce the insulin it needs to survive and unlike Type 2, it’s not lifestyle related. People with Type 1 Diabetes must pump or inject insulin into their bodies every day to carefully regulate blood sugar and stay alive. Type 1 Diabetes means insulin dependency for life. Diagnosed at any age it threatens devastating complications and demands meticulous planning to avoid life-threatening solutions. Type 1 Diabetes is neither preventable or curable.
Type 1 Eating Disorders is a condition that happens when Type 1 Diabetics purposely do not take their insulin and it causes them to have high blood sugar levels causing rapid weight loss leading to this fatal eating disorder. It is an eating disorder that is present in someone with Type 1 Diabetes. It involves the omission of insulin doses which lead to high blood glucose levels and the body’s cells being deprived of oxygen and energy. This can quickly lead to a state of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which puts the Type 1 Diabetic at high risk of death but also causes dramatic weight loss if left untreated.
It is estimated that at least a third of adolescents and young adults with type 1 omit or reduce insulin in order to lose weight. In our What’s Up TV campaign for T1ED, Jackie Fosbury, a Diabetes Psychotherapist explained why Type 1 Diabetics may feel the need to miss their injections. The close fixation on numbers and nutritional contents of food involved in treating Type 1 diabetes is undoubtedly relevant. Another reason this is a problem is people with diabetes often talk about feeling alienated from their peers, experiencing stigma and even bullying. Type 1 diabetes is also very much linked to other mental illnesses, most typically anxiety and depression, which in turn often come hand in hand with eating disorders. There’s never a day off or escape from Type 1. Every day is about doing the maths to correct meals, snacks and drinks and with an eating disorder it’s about the calories too.
Up to 40% of females and 11% of males with Type 1 Diabetes admit to missing insulin for weight loss purposes. Buffy also spoke with Jacqueline Allan who is the founder of Diabetics with Eating Disorders. DWED is the only current charity in the United Kingdom that supports and advocates for those suffering, whilst campaigning to get the condition recognised.
Buffy investigated more about this condition and why it isn’t medically recognised. Type 1 Eating Disorders is not recorded as an official mental health disorder which means that T1’s are not being offered the treatment they need within a timely manner and are routinely being dismissed or misdiagnosed with standard eating disorders. She spoke with MP George Howarth to discuss what the government are doing, he was honest in admitting that there is not enough being done, with the lack of communication combined with the lack of funding it all contributes to those suffering waiting longer for correct treatment. There are reports that there is more recognition everyday enabling specialised eating disorder clinics to be set up.
For many years the issue has been systematically ignored. This has resulted in needless suffering and sadly many deaths that could have been prevented if the right resources have been in place to provide support to those people. Sufferers of this condition are waiting months for the correct treatment and even others dying waiting for the right care. Research and training for health care professionals is being provided in more areas than ever before. But there is still more to be done and the more these problems are talked about, the more chance there is of it being medically recognised.
We reached out to the NHS department for Mental Health to receive a statement. An NHS England spokesperson said:
“NHS England is continuing to join up psychological and physical health services, including placing 3,000 new mental health therapists in GP practices and closer working between diabetes and mental health care is just another part of the jigsaw - with more work planned as part of the long term for the NHS.
“An extra £30 million is already going into children’s eating disorder services every year, with 70 new and improved treatment teams now covering the whole of the country, meaning more young people are getting treatment at the right care, at the time, closer to home.”
Background information from the NHS:
NHS England is committed to ensuring that people with mental health problems are able to access effective treatment as well as is the case for people with physical health problems and that mental health services are equally well resourced as physical health services.
A person with a long term physical health condition (LTC), such as diabetes, arthritis or cardiovascular disease, has a 10% likelihood of having a mental health problem, if they have two LTCs the risk rises to 26% and to about 45% if a person has three such conditions.
The cost of treating diabetes in a person with diabetes and a mental health problem such as depression is about 50% higher than for someone with diabetes alone. Treating the depression effectively may be cost saving.
The NHS’ Five Year Forward View on mental health (https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Mental-Health-Taskforce-FYFV-final.pdf%20https:/www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/fyfv-mh.pdf) set out a number of measures for better integration between mental and physical health services including additional investment to ensure mental health training and support for primary care staff, for them to feel confident in actively supporting people with mental health problems to access relevant physical health screenings and interventions.
NICE have recently published new guidelines for the treatment of eating disorders which includes how best to treat people with both diabetes and an eating disorder.
There are many places where you can go for help if you need support:
Call: 0345 123 2399 - Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're in Scotland:Call: 0141 212 8710 - Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm or email: email@example.com
Or visit DWED for direct help with Type 1 Eating Disorders http://dwed.org.uk/online-support