Can having an eating disorder cause diabetes?

Eating disorders and diabetes are two serious health issues that can sometimes be linked. This blog will explore how these conditions might affect each other. Eating disorders involve problems with how a person eats and how they see their body. Diabetes is a condition where the body has trouble managing blood sugar levels. We’ll look at the latest research to clear up any confusion and show the real connection between eating disorders and diabetes.

This information is important for understanding these health challenges better and seeking treatment for and recovery from eating disorders. We will also cover treatment, symptoms and recovery for conditions such as Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and binge eating disorder.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are serious problems where people have unhealthy habits with food and their bodies. Here are the main types:

Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia symptoms eat very little or avoid eating so as not to gain weight. They often think they’re overweight even if they’re very thin. People who have anorexia should seek treatment. It can be very dangerous and has a high risk of serious health problems, including death.

Bulimia nervosa

This disorder involves symptoms such as eating a lot of food all at once (binge-eating) and then trying to get rid of the calories in unhealthy ways, like making themselves vomit, exercising too much, or using laxatives. People who require treatment for bulimia might have a normal weight, be slightly underweight, or be overweight, but they feel out of control with their eating habits.

Binge-eating disorder

This is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. People with this disorder eat a lot of food quickly, even when they’re not hungry. They often feel upset or guilty after a binge. Unlike bulimia, they don’t try to get rid of the food they eat in unhealthy ways. People who require help or treatment with binge-eating disorder are often overweight or obese.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

This disorder is more than just being picky about food. People who need treatment for ARFID avoid certain foods or eat very little. This can lead to weight loss or growth problems, especially in children. It’s different from anorexia because it’s not about body image or fear of gaining weight.

These disorders are not just about food. They often start during the teen and young adult years and can happen to anyone. Factors like genetics, stress, and other mental health issues can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. It’s important to get help because these disorders can lead to serious health problems, like heart issues, bone loss, and growth problems.

Eating disorders and diabetes


People with Type 1 diabetes sometimes get eating disorders. They have to watch their diet closely, which can lead to worrying too much about food and weight. This can turn into an eating disorder. A serious problem is when they take less insulin on purpose to lose weight. This is very dangerous.

Type 2 diabetes can also be linked to binge eating. This is when someone eats a lot in a short time. About 1.2% to 8% of people with Type 2 diabetes might have this problem.

Doctors need to look for signs of eating disorders in people with diabetes. These signs include changes in blood sugar levels that are not normal, weight changes, and being too worried about weight.

What are some common misconceptions about eating disorders and diabetes?


Eating disorders are more common in girls and women with Type 1 diabetes


They might start as young as 9 years old. It’s important to find these problems early to help with treatment. People with Type 2 diabetes can also have eating disorders, often related to overeating.


People with an eating disorder always know they have one


In reality, many individuals may not recognise their eating behaviours as disordered. For instance, someone might start by skipping insulin to avoid low blood sugar during a performance, and gradually, this behaviour can spiral into a full-blown eating disorder without the person realising it.


Having an eating disorder is a choice


It often begins as a coping mechanism for anxiety, trauma, or other emotional stressors and gradually becomes more compulsive and less controllable.


Eating disorders only affect certain types of people


In reality, they can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Specifically, in the context of diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can be associated with eating disorders. For example, around 5 to 9% of individuals with Type 2 diabetes may have binge eating disorder.


Diabetes management is unaffected by eating disorders.


The truth is that eating disorders can seriously disrupt diabetes management, leading to unstable blood sugar levels and an increased risk of complications like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

How do I treat diabetes if I have an eating disorder?

Managing eating disorders in people with diabetes needs a team of healthcare professionals. This team usually includes dietitians, nurses, and doctors who know about both diabetes and eating disorders.

The first step in managing these disorders is recognising the signs. This can include changes in blood sugar levels, worries about body weight, or unhealthy eating habits. Healthcare professionals should ask patients about their eating and diabetes management. This helps find out if there might be an eating disorder.

Treatment includes making patients feel safe to talk about their eating habits. It’s important to avoid judging language about food and blood sugar levels. Instead, healthcare professionals should help patients set small, achievable goals.

In more serious cases, people might need to stay in a treatment centre that specialises in recovery for both eating disorders and diabetes. These centres have teams who understand the unique needs of these patients.

Support groups and counselling can also help. They provide a space for people to share their experiences and learn from others. It’s also important for family members to be involved in the treatment process.

In conclusion, eating disorders can make managing diabetes tough. It’s important to spot the signs early and get help from a team of experts. Healthcare professionals should be understanding and not judge patients. Together, they can help patients with diabetes and eating disorders live healthier lives.

close help
Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0203 553 3757