A young woman with type 1 diabetes and a related eating disorder has spoken out how she nearly died because of the condition.
Zohra Allana has diabulimia which means she deliberately avoided taking insulin in a bid to lose weight.
The 25-year-old from London is not alone in suffering with this condition. It is thought 60,000 15 to 30-year-olds have type 1 diabetes and, according to charity JDRF, up to 40% of those young people will restrict insulin dosage, at some point, because of anxiety about gaining weight.
Although diabulimia is not officially recognised as a medical condition, NHS England will invest just under £1m into two pilot projects to improve diabulimia care.
Speaking to BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, Zohra said when she was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 19 she “screamed the hospital down”, but once she got over the shock she managed well in the beginning.
“That first year I was coping well, eating, injecting, going to uni – but when I realised I was putting on weight because of the insulin that’s when it kind of slipped.”
Prior to a 2018 holiday to Romania with friends, Zohra was hardly taking any insulin, and her condition worsened.
“I couldn’t control my bladder, I could barely walk and keep up with my friends. It came to a point they wanted to admit me – they said I was going to die,” she said.
On her return, Zohra was admitted to the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) hospital which has an inpatient eating disorder unit.
Professor Janet Treasure, a consultant at SLaM, said: “We’re seeing more and more of it over time but because there hasn’t been enough of a group power between diabetic and eating disorder clinics we have reached optimal levels of what to do about the illness.”
Zohra is now eating better and injecting insulin when she needs to. She said: “It’s not about weight for me anymore, it’s about living life.
“Weight is always going to be an issue but I need to weigh up what’s more important and it always comes out as life – rather than trying to get that potential ideal body which isn’t even right.”
Professor Jonathan Valabhji is National Clinical Director for Obesity and Diabetes at NHS England: “There’s a spectrum for the disease here – a much higher proportion will be suffering in a less obvious degree.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by an eating disorder you can share your stories on our Eating Disorders forum.