Diabulimia patients to be given NHS social media therapy

NHS patients with a rare eating disorder will be offered therapy to combat the damaging effects of social media.

A new service, including coaching on how to cope with body images promoted online, will be offered to people with diabulimia, NHS England said.

The condition affects people with Type 1 diabetes, who restrict their insulin intake in order to lose weight.

Diabulimia is not medically recognised as an eating disorder, but can lead to complications including blindness and amputations.

It is thought to affect as many as two in five women with Type 1 diabetes and one in 10 men with the condition at some point, and is most common among people aged 15 to 30, according to Diabetes UK.

The condition is “often well hidden” by those living with it and “difficult to spot”, the charity said.

“Diabulimia is a serious eating disorder which – without the right clinical and mental health support – can have devastating consequences, such as stroke, kidney failure and blindness,” Libby Dowling, senior clinical adviser of Diabetes UK, said.

“It can also be fatal.”

She added: “These pilots are so important and we hope their success will inspire even more investment across England.”

NHS England said the service, which will offer joined-up treatment for diabetes and mental health in London and the South Coast, comes amid growing awareness about the condition.

Patients referred will be offered daily structured meal plans and support to manage their insulin intake, as well as therapy.

A trial will begin later this year and be rolled out more widely if successful.

“Body image pressure is helping to drive ever increasing numbers of young people to the health service for treatment and support and while diabulimia is rare it can be just as deadly as other more common eating disorders,” Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health at NHS England, said.

“These pilots are another important step forward but the fact is the NHS can’t do it all – wider society needs take a long hard look what more we can do together to protect young people’s well being.”

Dr Dasha Nicholls, chairwoman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ eating disorders faculty, said: “Because diabetes forces you to focus on what you eat, it is not unusual for that to get tangled up with feelings about food, weight and body image.

“But in the case of diabetes, that can become dangerous very quickly because of the impact on blood sugar levels.

“The development of a new service which helps people with this worrying condition is extremely welcome.”

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