I am worried about someone

i am worried about someone


The effects of an eating disorder are often felt deeply by their family and friends.When someone you love has diabetes as well as an eating disorder or diabulimia, it is understandable that you can become very worried very quickly! Click on the links below to find out how to help your loved one and find support for yourself.

your feelings

how to help

real stories


your feelings

Diabulimia and other eating disorders are emotionally draining not just for the patient, but for loved ones too – especially where diabetes is involved. If you recognise any of these feelings in yourself, you are not alone. Feel free to contact us at anytime if you need extra support 1,2


  •  About what is happening to you and the health of the person you care for

burnt out

  •  Caring for someone with diabetes can be exhausting. Adding an eating disorder can be incredibly overwhelming and stressful


  •  About your ‘role’ in the illness. You may fear that you are in some way responsible for your loved one’s preoccupation with food

anxious and afraid

  •  About the physical and psychological changes in the person you care for, and their increased risk of severe short and long term diabetes complications in addition to any other complications from their eating disorder


  • About your ability to provide support, and confused about the best way to help
  • You may feel that even when seeing experts, it is difficult to find people who understand the specific hardships and intertwining complexities of eating disorders in diabetes

Remember, all of these feelings are normal. Caring for someone with diabetes and diabulimia or another eating disorder comes with considerable personal strain. We understand this at DEDA, and are here to help find support for yourself while you help your loved one.

how to help

talking about it

It is best to address and tackle disordered eating behaviour as early as possible where diabetes is involved. Eating disorders and diabetes are an extremely dangerous combination, and complications can arise much quicker than with someone without diabetes. It may seem scary, and tempting to ignore it but keep in mind you are doing what is best for their health, and for yours! Here’s DEDA’s top tips for talking about it: 


  • Be calm, honest, and open about your concerns – the longer a person lives with an eating disorder, the more physical and psychological damage will be done, and the longer it will take to reach a point of full recovery. Your concerns are valid
  • Maximise the chances of a positive conversation –  choose a time when you are both feeling at ease and there is little chance of interruption. Use your knowledge of the person when deciding the best way and time to approach them! 
  • Assure the person you are talking about it because of your genuine care and concern, rather than coming across as making accusation. Your loved one may have already encountered judgement from others – they may have been called ‘non compliant’, or been told to ‘just follow the rules!’. Being non-judgemental and caring is one of the most helpful things you can do
  • Use ‘I’ statements – ‘You’ statements can lead to the person feeling attacked. For example, try ‘I am concerned about you because you don’t seem so happy at the moment’ rather than ‘You are not happy at the moment’
  • Focus on behavioural changes, rather than their weight, food consumption or physical appearance. For example, you might decide not to use the words eating disorder, but to talk more generally about moods, behaviour, isolation and your concerns about these. Again, this will hopefully create a feeling of support for your loved one.

seek support for yourself

  • Your loved one will need support in their recovery, but so do you
  • Take time out for yourself to relax and enjoy activities not related to diabetes or eating disorders
  • Find a few trusted friends you can confide in
  • Seek professional support for yourself (for example counselling or psychological input) if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed by the situation
  • Browse through the resources at the bottom of this page
  • Contact DEDA here for further support and information

educate yourself on the condition

Knowledge is power, and DEDA is Australasia’s most comprehensive hub for information on diabulimia and other eating disorders in diabetes. You can find more information on warning signs to watch out for, causes and complications, stories, a quiz and general information in the following sections:

reassure and encourage them

  • Reassure them that you are there to help and support them and they are not alone in their situation
  • Remind them that there are people out there who are going through the same thing. Encourage them to seek support from the people in their life who love them – friends, family, parents etc
  • Urge the person to see the benefits of a life without an eating disorder. If they are not ready to see the long-term benefits of reasonable diabetes management and regular eating, help them to see the short-term benefits of recovery – increased energy, feeling better mentally, staying out of hospital, staying alive, being able to socialise without worrying about food etc.  Remind them constantly that recovery from an eating disorder with diabetes IS possible

be prepared for their emotional reaction

When approaching your loved one regarding their eating behaviours and diabetes management, be prepared for their emotional reaction may be one of anger, denial, or relief

  • Anger → the person may feel angry that their privacy has been threatened, that they have not been able to deal with the eating disorder on their own or that they are embarrassed or ashamed.
  • Denial → the person may deny there is a problem because they feel guilty or ashamed. The person may also feel protective about their eating disorder, especially if it serves a purpose for them.
  • Alternatively the person may be confused if they have not yet identified themselves as having an eating disorder
  • Relief → the person may feel relieved that someone has noticed and offered them support

encourage your loved one to seek help

It is possible, but extremely difficult to recover from an eating disorder on your own.

  • We strongly recommend that professional help is sought. This might be from a psychologist, doctor, nurse etc. who is specialised in working with people with diabetes and/or eating disorders. DEDA understands that specialists in diabetes AND eating disorders are few and far between, but don’t give up.
  • Encourage your loved one to contact DEDA. We can help provide and find further support for your loved one. You are also welcome to reach out to us at any time for support or further information in your area. We are a free, confidential service and you can use the contact form below or email info@deda.org.nz. You can also visit our Blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


real life stories

Wonder what other people in your shoes have done? Three individuals who love someone with diabetes and diabulimia or another eating disorder, share their wisdom and experience

*Names changed to protect identity

Sue*, New Zealand

A mother’s perspective

“I love my daughter. Her personality that bubbles over, her humour that has me in stitches,  her deep compassion, her keen intellect, her sparkling eyes that shine forth from a courageous heart.  From a young age she has endured the highs and lows of Type 1 Diabetes very well – or so I thought…”

Luke*, New Zealand

A husband’s perspective

“Sometimes it’s helpful to realise that you don’t have to understand your spouse all the time but that your support can be simple – listening, keeping other practical things in order in your shared environment for example…”

Ellen*, Australia

A friend’s perspective

“My initial response when my friend told me about her diabulimia, was to cry. Knowing that my lovely, positive, generous, hardworking, playful friend was actually consumed in a battle of mind, body and spirit, it broke me…What I have learnt is that there is my friend, and then there is the diabulimia. They are two seperate things…”



New Zealand


  • Around the Dinner Table is an international support forum for parents and caregivers of anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorder patients
  • Maudsley Parents is a volunteer organisation of parents who have used Family-Based Treatment (also known as the Maudsley approach) to help their children recover

Other Resources

1. National Eating Disorders Collaboration, Australia (2013). Caring for someone with an eating disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nedc.com.au/carers

2. Young, E. (2014). EDV – Approaching someone. Retrieved from http://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/carers/approaching-someone 

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