Objective: To determine the prevalence of DSM-III eating disorder and the conjoint symptoms of maladaptive dietary/insulin management (irrespective of eating disorder) and their psychiatric and biomedical correlates among youths with childhood-onset insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).
Method: Forty-four girls and 35 boys, 8 to 13 years old at IDDM onset, were repeatedly interviewed during an interval of up to 14 years (mean = 9 years) to ascertain psychiatric disorders and behaviors related to diabetes care. Metabolic control and IDDM-related hospitalizations also were monitored.
Results: By the mean age of approximately 21 years, 3.8% of the sample had DSM-III eating disorders and 11.4% had "eating problems," defined as the conjoint symptoms of severe dietary indiscretion and repeated insulin omission (irrespective of eating disorders). Youths with "eating problems" were nine times more likely to have had a psychiatric disorder than the rest of the patients, and they had a significantly higher rate of pervasive noncompliance with medical treatment. No between-group differences were found in metabolic control and rates of multiple hospitalizations.
Conclusions: The diabetes-specific symptom-pair of serious dietary indiscretion and repeated insulin omission appears to identify youths who have had other problems as well. The association of eating problems with psychiatric disorders (other than eating disorders) suggests that a subgroup of diabetic youths have various difficulties in coping with the medical illness and require close monitoring and psychosocial intervention.