Eating disorders are most commonly associated with women but a Warrnambool psychologist has noticed an increase in the number of men seeking help for  substance abuse and eating disorder problems.

Sheridan Meulblok will share the experiences of her therapeutic involvement with men who have substance abuse and eating disorders at three upcoming conferences.

Ms Meulblok is employed by Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) to provide treatment to clients experiencing a range of mental health issues, many with co-occurring substance misuse.

She also provides specialist psychological treatment for people experiencing eating disorders in her private practice, Sophrosyne Psychology, and has more than a decade of experience working with eating disorder clients.

Ms Meulblok said that over the past 18 months she had been struck by the high number of adult men presenting with both eating disorders and problematic substance use.

“Prior to my work at WRAD, men rarely presented for treatment,” she said.

Ms Meulblok will share an account of her therapeutic involvement with these men through her presentation Control, Escape and Men’s pain: Practice Based experiences of working with Male Comorbid Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse” at both The Australia New Zealand Addiction Conference and Obesity and Eating Disorders Conference in May. She will also be presenting an extended training session at WRAD’s Dual Diagnosis in Practice Workshop on April 10.

Through these presentations Ms Meulblok hopes to a raise greater awareness of the clinical issues related to working with these men whilst enhancing skills in screening, early detection and treatment.

“Much of what we know about eating disorders is based on primarily female based research and most people that seek treatment for eating disorders are women and girls,” Ms Meulblok said. “I believe my work with WRAD suggests that in order to develop our understanding of the issues that confront men in relation to weight, shape and food, we need to take a closer look at the men who are abusing substances,” she said.

“The research tells us that substance use and behaviours to control our weight and shape are both attempts to avoid emotional pain. These particular men I have worked with often present with histories of trauma, bullying and rejection. They are desperate to get out of pain. The problem is that any attempt to escape pain generates more pain, its bit like being in quicksand; the more you struggle the deeper you go.

“My work with these men focuses on how to work through the pain whilst connecting more deeply to what they really want their life to stand for,” Ms Meulblok said.

The dual diagnosis in practice workshop hosted by WRAD on April 10 will also feature a feature lecturer from the National Addiction Centre in New Zealand.

Senior lecturer Dr Fraser Todd will speak on service development, cultural considerations, engagement and motivation, assessment and management strategies.

His presentation is designed to help practitioners build on the person-centred wellbeing-orientated care approach which focuses on enhancing wellbeing and not just treating disorders.

Dr Todd’s areas of special interest include cannabis and co-existing substance use and mental health problems.

The conference is for professionals working with dual diagnosis clients.