I felt the need to write something about my work with male clients as a lot of people think I just work with women based on my website. But the fact is that while I mostly work with women, I also work with a number of men as well with equally positive outcomes. I have two specializations with male clients: Eating Disorders and Anxiety/Depression.
Men and Eating Disorders
For a more detailed overview of men and eating disorders, please read this article I wrote on the subject.
Gay Men and Eating Disorders
About half of my male clients with eating disorders identify as gay. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), gay men face unique challenges that may put them at greater risk of developing an eating disorder:
- Fear of rejection or experience of rejections by friends, family, and co-workers
- Internalized negative messages/beliefs about oneself due to sexual orientation, non- normative gender expressions, or transgender identity
- Experiences of violence and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which research shows sharply increases vulnerability to an eating disorder
- Discrimination due to one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity
- Being a victim of bullying due to one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity
- Discordance between one’s biological sex and gender identity
- Inability to meet body image ideals within some LGBTQ+ cultural contexts
Stats on gay men with eating disorders
- In one study, gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited, or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight in the last 30 days.
- Gay males are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.
- Gay males were seven times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males.
Men and Compulsive Overeating
The other half of my male clients with eating disorders struggle with compulsive overeating; otherwise known as Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Many of these men are significantly overweight and full of shame and self-loathing. Binge eating is almost as high in men as in women- 40% vs. 60%, unlike anorexia and bulimia sufferers where 75% are female and 25% are male.
The following information about Binge Eating Disorder (BED) comes from an eating disorder information site:
What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is also known as compulsive overeating and consists of consuming abnormal amounts of food while feeling unable to stop and a loss of control.
Signs & Symptoms of BED
- Continually eating even when full
- Inability to stop eating or control what is eaten
- Stockpiling food to consume secretly at a later time
- Eating normally in the presence of others but gorging when isolated
- Experiencing feelings of stress or anxiety that can only be relieved by eating
- Feelings of numbness or lack of sensation while bingeing
- Never experiencing satiation: the state of being satisfied, no matter the amount of food consumed
Men and Anxiety/Depression
While twice as many women struggle with anxiety and depression then men, men struggle too with these issues. I am willing to bet that the reason the current statistics show such a huge gap between the sexes is because women are much more likely than their male counterparts to report and seek help for emotional problems. The fact is that in a still predominantly patriarchal culture, it’s permissible for women to seek help for emotional difficulties, whereas men are told to “suck it up” and be tough instead.
Luckily, things are changing in this area and it is now becoming acceptable for the sexes to be more fluid rather than locked into traditional sex role stereotypes. Increasingly, more men than ever before are seeking therapy to decrease their emotional suffering and learn effective tools to feel better and function at their highest level.
Highly Sensitive Men
If I was to sum up my work into one particular specialty, I would have to say that I mainly work to help Highly Sensitive People (or HSP’s) to understand their temperament, embrace their gifts, and find ways to thrive in a world which is designed for and dominated by non-HSP’s.
To learn more about HSP’s and how I work with these folks, watch this video and read about how I’ve helped HSP’s here.
Here is a wonderful description of what it’s like being a Highly Sensitive Man from a website called Highly Sensitive Refuge:
5 Truths About Sensitive Men
1. Toughness doesn’t have to be the defining characteristic.
When I was growing up, Home Improvement was on TV a lot. The show presented two different portrayals of what it meant to be a man: There was Tim “the Toolman” Taylor, who always tried to be super-macho, and his assistant Al Borland, who was much more gentle and sensitive. Overall, Tim was a good leader for his family, but his attempts at rugged manliness often got him into trouble.
Even though it was a sitcom, I’ve thought about this a lot: Why does being super-macho tough have to be the defining characteristic of being a man? Why does being a man even have to mean being super tough at all? There are many ways in which ALL of us should be tough — men and women. But there’s no reason why men can’t be sensitive, too. Of course, some men are really tough in the way I’ve described, and that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. It just doesn’t have to be characteristic of all men.
2. There are many other things that make us men.
There is so much more that defines a man than our stoicism in the face of highly emotional events, or the permissible emotions — like anger — which we’re allowed to display. How someone reacts to a situation, whether by taking it personally or beating themselves up, should be just a tiny fraction of what constitutes “manliness.”
I have a steady job and every day I work to support my family. I treat people — family, friends, coworkers — with respect. I am faithful to my wife and supportive of my children. I’m careful to use my time and my money wisely. These should be viewed as constituting a strong man.
3. Being a man can — and does — mean being sensitive.
Even though the world suggests that being a man means being super tough, I’m going to do a 180 from that idea, and say that I actually think being a man means being sensitive — or at least it should mean that.
If you’re highly sensitive, it means you care about other people, especially those closest to you. If I wasn’t sensitive, I wouldn’t be able to show my wife the love that she deserves, nor would I be able to show love and respect to my other family members. If I wasn’t sensitive and attentive to the needs of others, how could I possibly be there for people in meaningful ways?
4. Being a highly sensitive man means feeling deeply.
One important characteristic of being highly sensitive is having strong feelings. We feel things deeply. And because of that, we have strong convictions. And having strong convictions is a defining characteristic of being a man. It means that you act with strong force and leadership as well as great care and thought. There’s so much more to leadership than just being “tough” or demanding. Feeling deeply means understanding a situation and the people involved. And HSPs have that skill.
5. And that means always wanting to improve.
I can’t speak for all HSPs, but I can say that when I “beat myself up” for making a mistake, it means I’m not satisfied with where I am as a person and desire to get better. If you’re a man, I think that should mean that you always want to improve yourself and that you want to be the best person you can possibly be. If you’re highly sensitive, your self-awareness in this regard is especially powerful. Remember: the men who don’t reflect upon their behavior, who accept things as they are and never try to improve, are the ones who hold us back as a society. Highly sensitive men charge forward. And that’s a good thing.
There hasn’t always been an acceptable way to be a man and be sensitive. But as we highly sensitive men continue to find our place in the world, let’s focus on all the positives we offer. I’ve discovered that it is possible to be a strong highly sensitive man, but that first required taking the time to understand myself in order to eventually accept my sensitivity as a strength. The world is slowly changing how it views “manliness,” and by being who we are, we can help accelerate that change.