Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

Celebrating the Highly Sensitive Man

Judith Orloff - Thursday, May 16, 2013

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book,“The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” (Sounds True, 2017)

Sensitive men are incredibly attractive. They are path-forgers in the new paradigm of the evolved man. Strong and sensitive. Intuitive and powerful. They’re able to give and receive love without ambivalence, being “unavailable,” or commitment phobia.

In my books, "The Empath's Survival Guide" and "Emotional Freedom," I write extensively about the power of empaths and describe strategies for how empaths can stay centered and strong in an overwhelming world. Since I’m an empath and worship sensitivity, I want to help empathic men (and women) cultivate this asset and be more comfortable with it. Empathic men often have a harder time than women because in Western culture sensitivity may be seen as a weakness or too “feminine.” This is a huge misconception. The new evolved man is skillful in balancing both the masculine and feminine in himself, embodying his full power.


Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme and are less apt to intellectualize feelings. This is particularly challenging for men as they are often told by society while growing up, “Big boys don’t cry.” That’s why it’s so important for sensitive men to let go of stereotypes and learn to embrace their gifts. I understand how hurtful the negative messages about being “overly sensitive” can feel—also how easy it is to get overwhelmed by excessive stimuli in the world. I've always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. Crowded places amplified my empathy.

The great beauty of male empaths is that they can feel where you are coming from. Some can do this without taking on people’s feelings. However, for better or worse, others, like myself and many of my patients, can become emotional sponges for other people’s stress. This often overrides the sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive, exhausting. Thus, empaths are particularly easy marks for emotional vampires, whose fear or rage can ravage them. As a subconscious defense, empathic men may gain weight as a buffer. Plus, an empath’s sensitivity can be overwhelming in romantic relationships; many stay single since they haven’t learned to negotiate their special cohabitation needs with a partner.

A man’s empathy allows him to love more fully and be more committed in a loving relationship. But empathic men must nurture their sensitivities while also grounding themselves in their power and setting boundaries with negative people so they aren’t drained. For more relationship strategies read my blog, “Relationship Tips for Highly Sensitive People.”

Recognizing that you’re an empath is the first step in taking charge of your emotions instead of constantly drowning in them. As one empath to another, I want to legitimize your sensitivity so you don’t think you’re losing your mind. I’d had numerous patients who’ve said, “Judith, I thought there was something wrong with me. I feel like such a sissy.” Not so. Our systems are just more permeable. Also realize that the fact that you’re the only person feeling something doesn’t invalidate your perceptions. To maintain resolve in an emotionally coarse world, empaths must have enough self-knowledge to clearly articulate their needs. Staying on top of empathy will improve your self-care and relationships. Here’s a summary of this emotional type.

Upside of Being an Empathic Man

  • You’ve got a big heart, are gifted in helping others.
  • Your sensitivity makes you passionate, a great lover, and exquisitely sensual.
  • You’re intuitive about people’s thoughts and feelings.
  • You’re emotionally responsive, can relate to another’s feelings.
  • You’re in touch with your body and emotions.
  • You have a palpable sense of spirituality.
  • Downside of Being an Empathic Man

  • You’re an emotional sponge, absorbing people’s negativity.
  • You’re so sensitive to emotions, you feel like a wire without insulation.
  • You’re prone to anxiety, depression, fatigue.
  • You may feel hemmed in living in the same space with other people.
  • You may have chronic, debilitating physical symptoms.
  • You have difficulty setting boundaries with draining people, get run over by them.
  • Honestly accessing which traits are productive or not makes you freer. Of course, you want to be emotionally charitable, intuitive, and open, an empath’s assets. However, empathy won’t make you free if you walk around perpetually raw, easily fractured, or have your wildness go out in a whimper because you’re constantly having to emotionally defend yourself. For a male empath to be comfortable in his own skin it’s important to find the right mix of intellect, feeling, and grounding. Here are some exercises from my book, Emotional Freedom to help you achieve this.

    Emotional Action Step. How Empathic Men (And Women) Can Find Balance

    Practice these strategies:

  • Enlist your intellect. When you’re emotionally wrung out or suspect you’ve taken on someone’s distress, think things through to counter anxiety. Use both positive self-talk and logic to get grounded. Repeat this mantra: “It is not my job to take on the emotions of others. I can be loving without doing so.”
  • Allow quiet time to emotionally decompress. Get in the habit of taking calming mini-breaks throughout the day. Breathe in some fresh air. Stretch. Take a short walk around the office. These interludes will reduce the excessive stimulation of going non-stop.
  • Practice guerilla meditation. To counter emotional overload, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. Find a private place to close your eyes. Lower your expectations--it doesn’t have to be Shangri-La. Do two things while meditating. First, keep exhaling pent-up negative emotions--loneliness, worry, and more. Feel them dissipate with each breath. Second, put your hand over your heart and visualize loving-kindness permeating you from head to toe. These actions will quickly relax you.
  • Define and honor your empathic needs. Safeguard your sensitivities. In a calm, collected moment, make a list of your top five most emotionally stressful situations. Then formulate a plan for handling them so you don’t fumble in the moment. For example:
  • If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”
  • If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing--even if you adore the people--take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded.
  • If crowds are overwhelming, eat a high-protein meal beforehand (this grounds you) and sit in the far corner of, say, a theatre or party, not dead center.
  • If you feel nuked by perfume, nicely request that your friends refrain from wearing it around you. If you can’t avoid it, stand near a window or take frequent breaks to catch a breath of fresh air outdoors.
  • Carve out private space at home. Then you won’t be stricken by the feeling of too much togetherness.
  • When empathic men can learn the above skills to develop their sensitivities and ward off negativity, they will be more alive, more loving, more creative. Over time, I suggest adding to this list to pinpoint new protective strategies. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you’re on emotional overload. With pragmatic strategies to cope, empaths can feel safer, and their sensitivity talents can flourish.


    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

    Kenny Fry commented on 18-May-2013 08:21 AM
    Dr. Orloff, deepest loving gratitude to you for this. It was very healing, and extremely empowering, to read. "Wow - I'm not crazy after all..." ;o)

    Kenny Fry
    Atlanta, GA
    paulette commented on 20-May-2013 09:53 AM
    this is so good for men, i could just imagine how difficult it is for a sensitive male, I know in my culture men are force by both male and female not to be sensitive, because it is viewed female, i think a lot of men have been broken by trying to get rid of it. your work is life saving , thank u so much, i love u
    Cindie commented on 21-May-2013 10:12 AM
    Love it! Both as empath and to hear about the guys.

    Do you find empathic women are better off with male empaths, or not?
    FREDERIC NICHOLS commented on 21-May-2013 10:35 AM
    Hello Judith, thank you for your words. a shaman once told me that in indigenous cultures men like myself were recognized as emotional conduits and grounding for the negative energy in the village. their presence helped keep the village sane, and they were recognized as useful members of the village for there ability to transmute the negative energy. often they would not marry and would be giving simple chores to do. about ten years ago i found your writings and realized that i meet all the descriptors of an empath, except for the weight issues. Perhaps the G.I. symptoms i have experienced most of my life have resulted in low BMI.
    with much gratitiude
    Travis commented on 21-May-2013 12:04 PM
    Anonymous commented on 21-May-2013 09:38 PM
    this is good for men
    Judith commented on 24-May-2013 12:28 PM
    Kenny, Thanks for the gorgeous bouquet of orchids and your gratitude for this blog!
    Betterlife commented on 24-May-2013 01:37 PM
    Another great blog post from Dr.J-men must be lining-up to get a date with you. If not(and I doubt it)I'm available!
    LOVE U! From your biggest fan!
    Greg commented on 16-Jun-2013 06:18 PM
    Brilliant! In my career as a sensitive male, empath (INFJ) often I have been framed as too emotional, soft and fragile. Well, baloney--
    BW commented on 25-Nov-2013 03:12 AM
    Thanks for a great article. It was very comforting to read this article. I've been a sensitive man my whole life and reading this just helped me to understand myself more. I have been battling depression and anxiety for many years, and I now notice how these issues are related to me being a sensitive individual. Thank you...I felt very alone and as you've mentioned in the article, felt even crazy lately until I read this.
    O commented on 15-Jan-2014 10:09 AM
    Simply amazing! I have finally found information on why I feel suffocated in presence of energy vampires. I must add one more thing- dating someone with ADD, anxieties and depression kills an emphatic person's soul and body. In my case, my sugar went up to a diabetic level because I was trying too hard to accommodate the unhealthy lifestyle of the ADD sufferer. I feel that emphatic people are so far ahead of a "regular" individual that we can only feel fulfilled with someone who does not insult our spiritual freedom and need to meditate.
    john commented on 30-Apr-2014 08:48 AM
    So true!! Having been an empath my whole life,this makes so much sense! I was raised in an abusive family where any show of emotion was sternly handled. The only outlet I had was music. And even that was crushed in certain ways. I feel like I've lived my whole living as human chameleon!!
    Am just now allowing that part of me to show itself to the world. I need to be me,and not what I think other people want me to be!!
    Anonymous commented on 10-Aug-2014 12:17 PM
    As an empathic male, I appreciate Paulette's comment above - yes, due to cultural expectations, sensitive boys undergo a great deal of hardship. "Big boys don't cry," we're told. If I cried as a boy (and I cried frequently), my father would spank me, saying, "I'll give you something to cry about." This effectively beat the tears out of me, and I spent 30+ years never crying again. I learned to hide my emotions, so I wouldn't appear as a "sissy." I spent a lot of years learning to be ice cold so I'd fit in with other males, and now I've spent even more time trying to unlearn that. If you don't having understanding parents, teachers, or friends, life as a male empath can be absolute hell.
    Jeff commented on 18-Aug-2014 09:44 AM
    The Rescuer is another pattern that I think many male HSPs act out. I have recognized this pattern in myself. Taking on another's energy to alleviate discomfort. Putting another's needs over my own. Stretching myself too thin in order to make things happen for everyone else. It goes on and on.

    Culturally we men are told that we have to carry so much. That we have to be strong. We can be but we must honor our needs first. We must free ourselves from shame. Not doing so leads to a mess. If you don't honor your gift it will be a curse.
    Akram commented on 04-Mar-2015 01:12 PM
    thank you so much for this, it was very helpful!
    I was suffering from emotion overwhelming in school (yes, I'm 18 years old), these steps you've mentioned helped me a lot! thank you, again :)
    Ray commented on 09-Dec-2015 12:45 PM
    Being a empath my entire life & never realizing it until yesterday; this has been an immense help for me to find direction for what I am. I started this search as an alternative to suicide because the negative energy/emotions were getting too much for me to handle.

    This has helped me on my journey to understand this aspect of myself & I am very much grateful you took the time to put this up. After living the life of a hermit for over 20 years I feel as if I have finally been released from a living hell.

    Lots of love
    Reyan commented on 10-Feb-2016 01:07 PM
    'It really was Great article. Thank you.
    I am a super HSP male.

    I find most males to be emotionally stunted and the worse things, is they are proud of it. Women seem to love these types of men.I feel anger towards men and how they portray selfishness, ego, lack of empathy or care, the fear of bonding with other males on an emotional level , instead they would rather try to tear there so called 'buddies' down in combative action and compete with them. Rather than reach out emotionally to another man, these men would rather sacrifice themselves.
    I blame the non HSP women to an extent , they encourage and bath in this uber aggressive masculine behavior.

    I feel like an alien,literally do. Life is so difficult like this. In addition i live in the UK, which has a hyper masculine culture. British men would rather die than be seen as sensitive.

    I don't understand the things men understand e.g porn. I watched it and i was so shook up for weeks by the sick heartless comments of 50 000 plus men on a blog, where a woman gets sexual intercourse done by 4 men in a rough manner and verbally abused.

    what a sick sick world we live in.

    William A Charity commented on 19-Jun-2016 11:29 AM
    Thank you soon much! This helps alot. These feelings I've had have felt like a burden really. Crying for others I don't know. Giving vast amounts of money to homeless people. Having a sincere hope for their troubles to be gone. Taking on their emotions as if they were my responsibility. I'm going to learn from this. I will work on not being embarrassed. I cry on the way to work. I'm a strong, good man,and am so drained and weak right now. Just a day earlier I was telling my Mom about this, and then my sister leaves me this link. I told her about my travels, and taking on people's "stuff". I love confirmation!
    Alex commented on 21-Jun-2016 03:24 PM
    I am a 65 year old male. I've always known that I am quite sensitive. I have recently discovered that I am an empath. This was with the help of a dear friend.

    Now I know why the 30 years I spent as a tactical cop in the City of Detroit have affected me. I think that I may have been a better cop (more fair and very sympathetic to a person's needs), but wow! Having to deal with phonies, criminals and hateful people took its toll on me.

    Upon learning that I am an empath has made coping with it much better, but I do believe that I would not be suffering PTSD from those 30 years, if I was not an empath. I am glad I am alive and I am glad I survived that job.
    Anonymous commented on 12-Jul-2016 06:39 PM
    I recently came across your page and was so relieved to discover that I was not so strange after all since I appeared to have the traits of an empath.
    I am a 57 year old male. If I may indulge here is some of my story.
    I easily pick up other peoples feelings, people seem to pick up on my sensitivity and often open up and tell me about their problems and issues.I avoid negative people like the plague, pick up the energy on positive happy people and flourish with it.I always thought I was so adaptable to situations and being around people but probably just more like a chameleon.
    Also love walking in nature and swimming regulary. Miss not living near water. Avoid shopping malls where to many feelings are on display.
    I had to smile when I read that someone else here had the same experience of watching Lassie as a child and crying. So growing up and attending a tough boys school I realized I had to hide that sensitive side of me to survive. I became one of the tough crew which meant being very competitive on and off the sports field and at times agressive.
    However fortunately that slowly changed when I discovered the charms of women began to form relationships with them and was awakened to the fact that there was another world out there where I could be myself. Finally I felt I could share my feelings and relate to others feelings without being seen as weak.
    Although I have never had difficulties starting relationships with women, long term ones have often ended traumatically with two divorces followed by difficult separations accompanied by panic attacks and depression. Often crying and being upset at minor incidents. With time I acknowledged to myself that in those close relationships I was unhappy because I often felt hemmed in because of a desire for distance to spend time by myself to recharge.
    Having made my way back with the help of therapy, yoga and meditation I feel comfortable where I am and have learnt over the years to shield my self when situations seem to become overwhelming or by taking a time out in nature.
    I still cannot look at horror news reports or see people in agony though.
    Perhaps one of the empathatic events in my life was when I contracted shingles in my face. At the time I was a healthy 28 year old living in Europe. Oddly enough thousands of kilometres away in Australia my mother had 6 months previously suffered shingles in her face. I clearly remember at the time feeling guilty that I was not there to comfort her.
    Thanks for the opportunity to share this.It all helps.
    Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2016 07:23 PM
    Thx for this insight. As an African-American male I was always expected to take it like a man and not cry or show emotions. This has killed and poisoned many men of all ethnicities and has led to premature death and or substance abuse.
    Luke commented on 04-Feb-2017 12:15 PM
    Thanks for the blog Judith! I have been going through an awakening the past few months to myself being an empath and am grateful for your material. I am being guided through this awakening not just as an empath, but with other aspects of my life by some extraordinary people. One of which, made a recommendation to your upcoming book then me finding your blog.

    Anyhow, the more I learn of being an empath, the more I realize I have been an empath my entire 56 years on this earth and am amazed at the journey. Although it would have been useful to know this earlier in my life and have maybe avoided much suffering, I would not trade the experience for anything now. I have been able to work through many of the hardships being an empath brings; anxiety, difficulty with relationships, etc., but again I consider myself fortunate in having some great people in my life including my wife of 30+ years.

    Not knowing what was going on in my life these years has led to a lot of avoidance of personal growth due mainly to anxiety, however, I (we) have gotten through it. This I attribute to strong spiritual aspects also present in my life that have brought balance amid the chaos.

    At this point, with what little I know of being an empath, I am finding relief in my life and as I learn more, a greater path seems to be opening. This new path is a very positive one and I have already been able to heal and find a greater love in my life. My blessings and gratitude to you for the awareness you are bringing to those of us walking around oblivious to the cause of our sufferings.
    Henry commented on 20-Feb-2017 10:37 AM
    Hi, I see that you mentioned "chronic, debilitating physical symptoms" as one of the downsides... Do you have any articles written specifically about how to understand and overcome that?
    Arks commented on 28-Jul-2017 10:33 AM
    Great post. As an man full of empathy I cry whenever I see others with problems. Of course I hide my tears. I get a strange sensation run through my spine and I start to cry uncontrollably. Even listening to a simple song can trigger it. I have an extremely strong desire to protect the vulnerable( the sick, young, animals ect). I try to act tough but its all one big act. I don't see the point of "hock ups" or "short flings" at all. I need to feel close emotionally to a person before I am able to reveal details of myself. I am an introvert and hate crowded places such as parties. Small talk makes zero sense to me. Even as I child I was quite emotional crying many times for the smallest of things. I remember crying in bed at 7 years old in secret after my mother told me about her brother who died from Cancer. The strangest and most insignificant things can make me swell up with emotion. I love to daydream and escape this reality, I am very in tune with my emotions. I think one day once the human race reaches a utopia 100s of years from now, the key will be extremely high empathy levels in men and women. Its a very evolved and progressive trait to have, the ability to truely FEEL is something I wouldn't trade for the world, even as the man I am.

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