Toxic Masculinity Harms Men’s Mental Health, Says American Psychological Association

The American Psychological Association (APA) just officially recognized what feminists have known all along: that traditional ideas of masculinity aren’t just harmful for women, they’re bad for men, too.

Over the years, the APA has released several guides for psychologists working with people belonging to specific groups, like women and minorities. Until now, they did not have a guide for working with men because men, particularly white men, have always been considered the default.

Approved in August, the APA’s ten guidelines for working with men are just now making headlines alongside Gillette’s ad with similar ideas, mainly that toxic masculinity harms men’s mental health.

The document acknowledges that because men have been seen by the scientific community as the norm, and thus overrepresented in research and studies, their needs and experiences have been considered more universal than they are. This mistake made psychology less beneficial to everyone than it could have been, had scientists realized that (white) men don’t represent all of humanity.

The new APA guidelines cite over 40 years of research and conclude that “traditional masculinity ideology” (aka toxic masculinity) has severe negative impacts on men’s mental health. The guidelines state that ideas of masculinity vary, there is a “particular constellation of standards” for traditional masculinity which include:

  • anti-femininity
  • achievement
  • eschewing the appearance of weakness
  • adventure, risk, and violence

Other behaviors associated with this traditionally masculine ideology were sexual harassment, bullying, and homophobia.

According to the guidelines, young boys who are exposed to “traditional masculinity ideology” experience, among other consequences, limited psychological development, stress and confusion about gender roles, and general negative outcomes to their mental and physical health.

“We see that men have higher suicide rates, men have more cardiovascular disease and men are lonelier as they get older,” said Fredric Rabinowitz, one of the lead writers of the guidelines. “We’re trying to help men by expanding their emotional repertoire, not trying to take away the strengths that men have.”

Despite men being four times more likely than women to commit suicide, men are also less likely to seek psychological help. This ideology may be partly to blame, as seeking help could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

When men do seek help, “traditional stereotypes about men’s emotionality” may lead psychologists to incorrectly diagnose them in “outward-looking ways” with something like a substance abuse problem, rather than with an internalizing disorder, like depression.

The guidelines recommend psychologists examine their own biases in order to better serve their patients and understand the ways in which “power, privilege and sexism work, both by conferring benefits to men and by trapping them in their narrow roles.”

“Psychologists are encouraged to see men as being impacted by culture, by race and by relationships, rather than just assuming that there is one sort of standardized set of behaviors,” said Dr. Rabinowitz. “We want people to be aware that men are complex beings.”

101 comments

Mia B
Mia B19 days ago

thanks for posting

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pam w
pam w20 days ago

Don't you think this explains the bloated buffoon in the White House?

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Val P
Val P21 days ago

yup

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Janis K
Janis K22 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Dot A
Dot A22 days ago

Plus, - Joan E - we have women who can display unhealthy competition as well. Most gossip is a passive aggressive approach to competing with a perceived challenger. Women don't us the same tools usually as men {knives, guns, fist fighting} yet, they can cause a great deal of destruction in the so called feminine 'ways.' Toxic in society as well, just doesn't get a prison term like a stabbing or gun shot wound. Achievement in life is a good thing. Reading a book is an achievement. Getting a fabulous career because of the wisdom learned is also an achievement. Solving problems is an achievement. Doing harm to others is a moral, ethical, social, and legal crime. While gossip isn't included, it does do harm. Guys too often, just get angry and display their aggression to prove their virility and dominance. If they carry out their aggression, and physical damages occur, they can be arrested for that physical attack. Women can still talk a blue streak against another, and 'no arrest.'

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Joan E
Joan E22 days ago

Shelley W, I wonder if they are really saying that achievement in itself is toxic or if the problem is actually about an insatiable competitive need to, achieve and beat others. It seems to me that achievement in general is positive, whether it is a baby learning to walk and talkl or anyone doing something meaningful, useful and fulfilling.

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Dot A
Dot A22 days ago

True- as Jelka V commented; anything can be toxic. Perhaps you've heard of the woman who died from drinking water. Yes. She drank too much water and died, - as a radio anchor cheered her on to win a prize she wanted for her son. Such a terribly sad story. And what this article is intending to convey is that excess in behavior is a toxic energy in society. Just look at our political situation the last couple of years, and it seems our whole country is trying to breath fresh air in a very toxic emotional environment. {guessing that testosterone plays a role in this unhealthy circumstance as well} Women's behavior can become toxic as well. Perhaps if we shift our perspective a bit to see the positives, rather than the destructive elements of negative attitudes and behaviors, we will appreciate each other more: female, male, all cultures, all ages, all societies. Can you possibly imagine a world where every human is exactly alike? Jeez~ Now that would really be (can't even think of a word here,... ) - a flat earth ~ Flat because there's no diversity of thought, exchange of different ideas, and interesting mixing of personalities and creativity. Just don't drink too much of the water*

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Leo C
Leo C23 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Past Member
Past Member 24 days ago

The ones that need the help the most will be the ones that push you away the most.

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Past Member
Past Member 24 days ago

Sad but very true.

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