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How to identify and deal with toxic masculinity

Words by Nathan Irvine

The keys to identifying and addressing the problem

Whether we've identified it correctly or not, most of us have experienced toxic masculinity in some form. It could be at home, work or out amongst friends, but we've likely come across it.

It's a trait within men that makes them obnoxious for seemingly no reason at all. And when we're faced with it, the whole experience can be draining, upsetting and even scary. So what do we do about it?

We spoke to Dr. Ioannis Delipalas, the Swedish Board-certified consultant in adult psychiatry at Thrive Wellbeing Centre to find out.



The term was used by the late 80s/early 90s. It was used by the founders of New Age men’s movement or "Mythopoetic men’s movement"  to distinguish what they regarded as genuine or mature masculinity from the problematic toxic masculinity of immature males. In a 2005 study of men in prison, psychiatrist Terry Kupers defined toxic masculinity as...

“The constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, and wanton violence and that “toxic masculinity involves the need to aggressively compete and dominate others and encompasses the most problematic proclivities in men.”

Over the years, "toxic masculinity" has become a catchall explanation for male violence, sexism, domestic abuse and misogyny.

It derives from emotional deprivation/denial of emotions and the person’s need to dominate. Ιt has roots from the archaic traditional masculine values such as physical strength in order to conquer through dominance. However, in the modern societal context these traditional male behaviours became incompatible with the views of contemporary society and are outdated. It is then the need for certain men to be a certain way as dictated by an ideology that has long become anachronistic.

If a male believes they are not meeting these exaggerated traits or not aligning with these narrow views, they may feel they are falling short. This may result in a need to lash out or exaggerate these traits to re-establish their manhood.

It is often characterised by the following behavioural patterns:

  • Show/have no needs
  • Show no emotions apart from anger
  • Show that you do not depend on anyone
  • Do not show weakness
  • Always win
  • Being promiscuous, but noticed in the opposite sex causes feelings of contempt
  • Self-reliant, always rough, suffering without showing pain, independent
  • React negatively to the concept of feminism
  • Not engaging in household chores that could be considered feminine such as cleaning, ironing, caregiving, involved in parenting
  • Risk-taking as part of showing masculine strength - careless driving, drug abuse, etc
  • Aggression
  • Need to dominate or control others
  • Tendency towards violence


This constant struggle for dominance accompanied by denial of emotions makes the individual less aware of other people’s needs.

It nurtures domestic violence and towards others. Justifies anger as reasonable way to solve conflicts and prevents the individual into not seeking mental health aid. Exacerbation in substance abuse is often a common act too.


Unaddressed toxic masculinity can lead to various issues, which manifest themselves into conflicts within the man and his environment. It also can be the underlying cause in cases of bullying, assault, risky behaviour, school discipline, learning difficulties. It can lead to domestic violence, imprisonment and can affect both physical and mental health.

In order to combat toxic masculinity, we need to combat archaic/anachronistic gender roles. Expanding and integrating new concepts into an individual’s definition of masculinity may help them better understand and accept themselves and others.

Awareness of one’s emotions, kindness, softness, inter-dependence and accepting vulnerability is extremely helpful. Βut what happens if you notice these things within you? What changes can you make to put yourself on the right path to being happier:

  • Educate yourself and others about what masculinity is about and be a leader
  • Learn to be vulnerable. Vulnerability through the lens of toxic masculinity is equated with weakness. Learning to accept that you are actually vulnerable, leads to emotional awareness, resulting in being more empathic to yourself and others
  • Stop trying to be “macho” by reproducing archaic masculine attributes as violence, dominance, aggression and “toughness”
  • Intervene with others when you notice behavioural patterns such as sexism, oppression, aggression

For more information on toxic masculinity or to book other services regarding your mental health and wellbeing visit Thrive.ae.

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