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Toxic Masculinity and Addiction

From the day we are born, the concepts of being feminine and masculine take center stage. Whether it be fathers telling their little boys to toughen up or mothers encouraging their little girls to wear dresses and play with dolls, gender roles define and drive how children are raised.

That’s why it’s no wonder these same concepts play such a significant role in our lives as venture out into the world as adults.

Think for a moment about how many gender-specific advertisements you see every day. From your phone to your computer to your television, we are constantly bombarded by the notion of being masculine or feminine.

In the case of toxic masculinity, this idea of gender focus has taken on a mind of its own, amplifying the negative aspects of manhood and perverting it to a point of being toxic.

So, what exactly is toxic masculinity and how can you avoid succumbing to this negative cultural influence? Making yourself aware of its properties and the telltale signs of the terminology is a great place to start.

What is Toxic Masculinity?

The concept of toxic masculinity refers to harmful attitudes and behaviors that are commonly associated with being a man, such as the need to act out in an aggressively dominant way or the need to repress emotions.

Most researchers have traditionally defined the term toxic masculinity, or traditional masculinity ideology, as a set of behaviors and beliefs that include:

  • Maintaining an appearance of hardness
  • Suppressing emotions or masking distress
  • Violence as an indicator of power

Simply put, toxic masculinity is what can come when young boys are taught that they have to be tough all the time or that they can’t express their emotions openly. This jaded idea of what “being a real man” really entails is outdated and emotionally dangerous to men of all ages.

Signs of Toxic Masculinity

While the signs of toxic masculinity may differ between social circles and geographical regions, the predominant warning signs tend to be similar.

Being taught to be a leader is fine, but being taught to be the dominant voice or presence in every situation and scenario can cross the line and becomes more of a toxic expectation. Additionally, one of the ways that toxic masculinity sometimes manifests is through behaviors that ultimately end in violence, and that violence either is enacted on men themselves, or on other people who challenge them socially.

Other warning signs may include:

  • Viewing stereotypically feminine traits, such as being emotionally vulnerable, as weak or unacceptable
  • Thinking the only way to command respect is to act in a dominant manner
  • Using violence as a primary means of addressing conflict
  • Refusing to discuss personally sensitive topics due to an inherent inability to define emotions

The fact of the matter is these negative social roles are a major reason why men and boys are at a disproportionately higher risk of experiencing academic challenges, receiving negative social sanctions and experiencing serious health concerns such as cardiovascular problems and substance addiction.

Men and Addiction: Why Do Men Abuse Drugs?

According to the CDC, men are more likely than women to use all types of illicit drugs. This has been attributed to increased social pressures and peer expectations that men experience from a young age. Because of these maladaptive social roles, men are encouraged to experiment and participate in drug use at a much higher rate than women. (1)

Men and Addiction: Why Do Men Drink?

In the US, about 20 percent of all men have an alcohol use disorder, as opposed to between 7 and 12 percent for women. This has been attributed to men’s inability to consistently process emotional stressors, as well as, increased pressures from male peer pressure and social expectations. (2)

Gender Differences in Substance Use Disorders

Regardless of gender, addiction is a nightmare for anyone who is struggling with the disease. But today, we know that there are a number of biological differences between men and women that impact the development of addiction.

For instance, women develop alcohol dependence faster and with a lower amount than men do. This is because women generally have more body fat and lower volume of body water to dilute alcohol.

By contrast, men use alcohol and drugs more frequently and in greater quantities than women. For many young men, male institutions and social rites of passage (sports, fraternities, etc.) encourage the use of alcohol.

Men generally start binge drinking at an earlier age and more frequently than women, which is more likely to result in alcohol-related problems. Due to higher frequency, quantities and binge drinking habits, men are five times more likely to develop a substance use disorder over the course of their lifetime.

While these facts and statistics can be overwhelming, beginning your recovery journey doesn’t have to be. Taking the time to find the right treatment facility to help you address your addiction and overcome your substance use disorder isn’t gender specific. It only requires courage and a desire to live your best life.

Transformative, Individualized Treatment Programs at Ranch Creek Recovery

Trying to overcome an addiction on your own can prove to be an act of futility, especially if you have or are experiencing toxic masculinity in your everyday life.

Our individualized treatment programs address gender-specific issues and tackle addiction recovery through a life-changing, personalized, holistic approach.

Learn about our addiction treatment programs or contact us today. We’re here to help in any way we can.


1) National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use.

2) National Center for Biotechnology Information. Sex Differences in Drug Abuse. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235192/.