Incels: A Symptom of the Male Mental Health Crisis

The term "incel," short for "involuntary celibate," refers to a community that has gained notoriety through its online presence. More and more men are identifying with incel culture, leading to concerning ideology and behavior. While it’s tempting to write incels off as an extremist group, taking a closer look at this subculture raises important issues within male mental health.

What Are Incels?

Originally coined in the late 1990s, the term “incel” was meant to describe anyone of any gender who was celibate but wished they weren't. Over time, however, the term has evolved and is now predominantly associated with a specific online community, mostly composed of men who express frustration over their inability to form romantic or sexual relationships. Their frustrations often spill over into misogyny and, in extreme cases, justification of violence 

Incels often express a sense of entitlement to sex and romantic relationships, blaming women for the lack of these things in their own lives. A common belief among incels is that women are genetically inferior to men, and are driven by a desire to reproduce with genetically superior males. They believe that women as a whole are superficial and manipulative, only wanting to have sex with men who are attractive and have money. Incels resent men who they perceive as sexually successful, referring to them derogatorily as "Chads." Most incels express a desire to return to a patriarchal society with traditional gender roles, where monogamy was the rule and all men were entitled to sex. They believe that the laws and social norms of that time ensured a “fair” distribution of women among men. 

In short, incels view themselves as a downtrodden group, unfairly pushed to the bottom of the social hierarchy and doomed to a celibate life by women. They view feminists, women, the political left, and society as a whole as their enemies.

Incel Culture and Male Mental Health

Male mental health
is a critical issue, with men less likely to seek help for mental health struggles, and more likely to have their mental health dismissed or overlooked by providers. Factors contributing to the mental health crisis among men include social isolation, rigid cultural norms around masculinity, and a stigma against expressing vulnerability. These issues are expressed tenfold in the incel community, which is characterized by deep social isolation and frustration.

One study surveyed 272 individuals who self-identified as incels. The results indicated that the participants reported significantly higher rates of mental health diagnoses compared to the global rates reported by the World Health Organization (WHO):

Major depressive disorder

Global rate for men: 3.6%

Survey respondents: 38.6%

Anxiety disorder

Global rate for men: 2.6%

Survey respondents: 37.13%

Autism spectrum disorder 

Global rate for men: 0.62%

Survey respondents: 18.38%

A significant amount of participants also reported suicidal ideation and substance abuse. When asked about coping mechanisms, the survey participants most frequently reported participating in online incel communities. Unfortunately, the echo chamber effect of incel forums can exacerbate feelings of isolation and frustration, as members often validate each other's negative and distorted beliefs about social dynamics and personal value.

These findings and many others indicate that incels suffer from poor mental health at a rate far higher than that of the general population, and that their coping mechanisms tend to further deteriorate their mental health. However, the silver lining is that if men embrace incel culture due to poor mental health, receiving effective mental health support could help them leave it - or prevent them from falling victim to it entirely.

Warning Signs Someone May Be Embracing Incel Culture

Men who suffer from social isolation and low self-esteem, have few in-person friends, and feel hopeless about their appearance and their dating prospects are the most at risk for embracing incel culture. When men are immersing themselves in incel culture, they will often display:

What to Do if Someone You Know is Embracing Incel Culture

If someone you care about is becoming influenced by incel culture, they are most likely doing so out of loneliness, desperation, and poor mental health. Encourage them to discuss their feelings and listen without judgment, approaching conversations with empathy and openness rather than confrontation. Suggest that they seek help from a mental health professional, emphasizing the benefits of talking to someone trained in mental health. Try to promote a healthier view of masculinity—one that includes emotional openness, resilience, and constructive social interactions. Try to encourage them to participate in groups or activities that foster positive social connections and provide a sense of community, especially in person.

No matter how much you care about that person, you are under no obligation to undergo abuse or harmful behavior. Maintain clear boundaries; do not endorse harmful ideologies, but provide support for seeking help.

Support for Men at Medens Health

Addressing the incel phenomenon will take more than countering extreme views; it will require our society to understand and address the underlying male mental health crisis. At Medens Health, our diverse staff of mental health providers includes many men, as well as numerous providers who specialize in men’s issues. We offer in-person and virtual therapy to support men dealing with loneliness, low self-esteem, and mental health challenges. If you or a man you care about is struggling with their mental health, Medens offers a safe and supportive space to heal and grow.

Call or text (833) 624-5400 today to start working with a therapist for men. You can also fill out our contact form or get started here!


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information this blog provides is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.