Incels experience a complex combination of psychiatric symptoms but feel they cannot be helped by mental health professionals

According to a new study published in Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression. Despite their elevated psychiatric symptoms, however, the study indicates that incels also tend to be suspicious of mental health professionals.

The incels are a subculture made up mostly of young men who feel frustrated because they are unable to form romantic or sexual relationships. While most incels do not engage in violence, some discussions within the community involve suicide, self-harm, and admiration for violent acts committed by others in the name of inceldom. The incel ideology has been linked to several mass murders and deaths since 2014.

The authors of the new study wanted to better understand the mental health of incels. This could help identify effective mental health interventions that address the unique challenges faced by incels and potentially reduce the risk of self-harm and violent radicalization.

“We wanted to learn more about involuntary celibacy (incels) given the increasing frequency with which they have been mentioned in the media and popular culture,” explained study author Molly Ellenberg, a researcher at the International Center for study of violent extremism. and a doctorate. candidate at the University of Maryland.

“With much research on the psychology of radicalization, there is a lot of sensationalism, as well as a lot of speculation as to whether individuals who commit horrific crimes in the name of a given ideology are ‘crazy’. Extensive research shows that most people who commit acts of terrorism do not have a diagnosed psychological disorder, although the rate of such diagnoses may be higher among lone actors than group terrorists.

“The purpose of this study was to examine the rates of psychological symptoms and self-reported diagnoses among self-proclaimed incels, not only because some self-proclaimed incels have been involved in misogynistic criminal behavior, but because the population is quite large, characterized through loneliness and isolation, and primarily interact with each other online, making them potentially susceptible to extreme ideologies and justifications for violence against themselves and others.

To collect data, the researchers designed a survey using Google Forms. They collaborated with the owner of a large incel forum and engaged in preliminary interactions with some incels to better understand the experiences and concerns of the community. They also reviewed the existing literature on inceldom and mental health.

The survey consisted of 68 questions on various topics. These included participants’ social lives, personal experiences, adherence to incel ideology, perspectives on incel-related violence, endorsement of violent actions, demographic information, and perceived psychological traits and symptoms.

The survey was distributed to active incel forum members by the owner, inviting adult forum members who self-identified as incel to participate. It was available online from December 7, 2020 to January 2, 2021. Participants were required to provide informed consent before completing the survey. The final sample comprised 272 people.

Study results indicate that participants reported significantly higher rates of mental health diagnoses compared to global rates reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). For example, while 3.6% of men worldwide have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, 38.6% of survey respondents reported a diagnosis of depression.

Similarly, 2.6% of men were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but 37.13% of survey respondents confirmed having a formal diagnosis of anxiety. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among respondents was 18.38%, compared to a global prevalence rate of 0.62%.

A significant percentage of participants also reported suicidal ideation and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as symptoms of bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

Interestingly, participants expressed a desire to be helped in areas such as improving their appearance, social skills, and maximizing their attractiveness. However, they were skeptical of traditional mental health therapy and believed their challenges were primarily physical rather than psychological.

About half of the participants (51.5%) in the study had tried the therapy. However, their experiences with the therapy were not positive. Only 10.7% of those who tried the therapy felt better, while the majority (64.3%) felt no change and 25% felt worse. More than half (51.1%) felt professionals blamed them for their inceldom without understanding the societal factors involved.

“We hope that the average person will learn from our research about the complex combination of psychiatric symptoms that self-proclaimed incels experience, as well as their perception that they cannot be helped by mental health professionals,” Ellenberg told PsyPost. “A small but significant minority of self-proclaimed incels hold violent extremist beliefs and this should not be ignored.”

“At the same time, this population seems to experience high rates of depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation, among other symptoms, and they are suspicious of mental health professionals. This means that they only really seek help from other incels, who may encourage self-harm, suicide, or acts of violence against others as a way to deal with their struggles.

Survey participants coped with their challenges by participating in incel web forums, which was the most commonly reported coping strategy. However, the results also indicated that participating in these forums without professional support may have negative effects on participants’ mental health, as it was associated with increased depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Other common coping strategies included participation in media entertainment such as video games, consumption of pornography, use of social media, and reliance on food.

“We were not necessarily surprised by the results of this study, but rather struck by the number of these mostly young men who appeared to be potentially receptive to psychological treatment if they felt they would not be blamed for their situation,” Ellenberg said. . “Of course, it is important to address false and dangerous beliefs that blame women or Western society in general for their loneliness and experiences of rejection, but this study should also clarify that violence is not a part inevitable experience of incel, and that a mental health treatment, potentially delivered online, could be extremely helpful to many people in this community.

But the study, like any research, has some limitations. For example, mental health issues and diagnoses were self-reported by participants, not measured through validated assessments.

“The main caveat is that all of these symptoms and disorders were self-reported by respondents, not measured using psychometrically validated scales,” Ellenberg explained. “As such, none of the results should be viewed as actual symptom prevalence rates, but rather as a reflection of how respondents feel, based on their own understanding of what those symptoms are.”

“We asked them this way, rather than using psychometrically validated scales, because we knew this community is wary of mental health professionals, but these scales would provide more objective symptoms and diagnosis rates than what is presented in our article.”

“If people would like to learn more about the differences between self-proclaimed incels who have violent ideologies and those who do not, they can see our new article: 77261-001”, adds the researcher.

The study, “Self-Reported Psychiatric Disorders and Rates of Perceived Psychological Symptoms Among Involuntarily Single (Incels) and Their Perceptions of Mental Health Treatment,” was authored by Anne Speckhard and Molly Ellenberg.

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