Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Trisha Raque

Second Advisor

Jennifer Bellamy

Third Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Gafford


Fibromyalgia, Illness perceptions, Masculine gender role strain, Masculinities, Men, Stigma


Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition characterized by widespread pain, fatigue and cognitive problems. While it affects between 2-7% percent of the population in the United States, the biopsychosocial impacts of the disease on the lives of those affected are so substantial that it is considered to have one of the highest cost burdens comparative to other chronic pain conditions. Fibromyalgia has historically been deemed a contested illness due to the complexity of its presentation and lack of clear etiology. As a result, people with fibromyalgia often feel misunderstood and stigmatized. Like other pain conditions, fibromyalgia is more commonly diagnosed in women. Therefore, existing research has centered on women’s illness experience, and men’s experiences appear to be more marginalized and less understood. Medical conceptualizations of fibromyalgia as a “woman’s disease” coupled with the healthrelated stigma of fibromyalgia may make men with the disease vulnerable to multiple stigma experiences that intertwine with masculinity concerns. This study addressed a gap in the fibromyalgia literature by examining the experiences of men living with fibromyalgia through semi-structured interviews, with particular emphasis how men’s experiences of stigma and masculinity strain intersect to impact their illness perceptions. This study utilized an interpretative phenomenological analysis approach to explore the question, “How do health-related stigma and masculine gender role strain influence illness appraisals, coping behaviors, and health outcomes in men with fibromyalgia?” Nine superordinate themes emerged: Precipitating Events; Fibro Experience; Psychosocial Stressors; Emotional Impact; Impact on Identity; Social Impact; Adjusting to Physical Aspects of Fibromyalgia; Coping with Psychosocial Aspects of FM; and Coping with Stigma and Masculine Identity Threats. Findings reflect how the illness perceptions and coping behaviors of men with FM are shaped by the psychosocial impact of stigma and masculinity strain across various contexts. These findings highlight the particular needs of men with FM, and provide considerations for improving social and healthcare systems, practices, and treatment to be more sensitive and responsive for this population.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Christine L. Motzny

File size

296 pgs

File format





Psychology, Clinical psychology