Anxiety disorders by far, are the most common mental health condition in the U.S. and it impacts seven million Black Americans. Between the constant witnessing of police killings and the pandemic, anxiety has increased for Black Americans by 26% and depression by 22%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Anxiety has manifested itself in a number of ways which has negatively impacted the daily functioning of many Black people. Some are hyper-vigilant when going outside, while others don’t want to leave the house at all. Many have reported panic attacks when being pulled over by the police and post-traumatic stress disorder from the secondary trauma experienced when exposed to the constant replays of police brutality. But for Black women, anxiety is more chronic and the symptoms are often more intense than other races for a few different reasons.
We have unrealistic societal expectations to keep going, no matter what, and we must also console everyone else while neglecting our own self-care. Additionally, since slavery, we have had to exercise emotional restraint, no matter where. This means we have been taught to keep going, take care of everyone else and do so with a smile. Our Black men are hurting, so we must take care of them. Our children are hurting so we must be strong for them. We are often the only one in all white work spaces and some college spaces, so we must educate them on what it means to be Black. Black women are tired and understandably so. We are tired of caregiving, educating, supporting, and being the strong ones, especially when our own anxiety is so intense and there doesn’t seem to be culturally competent affordable care for us to take care of our own mental health.
Culturally competent and affordable mental health care is critical to dispel the harmful messages that Black women with anxiety have been taught throughout our community. For example, your anxiety is NOT a result of your relationship with Jesus. You don’t have anxiety because you didn’t pray hard enough. You don’t have anxiety because you went back on your word. You don’t have anxiety because you’re not strong enough. You don’t have anxiety because of anything you did wrong. You’re experiencing anxiety because you’re human and the mixed messages that have been ingrained in you are what’s exacerbating it.
The good news is that anxiety is 100% treatable and manageable with effective mental wellness support. Staying informed about what anxiety really is versus what you’ve been told by your peers, well-meaning family members, church and your overall community, is the key to figuring out what anxiety management could look like for you. Though cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the best courses of action, some use medicinal support such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy. Others choose another course of action such as plant-based teas, along with life coaching and/or app-based support. All that matters is what feels right for you.