Greetings! I have the pleasure of having the President of Amani Counseling & Consulting Services and my sister/friend Psychotherapist Kamisha Johnson to bless us with a topic that a lot of woman of color can relate to. Thank You Kamisha!
Black Women & Bad Nerves: The Truth about Generalized Anxiety Disorder-By Kamisha G. Johnson, LGSW
For many generations young African American girls have been told “don’t do that, Mama got bad nerves,” or “Mama gotta take her nerve pills.” We have been programmed and prepared for “bad nerves” well before we could define the meaning of this saying our elders referred too often. Many decades later there has been a paradigm shift within the African American culture and we are beginning to have dialogue about the real meaning of “bad nerves.” Now, we have learned that “bad nerves” is the equivalent of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. According to Anxiety & Depression Association of America “Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8 million adults and women are twice as likely to be affected as men” (www.adaa.org). As a therapist what I have seen through both my personal and professional experience. Specific statistical data is null and void on African American women due to being understudied. Further, I have observed many African American women live with some form of Anxiety Disorder. Society and our culture have created this ideology of the Strong Black Woman that perpetuates and increase the symptoms of anxiety. We get caught up in being the matriarch and caregivers of our families at the expense of our mental health. As a result, this exacerbates our anxiety and makes us more susceptible to medical ailments including high blood pressure, chronic pain, diabetes, obesity, and depression. According to the DSM-V (2013) Generalized Anxiety Disorder’s symptoms that have to be present to meet criteria include:
- Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
- The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.
- The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past 6 months):
Note: Only one item required in children. 1. Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge. 2. Being easily fatigued. 3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank. 4. Irritability. 5. Muscle tension. 6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep).
- The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).
- The disturbance is not better explained by another medical disorder (e.g., anxiety or worry about having panic attacks in panic disorder, negative evaluation in social anxiety disorder [social phobia], contamination or other obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation from attachment figures in separation anxiety disorder, reminders of traumatic events in posttraumatic stress disorder, gaining weight in anorexia nervosa, physical complaints in somatic symptom disorder, perceived appearance flaws in body dysmorphic disorder, having a serious illness in illness anxiety disorder, or the content of delusional beliefs in schizophrenia or delusional disorder).
To help alleviate symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder includes a combination of the following:
Behavioral techniques including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, mindful walking (focusing on 5-senses), prayer, journaling, and daily positive affirmations.
- Healthy support system of family and friends.
- In severe cases psychotropic medications that can minimize (but may not eliminate) symptoms. Medications are more effective in combination with the techniques listed above.
In the African American community we tend to turn a blind eye to mental illness. It is my ethical duty and passion to raise awareness. 1 in 5 adults experience some form of severe and persistent mental illness in any given year. Specifically in the African American community we have placed such a high stigma on this illness and we believe we can pray it away. However, us who have spiritual enlightenment and education understand that prayer without work is DEAD. We must embrace that mental illness is real and with psychological openness and awareness we can help those that suffer seek help. Most importantly, live a fulfilled life through recovery. NO ONE deserves to suffer in silence.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”- Maya Angelou
COPE (Hennepin County)
Mental Health Emergencies: 612-596-1223
Always Be Light,
Kamisha G. Johnson, LGSW
President Amani Counseling & Consulting Services