Are you struggling with symptoms of panic or anxiety? As a Black man, are you concerned that seeking mental health support will make you look weak and unstable? Or has the idea of therapy been stigmatized within your circle of friends and family?
Anxiety is a significant mental health hurdle—especially for men and women of color. Due to the increased prejudice, you’re likely to experience as a Black man, you may feel the added burden of stress, worry, and hypervigilance created by systemic bias.
Signs of anxiety include a heightened physical stress response, including sweaty palms, heart palpitations, and muscle tension. When put in uncomfortable or distressing situations, you may go into fight-or-flight mode, during which your nervous system works overtime to help you find safety.
If this is the case, you might find that you are often fearful and avoid certain situations that could compromise your sense of security. It’s also possible that you’ve developed specific phobias related to past situations in which you felt unsafe or afraid.
The impact of anxiety goes beyond physical responses and fear-based associations. Feelings of irritability may have affected your relationships or kept you from finding pleasure in things that typically bring joy. Or perhaps an inability to concentrate has hindered your performance at work and in your daily responsibilities. As a result, you may find it difficult to remain calm and present with others.
Living with these symptoms of anxiety takes its toll over time. And there is research to suggest that Black communities in particular experience weathering, otherwise known as “the long-term erosion of mental and physical health,” as the direct result of chronic stress and trauma.
Yet, treatment for anxiety exists. Working with a therapist, you can learn to identify emotions, manage symptoms, and regain the sense of control that your anxiety has taken away.
Given the long history of oppression and white supremacy in the United States, Black individuals have always been at a higher risk for severe mental health conditions, including clinical depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety, and panic attacks. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that Black Americans experience mental health challenges at a rate of 20 percent more than other populations.
And while these hurdles have always been a painful reality for Black men in this country, we’ve seen dramatic increases in these statistics since George Floyd’s death in 2020. Police brutality and violence continue to be major contributing factors in the onset of anxiety and depression in Black communities. Following Floyd’s murder, The Washington Post reported that Black Americans experienced more symptoms of distress than any other racial group—with at least 41 percent screening positive for one or more indicators of anxiety or depression.
It’s not just the police brutality itself that adversely impacts our communities of color; the constant barrage of videos and media attention also keep Black Americans on high alert. For many, these never-ending violent images are a reminder that as Black individuals in America—no matter how we behave or what measures we take to protect ourselves—we’re never fully safe.
Unfortunately, a stigma remains within the Black community associated with therapy and other issues involving mental health. This can stem from a cultural need to remain strong and stoic in the face of adversity or the fact that many individuals seek pastoral—as opposed to therapeutic—guidance in times of need. In addition, a deep sense of distrust in certain institutions remains, as many of us have experienced microaggressions, minimization, and other racial bias in clinical environments that did not demonstrate a high degree of cultural competence.
It can be challenging to see that achieving mental health is just as important as maintaining aspects of strong physical health, such as diet, exercise, and sleep. Yet, seeking mental health support is often viewed as a sign of weakness. Moreover, a lack of access and resources within the Black community often means those seeking help for symptoms of distress often don’t know where to look.
As we chip away at the stigma and learn more about how systemic racism impacts the availability of mental health support, however, we can see that things are slowly but surely moving in the right direction. It’s becoming increasingly accepted within the Black community to seek treatment for anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and we’re seeing a sharp rise in funding and training for culturally competent mental health support.
Though managing chronic stress and anxiety symptoms may seem impossible at times, therapeutic treatment typically yields very positive outcomes. Working with a therapist, you can gain essential coping and distress regulation skills that will help when stress, anxiety, or panic set in.
Because anxiety is a reaction to perceived danger, anxiety treatment aims to reduce distress and eliminate the sensation of threat. Behavioral techniques—including Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectical Behavior Therapies (or CBT and DBT)—can help you adjust your relationship with the thoughts and feelings that create anxiety. And exposure therapy allows you to confront the very thing that frightens you so that it eventually loses its power. By learning to identify triggers, you can manage your stress response.
In addition, trauma-informed treatments will be useful in examining your experiences as a person of color. Because you have been subjected to unjust and often disproportionately brutal circumstances, it’s important to acknowledge trauma and understand the way that it has affected your mind and body. For that reason, therapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and other body-based methods can be extremely effective when integrated into anxiety treatment.
We invite you to learn more about the clinicians who can aid you on the path to healing. Our extensive directory includes hundreds of therapists of color who understand your unique hurdles as a Black man and can help you in overcoming anxiety. With culturally aware and competent support, you can learn to manage stress and live with purpose rather than fear.
Your anxiety is probably making you eager to find relief from your symptoms as soon as possible. And while medication can help, data shows that therapy (which can be used in conjunction with medication) is the best treatment for anxiety.
Medication masks symptoms, but it doesn’t necessarily treat them. Moreover, medication only works for as long as you use it. Alternatively, talk therapy gives you an opportunity to learn how to identify feelings and triggers, regulate your stress response, and move away from anxious thinking patterns. This will help you treat the problem at the root and find lasting relief from symptoms.
When it comes to clinical or therapeutic treatments, there can certainly be issues of cultural insensitivity and incompetence. However, Therapy For Black Men is committed to helping you find expert, empathetic, and culturally aware support to manage your anxiety. We have many clinicians of color in our directory who specialize in seeing individuals from marginalized populations. They are invested in your healing and will work to make you feel validated and understood throughout the course of therapy.
Though we’re chipping away at mental health stigmas, they still exist in some parts of the Black community. There are many reasons for this, and a therapist can help you identify and dispel myths.
In addition, therapy is an entirely confidential process, governed by HIPAA. Just like your doctor can’t share information about your medical history, a therapist is not allowed to disclose information about your treatment without your consent. This process is designed to make you feel safe and supported, so if you still have concerns about privacy, make sure to let your therapist know.
If you struggle with chronic worry as a result of daily stressors and racial trauma, Therapy For Black Men will connect you with one of the hundreds of therapists who can provide culturally competent anxiety treatment.
You can find an anxiety therapist by searching here.