Depression Behind Closed Doors: Unmasking the Unique Struggles of Black Women
I remember when I initially started my therapy practice, Healing Journey Counseling Center, back in 2019. I knew I wanted to work with Black millennial women, but I was unsure in what capacity. I felt like that population did not have many safe spaces. I wanted to create a space where Black women could come and be themselves without worrying about microaggressions, judgment, code-switching or anything else. I wanted them to have a place where they could openly discuss issues.
As my practice grew, I noticed many Black women struggling with depression - but it didn't mirror the typical symptoms I learned about in school like sadness, suicidal thoughts, changes in appetite, isolation, and lack of interest.
Instead, I saw women who were easily irritated or annoyed, suppressing their feelings due to the perception that they must be strong. They did not want to come across as offensive or be labeled as argumentative or an angry Black woman. Some were exhausted by the 'strong Black woman' trope but felt unable to express that.
As Black women, we're often taught we must work harder, fight stronger, and endure more than others. We're conditioned to suppress emotions and power through. In our careers, we code-switch and face undue criticism. At home, we prioritize caring for others while neglecting our needs.
The 'strong Black woman' mythology dismisses Black women's emotional needs. By better understanding depression's unique manifestations in Black women, we can break down barriers preventing them from seeking help.
Because of those issues above, I believe that is why many Black women do not know they are depressed. They just feel like they are failing or behind because they are not accomplishing goals and getting things done.
Often Black women complain of physical symptoms when they are experiencing depression.
A recent study from New York University on 227 Black women found some common symptoms of depression included:
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased libido
This research affirmed my own observations of Black women in therapy. I knew I needed to focus more on supporting Black women struggling with anxiety and depression.
While the self-care aesthetic trending on social media is uplifting, true self-care requires hard work - saying no, expressing needs, and prioritizing wellbeing over perceptions. We'll unpack this concept more in the future.
If any of this resonates with you, know you're not alone. This experience is, unfortunately, far too common among Black women. My goal is to create a judgement-free space for Black women to be heard, feel empowered, and get the tailored support they need to heal.
Stay tuned for next week's blog where I will share books to read related to depression and anxiety.
Join my email list for more resources on better understanding and overcoming depression as a Black woman. Together, we can break stigma and start the journey to feeling whole.