According to a recent study published in the journal Nursing Research, black women can suffer from symptoms of depression that are “poorly recognized and undertreated” in the larger medical community.
Depression manifests itself “rather” than stress or self-criticism in black women
The study focused on data from 227 African American women and focused on “explor[ing] depressive symptom phenotypes” within this demographic group. The research found that black women may experience higher levels of self-criticism, trouble sleeping and irritability, in contrast to more characteristic symptoms, according to NYU.
Referring to these findings, Lauren Carson — founder of a mental health nonprofit called Black Girls Smile — noted that her experience with patients supports this conclusion.
“As Black women and girls, we are more likely to experience what are known as psychosomatic symptoms, which are stress, anxiety or trauma manifesting in our bodies.”
Additionally, she shared that black women who deal with depression or anxiety experience migraines, gastrointestinal issues, and muscle spasms more often than other demographics.
“A lot of the information we get when it comes to diagnosis … doesn’t always fit these marginalized demographics.”
The generally accepted symptoms of depression are not the same everywhere.
These differences can lead to “underdiagnosis and undertreatment”.
As a result, Dr. Nicole Perez, lead author of the study, states, “It is possible for healthcare providers to overlook symptoms of depression in black women, leading to underdiagnosis and undertreatment.”
“I hope these findings will add to the growing conversation about how depression may appear differently from person to person and raise awareness of the need for more research in historically underserved and marginalized populations.”
Perez continued, sharing that action needs to be taken “so we can better recognize symptoms and reduce missed treatments and health disparities.”
How the “strong and resilient” black woman stereotype comes into play
In addition to examining the differences between the symptoms, an explanation was offered as to why some of these differences occur. In particular, the study was sure to shed light on how expectations of black women to be “strong” can lead to depression manifesting as self-criticism and philanthropy.
Meghan Watson, founder of the Bloom Psychology & Wellness Center in Toronto, noted, “It’s not emotionally safe to just be sad or hopeless, which are some of the hallmark symptoms of depression.”
“I think a lot of the reasons I attribute [people-pleasing] about depression is that my understanding of regular conversations with black women is that it’s not emotionally safe to just be sad or hopeless, which are some of the hallmark symptoms of depression.
What do you think of these findings?