Anxiety is one of those things that is so prevalent in our society today. According to the Anxiety and depression association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US. The statistic goes on to say that 40 million adults are affected by this mental health illness.
Furthermore, data reports that Black Women have chronic anxiety with more intense symptoms than their white counterparts.
As a mental health therapist, a mental health advocate, and a black woman who has anxiety it is vital that the black community especially us women have an understanding of anxiety. Beyond that of social media or the movies.
Anxious Black Girl
This guide explains Anxiety on a mental level and by the book. But before I go further, I want to take a moment to acknowledge something that most fail to acknowledge.
As black women, Anxiety shows up for us more often than our white counterparts. The images that society has of us continue to contribute to promoting Anxiety in our lives.
The images of the angry black women serve as a reminder that your mental health is entertainment for the world.
But no one stops to ask if the angry black woman is actually anxious and as she expresses her Anxiety, one of the symptoms that she is expressing is irritability. Which, as you read on, you will learn is one primary symptom of an anxiety disorder.
Next, we have the strong black woman syndrome. This version of black womanhood portrayed to the masses is very toxic and discouraging. In this version, black women are strong and can go through anything and everything with limited emotional effects on their minds. This often leads to her striving for perfectionism.
It is important for us to have the necessary emotional education to understand that the strive for perfectionism can lead to and often does promote an anxiety disorder.
Then there’s the over-sexualization of the black female body. This makes most young women feel insecure because they do not have the big “butt” and other things that the dominant white culture wants to pick and promote as their version of beauty in the black community. These reasons and more are why we need to educate ourselves and promote our mental health.
What is Anxiety?
According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of mental disorders), Anxiety is simply anticipating future threats. It is often coupled with fear which is the emotional response to actual or perceived threats.
Those who have anxiety are often time anticipating future threats and what can go wrong. And because of that the emotional response of fear automatically kicks in.
Due to this response, it is difficult to separate anxiety from fear making them interchangeable. The anticipation of threat to your well-being and the expectation of danger to your homeostasis or lifestyle no matter what it may be has the ability to cause strong emotional reactions causing dysregulation in your nervous system as you will find out later.
Anxiety Disorder instead of Anxiety
Before we even keep going, I want to make a distinction that many people are unaware of. Anxiety is a biological process that all humans have. That means everyone on the planet experiences anxiety in one way, shape, or form.
It is an expected part of life. Because they are expected and a biological reaction, anxiety doesn’t last long and serves a beneficial purpose.
An anxiety disorder is something very different. For an anxiety disorder, the worry or fear does not go away but often worsens over time.
The symptoms then can interfere with the persons day to day life. Causing interference in relationships, job, sleep, and even eating. Anxiety disorders are more intrusive and life-altering than anxiety as a biological process. That is why knowing the difference is essential.
Why Do we experience Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is experienced for multiple reasons. The three main reasons we experience anxiety are perceived danger, excitement, and working on a project.
Yes, you can experience Anxiety when you are excited because you anticipate that something good will happen.
Honestly, all three reasons are good. They will happen to use at least once in our lives. However, the saying holds that everything and anything in excess can be harmful. Anxiety is a normal human reaction to multiple situations. But that can become corrupt due to childhood, trauma, biology, and perception in life.
For example, the butterfly feeling at the pit of your stomach when you see the one you love is called anxiety, and it is good. It’s the feeling that we all want to feel when we see that special someone. This type of anxiety you feel when you are excited.
Secondly, anxiety is experienced when you have something to do, and there is a deadline. For example, when there is a project and it’s all you can think of, that is anxiety that assists you in getting that thing done. Those of us who love to procrastinate because WE WORK BETTER THAT WAY are using that Anxiety to get the work done. It helps us focus and horn into what we are doing, ensuring we get the job done right.
So the next time you say, I WORK BETTER UNDER PRESSURE, remember you are tapping into your anxiety.
Lastly, we experience Anxiety because we are in danger or anticipate a threat. Again this type of Anxiety is a biological process that we all have. And like all biological processes, it serves a purpose that is essential to our survival.
This type of anxiety is often experienced negatively because it is the most common one due to its association with fear.
However, when anxiety becomes a mental health condition, it is not because of a single event but a variation of factors.
Risk factors that Lead to Anxiety Disorders
Various risk factors lead someone to develop anxiety disorders of different kinds. The one thing to remember is that anxiety disorders do not develop due to a single factor, but multiple factors at once.
The first factor that leads to anxiety disorder is family history. If a parent or even a grandparent has an anxiety disorder or a close relative. The likely hood that you will develop an anxiety disorder is high. The main reason is that it may become a biological trait or is already a biological trait within your family. And if you have it, there is a high chance that you will pass it on to your children.
With that being said, your personality traits do play a role in rather or not you will develop an anxiety disorder. Research shows that those with certain personalities are prone to developing anxiety disorders.
If you are more of the type A person who values perfectionism, you have a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. That also goes for those who tend to be shyer, a “control freak,” or even low self-esteem have a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
An important risk factor for anxiety disorder is your experiences. By experiences, I mean more than your day-to-day. I mean the traumas that you have. The disappointments that you experience, your childhood, and so much more. Our experiences can shape us for the better or, the worse. It all depends on the meaning we give them.
One of the contributing factors leading to anxiety disorders is your health. Yes, your health has a strong correlation to anxiety disorders. If you have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, it can mimic anxiety and interfere with your mental health.
Most women don’t know that being anemic correlates with anxiety disorders such as panic attacks. All these contributing factors can affect you mentally and promote mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders.
Besides your physical health, other mental health conditions can promote anxiety disorders. So if you have a mental health diagnosis outside of anxiety disorders, it is important to monitor it as it may mimic anxiety-like disorders.
Lastly, substances such as alcohol and different drugs can promote anxiety disorders. Also, the foods you eat and the health of your gut are all contributing factors.
Different Tips Of Anxiety Disorders
There are different types of anxiety, The DSM-5 recognizes five main types of anxiety disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People who experience GAD display excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months. This excessive worry can be about several things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. The anxiety and fear can and at time interferes with their day to day activities.
Panic Disorders are reoccurring panic attacks. And they are often unexpected. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. These attacks can be triggered by something that is perceived as fearful or overwhelming or can be unexpected.
A phobia is an intense fear of—or aversion to—specific objects or situations. This fear is often out of proportion then what is feared.
Formally known as social phobia – Intense fear of, or anxiety toward, social or performance situations.
The intense fear of two or more of the following situations:
- Using public transportation
- Being in open spaces
- Being in enclosed spaces
- Standing in line or being in a crowd
- Being outside of the home alone
This is intense fear about parting from people to whom we are attached. This is something that can take place in children and in adults.
Those who have selective mutism fail to speak in specific social situations despite having normal language skills. This is a disorder that usually happens to children. But also important to know about as an adult if you have children.
What anxiety Feels Like: Signs and Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders feel very different than having anxiety. But here is a list of what anxiety disorder may feel like. The list is a mix of physical and mental symptoms.
The thing to remember is that sometimes it may feel different than what this list is saying. And at times, GAD and panic disorder are coupled together. Furthermore, you may feel a mixture of the two symptoms, or one may lead to the other.
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
- Being irritable
- Having muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
- Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart-rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering or choking
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feelings of being out of control
Ways To Manage Anxiety
Managing Anxiety can look different, just like Anxiety looks different. Here are some ways to manage your Anxiety.
- Seek professional help. Managing our Anxiety on our own is a great and powerful thing. But don’t forget that it is always best to seek professional help and get yourself a therapist. Check out the resource page for places you can look to get the help you need.
- Medication is a valuable tool that can be used to assist you in managing your Anxiety. Although medication has a bad rep. If you do need it I would recommend you take it. Always discuss it with your mental health practitioner. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.
- Joining a group is an excellent way to assist in managing your Anxiety. There are multiple groups that you can enter to assist you in managing your Anxiety and mental health. Having a sister group is essential and having a trusted source is also an excellent way to manage your Anxiety.
- Learn various techniques. There are multiple techniques that you can use to manage your Anxiety. If you are dealing with travel anxiety, sign up for the emailing list and get your free guide that teaches various techniques to manage your Anxiety.