Suffering in Sadness:
Depression in African American Women
Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t get up in the morning? Not that you didn’t want to, but you physically couldn’t. You just couldn’t face another day. Experiencing Life Burnout is another way to define depression. And why are we surprised? Too often we are everything for everyone except ourselves. And yet, it feels like an endless treadmill that we cannot get off of. How do we do for “self”? There isn’t any time between kids and boss. Between striving and surviving. But where’s the thriving?
As African American women who partner with women, we have ALL of the cards stacked against us, and it is no wonder that we have as many health challenges as we do. We live in a society that regularly fails to acknowledge or honor our ethnicity, culture, gender, or our lifestyle choices. We additionally often find ourselves at the lower spectrum of the American political and economic continuum. We are expected to do so many things and be so many things to so many people. All of these factors and more create our stress which can lead to the corrosion of our feeling of self-worth and ultimately, our health.
Studies have shown that clinical depression affects 17 to 20 million
Americans a year and strikes women at twice the rate of men. African-American
have a triple jeopardy status which places us at risk for developing
depression 1, but many
of us do not reach
out for help or get treatment because of a widespread belief in the African-American
community that depression is evidence of personal weakness, not a legitimate
What is Clinical Depression?
The definition of clinical depression is “a mental illness which causes feelings of sadness and loss of hope, changes in sleeping and eating habits, loss of interest in your usual activities, and pains which have no physical explanation”. 2
It is a treatable illness that can strike anyone at any age and can be triggered by one or more causes including biological factors, genetics, difficult life events, negative thinking patterns, physical health problems and some medications. People suffering from depression may not feel hopeful or happy about anything in life, may cry a lot and withdraw from friends and family, be forgetful, anxious and worried, and have recurring thoughts of death and/or suicide. Clinical depression is not a just a "mood" that someone can "snap out of." 3
Ways to Detect Depression
Signs and Symptoms 3
An evaluation for clinical depression is recommended if you experience five or more of the following symptoms for longer than two weeks, or if the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your daily routine:
- A persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
- Sleeping too little or sleeping too much
- Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain (weight gain is more likely to occur among African-American women suffering from depression)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Restlessness or irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment (such as headaches, chronic pain, or constipation and other digestive disorders)
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Zung Depression Scale 4
A self-rating depression scale is a useful tool to of evaluating for clinical depression. It is still recommended to seek guidance and counseling.