... the other Black experience

Mental Health Disorders in The Black Community: Let's Break The Taboo

I'm a psych major and also suffer from a personality disorder (it's called Borderline Personality Disorder, for those wanting to know or to look it up). I wanted to start this conversation because through personal experience and from my studies I have learned that many African Americans suffer from mental health disorders, but are less likely to get treatment and help for themselves. Is it lack of insurance and money? Or the stigma that Black people are to be tough and suck bad situations up? Or just general embarrassment of admitting a disorder?

Words by Kia Jay

Having a mental disorder does not make you crazy. There is so much false information that circle almost every single disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). AIDS and STDs are not the only things that the African American community needs to be more educated on, mental health is also very important. I know it's not killing people like AIDS but it deals with your body so it's just as important.

Growing up I didn't realize how different I actually was from others. Besides musical and value differences I also seemed to have a different thought process and reacted to situations differently than my peers. I found myself getting extremely angry, depressed and unbearably distressed about things l knew logically I shouldn't have reacted to in such a way. Not getting into too many personal details but I ended up being a danger to myself on many occasions. I was impulsive and just distressed, and so anxious 24/7 that I could feel the emotional pain changing into physical pain. I couldn't stand to be alone and feared I would be abandoned and needed constant reassurance from those already in my life that they wanted me around. It ruined friendships and relationships because you were either "good" or "bad", I have no grey area, which is something I still struggle with. After learning about my personality disorder I was relieved to know what was going on with me, that I wasn't crazy. Till I realized that I was still alone... not many African Americans have not been seen and diagnosed with Personality Disorders.

I receive proper treatment to help me manage day to day, but unfortunately Personality Disorders are different than depression or anxiety, even different from being bipolar (which supposedly are all chemical)... it's something that's said to be embedded in my personality. (?) Some of the information I've mentioned above not many African Americans know about and that bothers me. Like the difference between anxiety and depression, and that PDs are whole different disorders.

I want to hear other people stories, if you would like to share, and hear opinions. Seems like it's something that is never really talked about among African-Americans.

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Tags: African, American, Black, Community, Disorders, Health, Mental, Personality, Taboo


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Comment by bel on August 7, 2012 at 1:05am

It is with these pictures of clinical or social de_mystification an edu problem of the half being analysed or settled in such picts: in my case after 9/11, Bush's Salt Lake No'lympix and Queens Mums death in 2002 a clinical situation of being treated with anti_dopameen as result of smoking wheat with no filling money choice as bi_polar psychosis fashion and the regression of a formerly schizophrenic misconception of hetero_sexist Docs to have in.

Borderline was and is in German language narratives a [real_socialist/political] pop up term of all mid_term edutainment the mass have in dizzling European trafficking. So the question is more raised of S.Freud's ol Neurosis term of analysis to misconduct the hetero parents again.

I am aware of that sudden Mad Pride type to get treated clinically, but the social interaction is always a new beginning to find out the other's frame for in capital_Ism the psy art work will apprehend only a money carrousel

Comment by Chaeya the Empress of Ev*A*Dream on July 10, 2011 at 12:35pm
Kia, I can understand about the black/white thinking thing, and very much relate about the "abandonment" issue. I've had to deal with it myself, albeit on a much smaller scale than you. I have several friends who have these issues, and because of dealing with a therapist for so long, it's taught me to be more open and honest when dealing with my friends who have issues and with others. It takes a lot of patience, I will think things but I will suffer in silence.

One book I'm reading at the present is "Power vs. Force" by Dr. David R. Hawkins. He is a psychiatrist and he struck me because he notes that one of his biggest successes with treating the mentally ill was simply giving them the attention they needed and simply by offering them the "Love" offered by the Forces which propel this Universe, something which I didn't talk about in my last response to you. Much of my healing occurred when some of my "safe people" were the very voices I was hearing. When people speak of hearing "voices" they automatic think in terms of demonic voices leading you to do some horrible things. However, there are also loving voices of Spirit and when you focus on these and not allow in the others, you find that having a "safe" loving and attentive environment is a big part of the healing and management process with mental illness. However, medical practice doesn't speak of this and reading Dr. Hawkins' book over the past few days (a book that has sat on my shelf for the past five years) has really brought me quite a bit of joy knowing that I'm not the only one who has thought this. I just never spoke about it because it isn't "accepted" in modern society just yet.

You're right, most PD's are the result of abuse, such as a young lady that I met some years ago who had BPD as a result of getting abused by her stepfather and her mother blaming her for the act then committing suicide as a result. She blamed herself for her mother's suicide and believe the false truth that she was responsible for her stepfather abusing her. I was quite ill myself at the time, so I had no idea on how to reach out to her because she would get quite destructive verbally then push me away completely. I've learned quite a bit since then. Would I be a great friend, I dont know.

A big part of any mental health issue that has been caused by a mental trauma is a disconnection from the spiritual Force of this planet. Regardless of one's religion or beliefs, life is all about balance as we know, and it involves the mental, the physical and the spiritual where all three have to amalgamate into a amicable relationship. Mental health in this country only deals with the physical and the mental whereas spiritually, it's a realm where it isn't tread because of fear of offending the person. After all, the doctor is there to treat, not preach. Then Christianity is automatically interjected which can alienate someone who isn't Christian and make matters worse.

There is a saying that you're never given a problem without being given a gift in its place. The gift is, a PD can take you on a deep journey few will ever go. Most people stay pretty much to the surface of their psyches, many do not go to the heart of the matter as we're a society that focuses on effects rather than causes, or if we know the cause, we don't bother with the solution because the solution takes us out of our comfort zone. With a PD, you're forced into seeking solutions and going deep because you get to a point where you can't function unless you do so. When one finds themselves pretty much a loner or an outsider because of their condition, there is always the spiritual that can be discovered which just may way hold the key to healing.
Comment by Kodachi on July 10, 2011 at 10:32am

@KiaJay, I have no problem keeping attention. I have problem understanding people and expressing myself. ADD and/or ADHD I do not have.


I would agree Blacks don't often know that there are other disorders besides the ones we hear so much.

Comment by Kia Jay on July 9, 2011 at 8:55pm

@CHAEYA i totally agree with you about having a "plan" and thats what most therapists do with their clients, they establish what they want to get out of their sessions...i know that's what mines does. After every session she gives me a sort of worksheet dealing with whatever it is that we are talking about that week..


with me being borderline its hard for me to have "safe" ppl.. with the black and white thinking a person can be all good to me then at the drop of a dime ill hate them with every bone in my body if i fell betrayed or abandoned by them, sad to say but i go through friends like every 6 months.. i never have been friends with someone longer than a year. i dont intend for it to be like that and it can be lonely sometimes but i take responsibility and i dont expect ppl to put up with my erratic inconsistencies on how i view them and how i view myself, that wouldnt be fair 

Comment by Kia Jay on July 9, 2011 at 8:41pm

@SEKI great article that you posted on here, i liked reading it =)


@ADOLPHUSLEWIS i think the generally stereotype towards african americans is bipolar disorder, but that's just me.. before i was diagnosed as a borderline i was actually diagnosed with bipolar disorder because they do share some symptoms.. 


@KODACHI i think i know what you are talking about with the mixed-reception disorder.. do you have ADHD or ADD? i ask because I have ADHD (a symptom of my BPD) so I have trouble keeping up when it comes to writing and typing..  ill put words and numbers when i was think of something completely different, its embarrassing because my job requires taking address and zip codes.. ive had ppl talk to me like i was slow because they would say 76890 or whatever and ill KNOW thats what the said but i relay back and type something like 0897...."im sry can you repeat that?" = / i guess you can say im dyslexic or dyscalculic but its like i cant process any sequence of numbers past like 3 numbers before it just gets jumbled like 67890324523125321 lol 


i would rather be bipolar honestly, BPD for me is embarrassing sometimes because of the harming oneself and because of the constant fear of abandonment AND the temper tantrums.. im about to be 21 and i still have the emotional process of a 8 yr old = / no wonder borderlines are sometimes referred to as "a child in an adults body"... and bipolar disorder can basically be fully controlled with medicine, with BPD it only makes it slightly manageable. BUT i am glad that i know what i am so i can start trying to live normally and do what i can to make it so, even though at times i feel completely helpless. i like to refer to it as "watching a plane take off that you know is going to crash and you know when, how, where and even how many ppl are going to die but you just cant stop it" thats how some of my symptoms are, especially the anger part and the feeling abandoned... ive cried before over not being asked some where or getting a call or a txt...over thinking that they dont want me around anymore then i start thinking something is wrong with me and i dont even deserve friends anyways....those episodes can last minutes, hours or days depending on how close i am to that person who i feel, in my mind at the time, betrayed me.. its so funny because I KNOW that it isnt logical to have those episodes, but it doesnt stop them from happening its in my personality and in my nature but i only realize it after they have already happened ....young children react the same way when they feel isolated, abandoned or lonely, even though it may not really be the case, but then they grow out of it like your suppose to do


PDs, in short, stems from the opposite sex parent being abusive (sexual or physical) and then the other parent being a push over/door mate... so you learn that feeling anything is bad and you become use to associating abuse with love. The child is usually forced to take a parental role at some point, even though they are too young so that's why its not uncommon for most PDs to "act out" in adulthood because they are emotionally growing in reverse. and im NOT saying everyone who has had this type of up bringing end up with a PD..thats where the part about PDs being partial biological comes into play  

Comment by Chaeya the Empress of Ev*A*Dream on June 27, 2011 at 1:39pm

While this is a problem in the AA community, it's a problem all over.  Even when people acknowledge you have a problem, mental health issues still get dealt with very poorly in America.  I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder/Panic/Depression.  People have the belief that since you know what you suffer from then you should just be able to "deal" or "get over it" and fix it yourself so THEY don't have to deal with it.  The problem with depression is it isn't like you feel "sad" there are times you feel absolutely "nothing" which if you're sad, at least you're feeling something.  I got told to "think positive" and "change my diet" and it gets to be a bit much with everyone telling you to do this or do that to fix yourself when you honestly don't have the mental strength to do that.  No one tells a cancer person to "change their diet" or "just think positive."  A brain sickness is no different than having a heart sickness or some other problem with an organ.  Believe me, I did all those things, but I had to just face that I had a problem.  Then you get people who believe you're just using it to get people to give you attention. 


However, with that said, you do have to take responsibility for your illness.  It's important to have a "Plan" in  helping you deal with outbreaks.  For instance, my daughter has asthma and her doctor and I came up with an action plan.  When I knew I was about to suffer a setback, I have my husband and my best friend who I consider my "safe" people.  They know how to deal with me.  It's good to institute a "safe" place to go and your "safe" people.  This really does help lesson the intensity of your outbreaks.  Also, it's important to get a good psychiatrist and a good therapist to help you deal also.  I don't always see my therapist, but they're available when I need them.  Also my psychiatrist isn't one that throws a bunch of pills at me.  We were able to find some good medication that works.  Unfortunately, I had to get over my pride and this "natural only" kick and face the fact that I had to be on meds.  I would go off and I'd be fine for a few months and then I'd have a relapse which would get worse and worse.  The last time I almost had to be hospitalized. 


People can be very insensitive, and I've learned to deal with that.  I've had people say "well I just deal with it, I've never needed meds."  Yeah well, they've never hopped in their car and drove like a maniac to the nearest ER screaming that they're having a heart attack either or feel like picking up a knife and slicing everybody up.  It's important to not be afraid to talk about your feelings no matter how terrible they are.  When I was at my worse, there were times I couldn't be around knives because I would have started stabbing and cutting.  But again, you need to have your "safe" people who can allow you to talk about your feelings without overreacting.  I've found I've had spirit guides who have come through and helped me through the worst of it.  I was able to have an open dialogue with them and many of the horrible thoughts that passed through me, I was able to work out on my own.  At first I was too afraid to tell my doctor because I thought they would lock me up.  But now, I can.  I do hear voices, but I'm able to select which voices I choose to hear and I'm able to block out the others.  Now, I have my "safe" guides that I listen to and I'm to the point where I no longer hear the dangerous ones.


That's just my two cents. 

Comment by Kodachi on June 25, 2011 at 3:09am

I think mental disorders should be talked about more especially in the Black community and in poor neighborhoods because that's where it hits hardest and breeds most.


I have a series of issues, the one I most have been gathering information on is my mixed-receptive expressive language disorder (not the most thorough description but good enough for an overview) because it can be a real pain at times. I've had a speech teacher when I was a kid and I learned to get around this disorder but the stigma can be problematic because it's a choice between two things: have people talk to me like I'm an idiot or get flustered when I can't keep up (I actually have to think twice as hard about what I'm gonna say because it won't make sense to anyone but me otherwise). I've had a good job covering it up to the point people call bullsh*t when I tell them I have it but I don't like to usually talk about it because I don't want people to think I'm using it for a crutch or as a portable mini-pity party. It's a disorder that does make it difficult to communicate but to tell people I have it is the equivallent to tell people, "Yah, I can't understand a word you're saying and I'm going to be difficult about it." Very frustrating.


That's the disorder you can't see tho (but can hear if you stay around me long enough), I also have trichotillomania which is a constant issue for my mom and I because she doesn't believe I have it despite showing all the signs (except for eating hair, I don't do that) since I was basically ten. I pretty much go after my eyebrows and lashes and sometimes the hair on my head. I have had completely bald lash lines (actually that's 75% my lash line now) and I've demolished my eyebrows several times with my own hands. I didn't care (and still don't) about how people saw it so I never wore makeup and when I was forced to, I was really terrible at it so I would look like Groucho Marx. Everytime I would bring it up, I would be told that I don't have any issues and I'm just being an attention seeker. Terrible. When I was younger I would sometimes put vasoline on my eyebrows or wear a glove before heading to bed (I would pull in my sleep) but still wouldn't work. Now I've developed a pattern to curb the disorder for now by going after the new growth (not the best but it's what I got right now) but honestly my disorder just makes me tilt my head at people who tweeze their brows and such because I can't help it and I know for fact it's no fun, why in God's name are you doing it when you can? It would annoy me when people would give me suggestions that I should pick in a pattern so my brows simply look done instead of patchy, y'know, like I got some control over this. People actually thought forcing me to get my eyebrows shaped would stop me but it just made it easier to get patches because there was less brow to pick and still no change in the stress. It's really annoying because people think cosemetics will solve my problems when really what I need is a change in stress levels.


Oh I already know this is a wall o' text but yeah, we need to talk more about these mental disorders in the Black community. It's a must because it isn't a "White" problem and the more the topic of mental issues are avoided, the worse it'll just get and simply normalized into culture, which really isn't good.

Comment by Seki on June 24, 2011 at 1:08pm
Thanks for this artilce. I am 47 and was born during a time when help and acceptance of mental disorders (1960's and 1970's) was swept under the rug unless it became a physical threat to other family members. I did not realize that I had bipolar,social anxiety disorder until my late 30's. It took awhile to accept that I will be taking medication and use talk therapy for the rest of my life. Yet my quality of my life is better than it was prior to my diagnosis. Having a mental illness is biological issue. I now refer to it as having bad genes. There are programs such as NAMI's Peer to Peer program that can help you understand your illness amongst others sans therapy. I encourage anyone who knows somene who is going through this to start with NAMI to get help with making peace with their illness. NOTE: I am not connected with NAMI in any way. I am someone who has benefited from their services.
Comment by Seki on June 24, 2011 at 12:59pm
Comment by Magenta on June 18, 2011 at 2:22pm

I remember when I was younger, probably 12-15 y/o, I would have these crying fits for hours at a time. I didn't know why they happened and to this day I don't know why. One doctor's appointment has always stood out for me. There was a question about family history of mental illness/disorders. I asked my mom and she replied verbatim, "don't fill that in, they don't need to know that" So I didn't, I left it alone and around 15 I killed the emotions with booze and drugs. About 3 years ago, I stopped drowning and sedating my emotions. Now the fits are back and stronger than ever. I started therapy this week, so there's no diagnosis as of yet. Already I can tell this process is going to be extremely difficult because I still can't get any family background about mental health. But I feel this is the healthiest, most self loving choice I've ever made and I'm proud of myself.

Wish everyone tons of love and positive energy through this and any healing endeavor you decide to make for yourself.


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