Black Professional Women at Risk of Anxiety Disorders

Article excerpt

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M. -- Living up to their self-image as strong black women puts African American professional women at risk of panic attacks and other anxiety disorders, Angela M. Neal-Barnett, Ph.D., told people attending the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

It also prevents them from seeking help when they panic, because seeking help does not fit their need to be perceived as strong, added Dr. Neal-Barnett, a psychologist and black professional woman at Kent (Ohio) State University.

"Our culture doesn't allow us to panic because if you panic, you shut down; and if you shut down, you are weak," she said, describing her research in this population and her work on culturally tailored interventions.

Dr. Neal-Barnett asked participants at "women of color retreats" just what they love about being strong black women.

The answers included being able to multitask, to "give back" and help others, to adapt to any situation and overcome obstacles, to cross cultural lines, and to excel. Yet when the same women were asked what makes them anxious, the answer was "that we must get everything done. We can't do it all, but we do it."

The conundrum, as interpreted by Dr. Neal-Barnett, is that "the very things that make us strong are the very things that contribute to the development of anxiety and panic attacks."

Literature on treating panic attacks in African American women is scarce, she continued, but it does show that black women tend to be reluctant to engage in cognitive-behavioral therapy, in particular cognitive restructuring, as traditionally offered. …