Anxiety and depression among African American women: The costs of strength and negative attitudes toward psychological help-seeking

Natalie N. Watson, Carla D. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Strong Black Woman (SBW) race- gender schema prompts African American women to use self-reliance and self-silence as coping strategies in response to stressors. Utilizing the coping strategies associated with the SBW race- gender schema could trigger anxiety and depression symptoms that may intensify when coupled with negative attitudes toward professional psychological help. The present study investigated whether African American women's endorsement of the SBW race- gender schema predicted increased symptoms of anxiety and depression and whether attitudes toward professional psychological help-seeking intensified psychological distress. Data were collected from 95 participants ranging in age from 18 to 65. Hierarchical regression analysis demonstrated significant main effects for the SBW race- gender schema and greater anxiety and depression, respectively. Greater indifference to stigma, 1 dimension of help-seeking attitudes, predicted lower levels of anxiety. African American women's attitudes toward professional help-seeking did not moderate the associations between endorsement of the SBW race- gender schema and anxiety or depression, respectively. Finally, endorsement of the SBW race- gender schema was inversely and significantly associated with 2 facets of help-seeking attitudes: (a) psychological openness and (b) help-seeking propensity. Taken together, these findings provide empirical support for the role of cultural factors, like the SBW race- gender schema, in African American women's experience of psychological distress and potential underutilization of mental health services. Future research directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-612
Number of pages9
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Volume21
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychological help-seeking
  • Strong black woman/superwoman

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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