Black, Racism, PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an Anxiety Disorder that usually develops after an individual has been involved in one or more terrifying events in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. 

What Can Cause This?

The trauma may involve someone’s death or a threat to someone else’s life, serious injury, or a threat to physical and/or psychological integrity, such as instances of sexual abuse. Research has shown that individuals who experience race-based stress and trauma have similar experiences and eventual symptoms to those have been diagnosed with  PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). PTSD symptoms include but are not limited to flashbacks, hypervigilance, nightmares, heart palpitations, poor sleep and overall heightened anxiety.

Events that can cause racial trauma and subsequent PTSD include threats of harm and injury, humiliating and shaming events and witnessing racial discrimination and microaggressions toward yourself or members of your community. Also, seeing repeated videos of police killing people who look like you in the media can also lead to trauma.

In the long run exposure to repeated traumatic events have shown to cause to  increases in stress hormones in the body, which exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression,  and is associated with medical issues such as high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.

To many Americans, news of Floyd’s death simply marked another viral police killing—tragic, for African Amercans viral police killings force black Americans to repeatedly endure vicarious trauma—or the emotional stress that results from witnessing the trauma of another.

While white Americans can typically take the news of police brutality unscathed, black Americans are forced endure wounds that many of their Caucasian coworkers or friends may never see, and often show up as anxiety or depression.

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you.

James Baldwin from “The Negro in American Culture,” Cross Currents, XI (1961), p. 205