Psychological Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & The Current State of Race in America

In 2016 it’s hard to come to the realization that we have so far to go when talking about race relations, politics, and religion in this country. It seems many cannot agree to respect each other’s differences. Social media highlights the pervasiveness of the issues. It affects us all differently. Some decide not to view their social media outlets temporarily, fearing they’ll read about another tragedy. Others would rather avoid the uncomfortableness and focus on positive happenings in their life, family members, and friends. It’s important to note that everyone is different, with unique family dynamics, values, and beliefs. Expecting each of us to cope with life’s struggles in a similar fashion is unrealistic.

As an African American woman, it’s important for me to post information about the importance of self care for African Americans, and when working with African Americans, to help protect our mental health when dealing with race issues in America. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that many associate with combat veterans. However, an estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. Additionally, about 3.6 percent of adults in this country aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year (

There has been an increase in research on race related experiences as it pertains to PTSD, particularly for African Americans. Racism-related experiences that African Americans in this country encounter on a daily basis range from subtle micro aggressions to blatant violence and verbal abuse. Micro aggressions can be defined as vague insults or non-verbal exchanges, such as a woman holding her purse tightly when she walks into an elevator with a black person. These experiences take place not only in spaces where African Americans are minorities but also in predominantly black spaces. Dr. Monnica T Williams wrote in a Psychology Today article that these experiences create unpredictable anxiety and paranoia for African Americans ( Coupled with these experiences, some African Americans are reminded of the long affects of terrible race relations between African Americans and the rest of the country via oppressed communities, broken down schools, lack of healthcare and job opportunities, wrongful arrests and mistreatment in and outside of their communities. These events can be summed up as frequent, ongoing psychological trauma.

So, if you are reading this, feel exhausted, distressed, angry, confused, and sometimes hopeless with what you experience and see on a frequent basis around the issue of race in America or know someone feeling these symptoms, consider these steps from to help you with this psychological trauma (

1.Mindful Isolation. Disconnect from triggering interactions or other situations that may increase anxiety. We all need a break sometimes. Maybe it’s time to take a social media break or a personal day from work to disconnect.

2. Discharge Energy. Find ways to exert energy. Exercise, a nice walk outside, journaling, yoga or meditation are great ways to discharge energy.

3. Community. Connect with people who you’ve identified as empathic, supportive, and help you process your feelings.

These are great steps toward self care. However, if you need further help don’t be afraid to ask. It’s okay to not be okay. With more research to support and normalize these realities find comfort in knowing you are not alone.