How often have you been in a grooup and noticed that no one in the group has similar backgrounds or physical characteristic than you? How did that feel. Have you ever felt excluded, isolated or uncomfortable? Were you ever the target of verbal or physical attacks because of your race? Maybe there have been times that you have questioned your own perceptions about racial undertones. You may suffer from racial trauma. Symptoms can be triggered by personal experiences or by viewing violent videos or news stories about people from similar racial backgrounds. The experiences may be subtle exposures over time or one instance where you felt vulnerable or that your life was in danger.
Common reactions to racial trauma are:
- Avoidance (hesitant to take social or professional risks due to fears of exclusion, harassment, or physical harm).
- Hopelessness/ helplessness
- Hyperarousal (staying on guard, unable to relax, defensive, tense)
- Physical reactions such as headaches, chest pains, and insomnia.
- Problems with identity and self-esteem (embarrassed about racial characteristics, feelings of humiliation,
- These symptoms are often present in people who have been victims of hate crimes or discrimination. Similiar to PTSD, and depression these reactions are specific to negative experiences related to race. These are normal but often painful responses to perceived discrimination or oppression.
Racial Trauma is not considered a mental health disorder but it is a mental injury that can effect one’s quality of life, sense of safety or self-worth.
Frequently those perceptions , experiences and reactions are invalidated by others. Therapy can help you to share honestly in a confidential setting without feeling that you experiences will be dismissed. You can identify triggers, raise your awareness, and identify restorative strategies to alleviate your suffering.
If you would like to discuss your thoughts and feelings honestly with an affirming therapist please contact me.