DSM-V Classification May Not Capture Depression in African Americans

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Sirry Alang PhD Assistant professor of sociology and anthropology Lehigh University

Dr. Sirry Alang

Sirry Alang PhD
Assistant professor of sociology and anthropology
Lehigh University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Discrepancies exist between how some Black populations perceive depression and how depression is conceptualized within research and clinical settings. African Americans are exposed to a lot of stress from structural racism, yet, they perceive themselves to be resilient. The context of stress from discrimination and beliefs about depression inform how they express psychological distress. Depression is thought of as a weakness that is inconsistent with notions of strength in the community. Although depression was expressed through classic depressive symptoms such as feeling hopeless, loss of sleep, and losing interests in activities, symptom like anger, agitation, and the frantic need for human interaction were considered to be indicative of depression. Anger, agitation, and the frantic need for human interaction are not consistent with how depression is defined in the latest manual for psychiatric diagnosis- the DSM-V.

 MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response:I t is impossible to effectively diagnose and treat depression among African Americans if their perspectives about depression – meanings and indicators – are not taken into account. Racism increases risks of depression and causes anger, regardless of whether that anger is also indicative of other problems. Improving Black mental health upstream calls for meaningful engagement in racial effects analysis of policies, practices, and programs. Do they improve access to resources, better housing conditions, positive educational experiences and achievements, safety, and employment opportunities among African Americans? If yes, then we know that they will reduce depression and improve the life chances of African Americans in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, and across the country.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The central contribution of this work is that there are inconsistencies between how the DSM-V defines depression and how some African Americans might express depression. Therefore, clinicians as well as researchers who design instruments to assess depression whether in clinics or population-based studies should be cognizant of this.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Sirry M. Alang. “Black folk don’t get no severe depression”: Meanings and expressions of depression in a predominantly black urban neighborhood in Midwestern United States. Social Science & Medicine, 2016; 157: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.032

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Last Updated on June 22, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD