Anger as a Symptom of Depression in African American Men

While anger is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Nervous and Mental Disorders, it is often a prominent symptom of clinical depression, especially in African American men. According to Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General, “African American men who suffer from depression are far less likely to be diagnosed for depression and therefore less likely to receive treatment than Caucasian men.”

The stigma associated with counseling or psychotherapy makes the acknowledgement of depression in African American men unacceptable. Of the common symptoms associated with depression, anger is the only symptom that makes the sufferer feel strong and powerful. This is one of the reasons that the expressions of angry feelings in African American men are easier than feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, or persistent sadness.

The unfortunate consequence of the failure to appropriately address depression in African American men is the disproportionate number of person or property directed violent offences among this population. Many African American men and adolescent boys are diverted from counseling or psychotherapy for depression, to the criminal justice system with mandated anger management, intervention, or incarceration.

Anger management is not a substitute for psychiatric treatment, psychotropic medication, or psychotherapy. Therefore, all professional anger management providers should determine during the assessment if an evaluation for depression is also indicated.

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