African American Males Coping With Anxiety Disorder: Treatment-Seeking Behavior

Juanita Angela Whitaker, Walden University


Anxiety disorders are often associated with fear related to living in a society whose members may attach negative and degrading terms to mental health conditions. Although anxiety disorders are more prevalent among African Americans, treatment-seeking behavior rates are lower in the African American community. Cultural and social perceptions of mental health care's effectiveness and accessibility can act as barriers to treatment seeking by African American men diagnosed with anxiety disorders. A multiple case study approach was used in this qualitative study to investigate how African American men cope with the disorders and whether they hold integrated, gender-distinct beliefs about the cultural and social effects that may contribute to delays in treatment-seeking behaviors. The health belief model was used in conjunction with the theory of planned behavior as the conceptual framework for understanding the data. Purposive sampling of African American men diagnosed with anxiety disorders was used to recruit 5 study participants. In-depth interviews were conducted and recorded on a digital recorder. Results and findings from content analysis support the premise that medication nonadherence, along with the themes developed in this study––social isolation, inner nervousness, thoughts and feeling about medication, past trauma and violence, alternative ways of coping, and lack of trust in the treatment system––make a plausible argument for why African American men do not seek treatment for anxiety disorders. This study contributes to social change by informing community workers and agencies about reasons for African American men not seeking treatment, and the need for increased awareness, community outreach programs, and more universal cognitive testing of anxiety disorders for this population.