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Mental Health Symptoms in AAPI Community

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Mental health symptoms can present in different ways for Asian Americans, including through the body. For example, children, who have anxiety, have been known to complain about stomach aches or headaches since they do not or may not have the words for anxiety.

Below is a list of common mental health symptoms prevalent in Asian Americans:

  • Depression/Grief

    • Lack of motivation/not caring about things

    • Fatigue

    • Trouble getting out of bed

    • Irritation/anger/aggression

    • Appetite changes

    • Isolation

    • Crying

    • Numbing out

    • Decline in self-care

    • Suicidality

  • Anxiety

    • Body aches (e.g., stomach and head) and muscle tension

    • Perfectionism

    • Worrying and/or ruminating thoughts

    • Control issues

    • Difficulty relaxing

    • Panic attacks

  • Trauma

    • Disconnecting from body, emotions, environment, present moment, etc.

    • Avoidance

    • Nightmares/flashbacks

    • Unwanted memories

  • Burnout

  • Sleep Issues

    • Non-restorative (e.g. nightmares)

    • Difficulty falling asleep

    • Waking up often

  • Body Image Issues

  • Self-Harm

    • Addiction

    • Cutting/burning

  • Mental Health Stigma

    • Thinking things have to get “really bad” before seeking help

    • Not asking for help

    • Gaslighting/invalidating yourself

    • Labeling self or others as “crazy”

Given all the symptoms the AAPI community has to deal with, it makes sense we come up with creative tools or skills to cope. These skills are often what we have seen others use (like our parents) or find around us since mental health is not often spoken about in Asian cultures. Therefore, the skills we learned are/can be unhealthy ones.

The following are some coping skills our clients are unlearning:

  • Denying, ignoring, suppressing feelings/emotions

  • Somatizing (i.e., mental health symptoms turning physical, such as body aches)

  • Substance use/Addiction

  • Retail therapy

  • Sleeping

  • Isolation

  • Numbing (e.g., watching shows or gaming on auto-pilot)

  • Suicidality

  • Self-harm

  • Emotional eating

  • Procrastination

  • Seeking temporary fulfillment/validation in relationships/work

  • Control issues

  • Perfectionism (including overachieving, overworking, overscheduling/overcommitting)

It’s never too late to seek help. Sometimes, your brain/body needs space and time to process your experience, so it is important to listen to what you want/need. It is normal to reach out for help later on since we are more able to take inventory of what has happened to make us who we are today and reflect on how we want to live our lives moving forward.

If our blog resonated with you, know you are not alone, and you do not need to suffer alone. In addition to spreading mental health awareness, we want to normalize the mental health experiences of many AAPI individuals. While historically Asian Americans are less likely to seek therapy, more Asian Americans are seeking therapy now more than ever!

If you are interested in connecting with our Asian American therapists, feel free to contact us here for our mental health services.

Written and Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D. and Susanna La, Ph.D.

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