Photo courtesy of Hispanicize

There’s often a repeated phrase that gets stuck to those of us who grew up in a multi-generational Latine household. We don’t understand it at the time, but we hear it enough to know it’ll make sense one day. I mean, why else would your parents and grandparents keep saying it? 

One of those infamous signature phrases is “sufriendo de los nervios,” commonly used when facing something that’s causing them, well, nerves. But let’s take a deeper look into the phrase. In English, it translates to “suffering from nerves.”

Growing up with parents that didn’t really think of anxiety and depression as a clinical issue (as many of you may have experienced first-hand), it’s interesting to see how much this phrase was bounced around. Were they really experiencing anxiety without recognizing the exact symptoms of it? 

The American Psychological Association describes anxiety as: “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

It further states, “People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat.”

Could it be that all this time, our elders were experiencing some form of anxiety that could’ve been eased if it had been correctly diagnosed?

Now, it’s a lot to unpack. 

In many cases, it could’ve easily been just a phrase for them to describe an unfortunate situation or a fleeting emotion of light nerves. For all we know, it wasn’t a big deal to them at all. But to describe a situation’s result in causing “nerve suffrage,” seems pretty explicit, or am I overthinking it?

It’s tough to pinpoint what our elders truly meant by these phrases. But when dissecting their commonly used dialogue, it’s hard not to think of their generation’s stigma towards mental illnesses. For instance, we’re much more open now when conversing about mental health and how to get help. 

Now, we see more “La rosa de Guadalupe” episodes, for example, that mention these issues. While that type of dramatized and conservative show takes matters to the next level, the fact that it touches upon essential subjects relating to mental health is a step forward to open dialogue in traditional households.

Whether or not our elders meant more than meets the eye (or ear) with the “sufriendo de los nervios” phrase, what’s clear is that our Latine community knows how to execute emotion through words. But aren’t we Latinos known to be a little dramatic?