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How Low Self-esteem Can Cause Depression?

Dr. Hira Tanveer

2 min read

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We all have times when we don’t feel good about ourselves, or feel a lack of confidence. But when we continuously feel low about ourselves that’s when it can have a harmful effect on our mental health. In fact, clinical psychiatrists and psychologists consider low self-esteem a symptom of psychiatric conditions. So how does low self-esteem play a role in emotional health exactly? Read on to find out:

What is low self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the name for the feelings or opinions that we have of ourselves. When we have healthy self-esteem, we feel positive about life and have a better outlook. Moreover, healthy self-esteem enables us to deal better with life’s ups and downs. 

On the other hand, when we feel low about ourselves, we have a more critical approach towards life and have a negative outlook. Furthermore, this type of thinking makes us less able to deal with the challenges life throws our way.  

What causes low self-esteem?

Having low self-esteem is not an overnight process. Rather, this type of mindset and thinking begins in childhood with the behaviour of one’s peers, siblings, teachers, and parents. Even the messages media sends us can have a major impact on our self-esteem. 

Other reasons that can impact self-esteem include difficulty in living up to other people’s expectations. Moreover, stressful life events such as serious illnesses or bereavements can also leave a negative impact on self-esteem. 

Some people have low self-esteem simply because they are more prone to negative thinking or set impossibly high standards for themselves. 

What is the relation between low self-esteem and depression?

Over the past decade, many scientists have done the research to establish the relation between low self-esteem and depression. One of these researches was a meta-analysis, by Sowislo and Orth, an important analysis. There are two models of depression: the first is the vulnerability model—predicting that people who have low self-esteem are at risk for depression; the other is scar model—whereby depression is thought to be the cause of low self-esteem. 

In the vulnerability model, it is more likely that low self-esteem will cause you to take life events as negative. Low self-esteem will cause you to twist your interpretation such that it will endorse an unfavourable sense of self. 

In the scar model, the approach to understanding low self-esteem is depression. This model believes that when you are feeling depressed, this sad feeling will eventually wear away at your self-esteem and cause ‘cuts’ that don’t heal easily. 

The meta-analysis by Sowislo and Orth, included about 53 studies, with over 77 samples. The people in the studies were from all walks of life, and ranging in age from childhood to later life. These people were studied over time, and then the conclusion was put forward.

The studies were published between the years 1984 and 2010. These particulars and the impressive data that the authors analysed aided in strengthening the validity of the study’s conclusions. 

The findings of this meta-analysis almost all strongly supported the vulnerability model of depression and self-esteem. This means that people with low self-esteem are more likely than others to get clinical depression later in life. The effect of low self-esteem was evident in both genders, and both are likely to fall into depression. Over time, this is an important risk factor for depression. 

How to have healthy self-esteem?

Healthy self-esteem starts with self-analysis. You need to analyse your own behaviour to see if you, yourself are initiating negative thoughts about yourself. For instance, you may tell yourself that you are ‘too stupid’ for a job or that ‘nobody cares about what you think’. 

Start to note these negative thoughts and write them down in a diary. Then ask yourself what started these negative thought patterns and beliefs in the first place. The next step is to challenge these negative thoughts and change them with evidence into positive thoughts.

For instance, if you are good at something, mention it in your diary, and give yourself positive reinforcement; it could be anything like: ‘I am a great cook’, ‘I am thoughtful and generous’ etc. If there is a positive thing about yourself someone else said, then write that too. 

The aim everyday should be to write at least 5 things on the list. Review this list everyday and remind yourself that you are a great person. The idea is to develop a new way that you see yourself. 

It is equally important to build positive relationships with other people. If there are people in your circle who bring you down, then maybe it’s time to spend less time with them. Seek out people who are good to you, and who appreciate you. 

Psychological therapies like counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also be helpful. If you need professional help in doing so then book an appointment with top psychologists in Rawalpindi through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Hira Tanveer - Author Dr. Hira Tanveer is an MBBS doctor and currently serving at CMH Lahore. Writing is her favourite hobby as she loves to share professional advice on trendy healthcare issues, general well-being, healthy diet, and lifestyle.
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