This is a tricky question to answer. It is believed that someone with low self-esteem is more vulnerable to depression. Meanwhile, having depression can dramatically decrease one’s self-esteem. So, which one comes first? There is no definitive answer but the most recent research suggests that, more often than not, self-esteem can bring on depression.
Unfortunately, low self-esteem is increasingly common. This not only puts more people at risk of depression. It also allows low self-esteem to be overlooked as a root cause of depression. More than merely a co-existing characteristic, low self-esteem can exponentially increase the likelihood that you struggle with a major depressive disorder.
Feeding Off Each Other
Depression is a mood disorder. Self-esteem relates to our beliefs about ourselves and our self-worth. In other words, you’re probably not feeling great about your life if you feel worthless. Meanwhile, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are documented signs that depression is developing. Depression and low self-esteem feed off each other but, again, recent research points to low self-esteem as more of the cause in a cause-and-effect situation.
Some Factors to Consider
- A study of adolescents found that those with low self-esteem were four times more likely to display depressive symptoms than students with healthy self-esteem.
- Low self-esteem frequently increases feelings of guilt — another precursor of depression. If this leads to depressed feelings, it almost always results in even more guilt.
- When struggling with low self-esteem, you may expect the worst and default to a worst-case-scenario mindset. This shifts how you see yourself and a negative self-perception can lay the groundwork for depression.
What is possibly happening here is called cognitive distortion. Something doesn’t go your way. This can result in generalized perceptions like “I always mess up. What do I even try?” Such distorted thinking kicks off a cycle of similar thoughts. If left unchecked, it can leave one deeply depressed.
Improving Self-Esteem When You Have Depression
Even if you have been diagnosed with depression, there are steps you can take to improve your self-esteem. This may include:
Start Each Day on a Positive Foot
Set up your personal environment so you are greeted with positive images upon waking. Prepare food that makes you feel energized. Avoid grabbing your phone until you feel ready to deal with all the potential drama you’ll find.
Taking care of yourself on a daily basis has multiple benefits. Besides improving your overall well-being, it is a powerful reminder that you deserve such self-loving attention and treatment. Safeguard your sleeping, eating, physical activity, and stress management choices.
Fact-Check Your Inner Critic
Your inner voice may say something mean about you. But who says it’s true? When this happens, stop and investigate. Is there evidence the negative thought is true? If not, where did it come from? Get into the habit of identifying thoughts as sensations that may how no connection to reality.
Avoid Seeking the Approval of Others
Catch yourself when you do something solely for the positive feedback of others. Sure, we care about the opinions of loved ones but social media can leave us chasing likes from total strangers (or even bots).
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Remind yourself — all day long — what you’re grateful for and what you like about yourself. This journal will be invaluable during depressive episodes. It’s a reminder that you are much more than any disorder or mood. Also, a journal like this can be very useful during therapy sessions.
Help is Available
You are not alone. When struggling with low self-esteem, depression, or both, therapy is always a healing option. I urge you to reach out to learn more. Let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation soon for therapy for low-self esteem.