Self-esteem and depression: how are they related?

Self-esteem and depression: how are they related?

Self-esteem and depression are undoubtedly interconnected and several scientific studies explain how.

Self-esteem and depression: how are they related?

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Self-esteem and depression are inevitably connected to each other. Although there can be many factors behind a form of depression, clinical studies reveal that low self-esteem, over time, makes us very vulnerable to this condition.

Not accepting ourselves and not harboring positive feelings towards ourselves, or experiencing a lack of self-esteem and depression, leaves us without psychological resources and without energy.

When we talk about self-esteem, we refer to that set of feelings we have towards ourselves. Consequently, while self-perception involves this set of ideas and beliefs that define the mental image of who we are, self-esteem defines first of all an emotional component at the basis of human well-being.

Low self-esteem makes us feel bad about ourselves, leading to alienation, dejection and a strong vulnerability when it comes to developing various psychological disorders.

Knowing this, it cannot surprise us that psychologists and psychiatrists pay particular attention to this psychological dimension when dealing with depressive mirror disorders. 

Nonetheless, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, low self-esteem is not counted among the diagnostic criteria of depression, but dimensions such as "the feeling of worthlessness".

Researchers in the field of personality psychology, for their part, have always shown a strong interest in the relationship between self-esteem and depression. In these cases, the question to ask should be the following: “Is self-esteem a trigger for depression? Or is it rather depression that undermines self-esteem? ". Let's find out together.

Self-esteem and depression: two models to explain the correlation

Many times we get out of bed, take a shower, have breakfast, and go out without realizing we are naked. It doesn't matter what coat we wear, the brand of our jeans or the t-shirt, if we face the world every day with low self-esteem. Because from the fragile armor and thin cracks, abuse, fear, insecurity, negativity enter ...

However, it is clear that depression has several facets, without forgetting the endogenous factors that we cannot always control. However, no one can argue that a mind overwhelmed with low self-esteem results in low effectiveness when it comes to addressing or managing simpler problems. The person with low self-esteem, in fact, usually observes the world with very dark glasses.

To demonstrate the link between self-esteem and depression, we need to use scientific studies and, in particular, longitudinal research. In this way, and only recently, the University of Basel has published a very illustrative study on the subject, which can give us some answers. Let's see which ones.

The vulnerability model

According to the vulnerability model, there are people with a profile and personality characterized by low self-esteem. The subject in question will process the events by looking at them through a negative filter. This scheme also assumes the lack of resilience.

The people who respond to this profile are themselves promoters of a reality from which to defend themselves, from which to be wary and towards which always act as a victim or as a secondary actor instead of perceiving themselves as the undisputed protagonists of their own life stories, deserving of opportunities and advocates of positive changes with which to overcome negative events.

The authors of this study could note that in many cases people with low self-esteem try not to oppose, but to verify the negative self-concept, paying more attention and listening to negative comments on itself.

Self-esteem and depression are correlated in the model of vulnerability, which is useful to outline a profile lacking in resilience and with low emotional solvency.

The model of the scar

We will now analyze the opposite view. According to the aforementioned study, it was also identified that depression is the element that often gives rise to low self-esteem.. This succession of desperate, negative and stressed feelings that torment the depressed mind are directly responsible for the decline in self-esteem. 


Let's sum it up. Is the vulnerability model better than the scar model that attributes low self-esteem to depression? The American Psychological Association (APA) has clear ideas: low self-esteem is an additional risk factor when it comes to developing various psychological disorders, including depression.

In one of its publications this institution warns that self-esteem and depression are strongly correlated in cross-sectional studies and that it is essential to develop adequate prevention strategies in the adolescent population. The number of diagnoses continues to increase in this area. And what's worse, the number of suicides doesn't decrease either.

We should always keep in mind the model of vulnerability that somehow does us reminiscent of the cognitive triad model of people most at risk of depression. It should be noted that these are profiles who have a negative view of the world, with little or no confidence in the future and who perceive themselves as worthless.

These attributions, these approaches so limited and full of dark aspects lead us nowhere, much less to live a meaningful, full and hopeful life. Self-esteem and depression are certainly intertwined.

Finally, it is good to invest time and effort in our personal universe, taking care of the garden of our self-esteem, bright and beautiful in every corner and aspect.

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