How is low self-esteem related to mental health?
Low self-esteem is not a recognised mental health problem, but self-esteem and mental health are closely related.
Low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems
- Negative thinking patterns associated with low self-esteem, such as assuming you will fail at things you do, can develop over time and lead to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.
- Low self-esteem can make it hard to try new things or complete tasks, such as starting a new hobby or completing a job application. This can stop you from living your life the way you want, and lead to frustration and depression over time.
Low self-esteem has severely limited my career development. It has kept me in a place of low confidence, so that I’m less willing to take on challenges at work.
• If you find certain situations difficult because of low self-esteem, you may start to avoid them and become increasingly socially isolated. This can cause feelings of anxiety and depression that can develop into mental health problems over time. (See loneliness.)
I'm my own worst enemy at times... When I feel low, I hide myself away so I don't do or say anything I regret… I just ride it out in the hope I'll feel better the next day.
• Low self-esteem can cause people to develop unhelpful behaviours as a way of coping, such as forming damaging relationships, taking drugs or drinking too much. This often causes problems in the long-term and makes life more difficult, which can then lead to mental health problems.
Mental health problems can cause low self-esteem
Some mental health problems, such as eating problems, depression and social phobia, involve developing negative thinking patterns about yourself.
- A mental health problem can make it hard to do day-to-day tasks, such as using public transport or maintaining a paid job. This can have a negative impact on the way you see yourself.
- A mental health problem could cause you to withdraw from social contact, if you are worried how other people may see you. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can then cause low self-esteem.
- Stigma and discrimination about mental health problems could mean you develop a negative opinion about yourself.
Cycle of low self-esteem and mental health problems
Low self-esteem and mental health problems can reinforce each other, creating an unhelpful cycle.
Low self-esteem contributed to my developing depression – and the depression made my self-esteem worse, as I thought that if I were a more worthwhile person, I’d be better able to cope.