Depression is one of the most prevalent mental disorders, so it is a problem to take into account. There are many effects that it can have on the person suffering from this ailment, but this time we are going to focus on the patient’s self-esteem. In the following lines we will try to analyze the main ways in which depression can affect self-esteem.
The relationship between depression and self-esteem
Before immersing ourselves fully in the problem of the impact of depression on self-esteem, it is convenient to make a brief introduction in which we clarify these concepts. And it is that it would be inappropriate to delve into this question before making clear terms as important as the idea of depression itself and also self-esteem.
Depression is a psychopathology framed within mood disorders and characterized by a deep and recurring feeling of sadness and / or hopelessness . This feeling can be accompanied by many others, all of a negative nature, such as frustration, easy irritability, a state of general malaise, or a feeling of helplessness, among others. Although we will see in depth the impact of depression on self-esteem later, we must know that this diagnosis is usually characterized by a great sense of hopelessness from three different perspectives. One of them is the life of the subject who suffers it, another is about the world in general and the third of them refers to future events, which are anticipated from a pessimistic perspective.
On the other hand, focusing now on self-esteem, we can define this concept as an evaluation of the person himself in which he makes a judgment about his worth. In this sense, the person may make positive or negative judgments in a specific or recurring manner. If the subject tends to make negative self-evaluations, we consider that they have low self-esteem . If your perception of yourself is usually positive, we would be talking about high self-esteem. Simply having reviewed the definitions of these two concepts, we can anticipate that the impact of depression on self-esteem will be profound and negative, that is, depression will generate that the self-esteem of the person who suffers from it will be increasingly more low. Now it is necessary that we stop to review the processes through which this phenomenon occurs.
1. Beck’s cognitive triad
As we mentioned in the introduction, depression triggers negative ideas at three levels: about the subject itself, about the world, and about the future. This is what is known as Beck’s cognitive triad, named after Aaron T. Beck, an American psychiatrist who developed this theory in 1976, and is still valid today.
Within this triad, for the matter at hand, the element of negative perceptions of oneself is of special interest, which is a reflection of the impact of depression on self-esteem. Of the three cognitive dysfunctions that Beck exposes in his model, this is the one that explains why self-esteem experiences a decline. The subject who is suffering from major depression is in a spiral of negative thoughts that make him come to such negative judgments of himself as that he is a useless person, who is unable to achieve his goals and therefore to achieve happiness , who only has defects, who is sick, who is at a disadvantage with other people, etc. Also Read: How do I improve my self-esteem?
Of course, the other components of Beck’s triad only add to this the impact of depression on self-esteem, because to that list of negative self-evaluations that the person would be carrying out, there is added the perception that there is no hope of improvement , because everything in the world is wrong, both in the present and in the future, so the only thing that awaits him is defeat.
2. The affection of memories
There are other ways in which depression can deteriorate the patient’s self-esteem as it worsens. One of them has to do, not with the future, as we saw in Beck’s triad, but with the past. How is it possible? Through the emotional responses that the subject experiences to memories. This mechanism is the one proposed by psychologists Dahyeon Kim and K. Lira Yoon, from the University of Notre Dame, in the United States. According to these authors, another way to explore the impact of depression on self-esteem is through the bias that occurs in people with depression when analyzing negative and positive information about themselves .
What they found is that the members of the control group experienced with greater intensity the memories whose emotional content was positive , compared to those that were negative. That is to say, those memories that evoked happy moments in their life, provoked a more powerful reaction than those that, on the contrary, made them relive sad moments.
However, something different happened in the experimental group. In this case, the researchers found no significant difference between the level of intensity they experienced when thinking about happy memories and sad memories. But these psychologists wanted to go further and did a new experiment, which allows us to see even better the impact of depression on self-esteem.
In this case, they created two groups, experimental and control, with the same criteria as in the previous case. All the components were asked to try to list three memories from their biography that they considered happy and three others that they considered sad. Then, they had to answer two simple questions for each of them: how happy or sad they were in the past, when they experienced those events, and how they are in the present when they remember that moment.
3. When self-esteem is what facilitates depression
Although we are reviewing the different ways in which depression could be affecting the patient’s self-esteem, we cannot forget that these elements interact and feed back to such an extent that the mechanism can also be understood in the other direction.