How Depression Fuels Low Self-Esteem

January 23, 2019 Sam Woolfe

The vicious cycle of depression and low self-esteem is experienced by many people. Here's how the one fuels the other, and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Depression and low self-esteem often go hand in hand. When you constantly beat yourself up, this can make you vulnerable to depression. Having an extremely low opinion of yourself can lead to depressive symptoms such as persistent sadness, guilt, hopelessness, and lack of motivation. A vicious cycle can then ensue. The symptoms of depression can lead to even lower self-esteem. This makes the depression worse.

Depression can fuel low self-esteem in a variety of ways. Here are two common reasons why it happens.

1. Depression Makes You Feel Broken

Depression lowers self-esteem because depression can often make you feel broken. This may especially be true during severe depressive episodes when it’s difficult to get out of bed, you’re crying for no reason, and you constantly feel like giving up on life. When you’re depressed, you lose the full range of human emotion. There is no bright side. It can also feel like your sense of self has vanished, leaving a tired shell of a person, fluctuating between numbness and pain.

These experiences can worsen self-esteem by convincing you that there is something fundamentally ‘wrong’ with you. You may come to believe you are defective, not made for this world, not deserving of self-respect. This feeling of being broken tends to fan the flames of self-criticism and self-judgment.

2. Depression and Guilt

Depression and guilt are unfortunate bedfellows. When you are depressed, you may find it exhausting to do anything. This includes all aspects of a normal functioning life: work, socialising, maintaining relationships, having hobbies, pursuing personal ambitions and goals, and generally sticking to a positive routine and lifestyle. Depression zaps your motivation and energy, as well as your ability to concentrate and experience pleasure in life.

As you struggle to function as you did without depression, you may feel intense guilt. You come to believe that every time you struggle to do something ‘normal’, or fail to do something you planned to do, that you have done something seriously wrong. The guilt involved here can lead you to believe you are worthless, pathetic, lazy, incapable, and unlovable. And it is these sorts of opinions – when repeated in your head – that contribute to low self-esteem.

Being Mindful of Depression and Low Self-Esteem

You can work on severing the ties between depression and low self-esteem by recognizing that depression is something happening to you, rather than something that defines you. When depression makes it hard to function, that’s not because you inherently can’t function. However, depression is not a rational illness. It will tell many lies about you. If you can take a step back and realise when the depression is talking or flaring up, then you will be able to see that your struggles aren’t your fault. Separating the depression from yourself can help you to show more understanding of this painful and disruptive condition.

It’s important to notice when depression arises, so that you can stop the vicious cycle of depression and low self-esteem in its tracks. If you struggle with depression and low self-esteem, you’ll notice that working on the latter will help to alleviate the former.

APA Reference
Woolfe, S. (2019, January 23). How Depression Fuels Low Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 30 from

Author: Sam Woolfe

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