How Low Self Esteem, Depression, Personality, and Anxiety are Linked.

By Alice Boyes, PhD. | Uncategorized

Low Self Esteem and Depression

In this article, I’m to going to explain the relationships between Self Esteem, Depression, Personality, and Anxiety.

Self Esteem

Self esteem has two main aspects.

1. People’s overall sense of “self worth” and

2. Their sense of their competency in specific domains. For example, you might have healthy self esteem in the domain of Work (e.g. You think you’re good at your job), but low self esteem in the area of Relationships (e.g. You’re not sure if you’re as well liked as other people. Or, you have doubts about whether you’re a good partner or friend).

If you want to test your self esteem, you’ll find instructions here – Low Self Esteem Test. This test covers the self worth aspect of self esteem.

Relationship between Low Self Esteem and Depression

Clinical Depression is a syndrome of different types of symptoms that includes 1. emotions, 2. particular types of thoughts and thinking patterns, 3. behaviours, and 4. physical aspects.

The main link between low self esteem and depression is about thoughts/thinking styles that are common to both.

Feelings of worthlessness (thinking you have have less worth than the worth you perceive other people to have) is one of the symptoms of depression (people need to have at least 5 symptoms to be classified as having Clinical Depression).

One of the thinking patterns that’s common in people who are depressed is what psychology PhDs call the “Negative Triad”.

The Negative Triad is negative thoughts about:

1. the Self (e.g. negative perceptions of yourself),
2. the World/Other People (e.g. thoughts that people are generally untrustworthy, cruel and rejecting), and
3. the Future (e.g. pessimistic thoughts about what your future holds or the future of society/the planet).

Low self esteem is most closely linked to the first part of the Negative Triad – Negative Thoughts about the Self. But, on average, people with low self esteem also tend to be more pessimistic about other people and the future.

Part of treatment for Depression is learning to overcome low self esteem thoughts (using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

Relationship between Self Esteem and Personality

The most important model of personality used by psychology PhDs is called the Five Factor Model or “Big 5”. More Information about the Big 5 and How to Test Your Personality.

The name “Big 5” refers to five dimensions that are thought to be the most important dimensions of personality. Everyone is either low, medium, or high on these dimensions. The Big Five Dimensions are:

1. Neuroticism (this is mainly about your predisposition to experience negative emotions).
2. Agreeableness
3. Conscientiousness
4. Extroversion
5. Openness to Experience.

On average, people who have low self esteem are more neurotic and more introverted (less extroverted) than people with high self esteem. Some studies also show that people with low self esteem are less agreeable (more disagreeable), less conscientious, and less open, on average, compared to people with high self esteem. The strongest association between self esteem and personality is between low self esteem and neuroticism (experiencing more negative emotions than average).

People who are:

More Neurotic
Less Agreeable
Less Extroverted
Less Conscientious, and
Less Open

tend to experience more negative emotions and fewer positive emotions.


There is also a lot of overlap between anxiety and self esteem/depression/personality.

People with low self esteem, tend to have higher than average levels of anxiety (and vice versa).

This makes sense given that people with low self esteem often expect to be judged negatively by other people. People with low self esteem also tend to expect more bad things to happen to them in general, which further “tangles up” low self esteem and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are also linked. People who have been depressed tend to have higher anxiety levels than people who have never been depressed, people’s anxiety levels tend to increase during times they’re depressed, and people who have untreated anxiety are at risk of developing depression.

In some ways, depression, anxiety, and neuroticism are very similar concepts.: all three are about negative emotions. However, one of the differences between depression and anxiety is that depression tends to be linked with both low levels of positive emotions and high negative emotions, but anxiety is mainly linked to high negative emotions.

My Top 4 Book Recommendations for People Who Have Low Self Esteem and Depression

Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts

Mind and Emotions: A Universal Treatment for Emotional Disorders (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points My book. Focused on anxiety but many of the issues it covers (such as perfectionism, rumination, avoidance coping, personalizing, fear of feedback and criticism) are relevant to low self esteem and depression as well.

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