The Link between Low Self-Esteem and Depression – Thrive can Help!

I came across this recent meta-analytic study of 77 separate studies into depression, conducted by Julia Sowislo and Ulrich Orth from the University of Basel. It is one of the largest studies of its kind and backs up what we Thrive Consultants know to be true with regards to the link between low self-esteem and depression.

This specific study was designed to find out if low self-esteem caused depression or the other way round, i.e. what came first, the chicken or egg? The two models in which they looked at were the Vulnerability model and the Scar model.

The Vulnerability model comes from the angle that if you suffer from low self-esteem, you are at higher risk of developing depression. Suffering from low self-esteem means you are more likely to see different events in your life in a more negative way, thus reinforcing your low self-esteem. This is called confirmation bias. An example of this would be looking forward to a night out with your friends. They cancel at the last minute and you are left thinking that it may have been your fault for whatever reason, they might not like you anymore, they think you’re boring, etc. This is something called ‘distorted thinking’, which is driven by low self-esteem and a need to see events/experiences that fit into your already low self-esteem. Conversely, someone who has high self-esteem would see and deal with that experience

completely differently. They would think that there were many different reasons why the friends had cancelled, due to lack of money, illness; they had to stay in and look after their husband/wife, etc. They would have perspective on the situation and certainly wouldn’t blame themselves!

The Scar model comes from a view that depression and the sufferers’ constant low moods eventually lead to a wearing down of their self-esteem. So looking at the same example of a friend cancelling at the last minute, you are likely to start questioning how ‘ like-able’ you are, which then has a negative impact on your self-esteem.

The studies that were included in this meta-analytic study were all longitudinal, meaning the results were collected over time and included male and female and different age groups.

The results of the meta-analytic study overwhelmingly support the Vulnerability model or ‘Low self-esteem comes first’. The results show that the lower the person’s self-esteem at the beginning, the higher their depression at the end when they collected the data.

Being a Thrive Consultant, this comes as no surprise to us. When we see clients consulting with depression (or any other symptom), we always work with them on their self-esteem, getting them to understand exactly what impact their self-esteem has on their symptom. We train them to take charge of their own self-esteem and build it up to a healthy level using an amazingly powerful process. By dealing with the underlying issues, which are low self-esteem, moderate or high social anxiety and an external locus of control (a feeling of being powerless in a particular area of your life), we can help the client understand themselves. We also help them to understand all about their personal ‘limiting beliefs’ and how we then only see the world through our ‘limiting belief’ tinted spectacles! This is the first and most important step to overcoming depression, having the knowledge and self-insight that Thrive gives you.

If you would like to book in for a free consultation with one of our consultants, please follow this link: Thrive Consultants. Alternatively, if you would like to order and work through the workbook, please follow this link: Thrive Workbook.

Clare Waterer

Thrive Consultant and Blogger

Clare Waterer Hypnotherapy



Reference: Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2013, Sowislo, J., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 213-240. doi:10.1037/a0028931