Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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It is normal to experience low self-esteem from time to time. For example, our self-esteem may take a hit if someone makes a rude comment to us. However, it is not normal to feel low self-esteem all of the time. This can wreak havoc on your mental and physical well-being.
On this page we will try to understand what risks people face when they suffer from low self esteem, and how big a problem this is. There are many steps you can take to improve your level of self-esteem and confidence and we will also take a look at those. So, if you are suffering from a lack of confidence please be sure to read this page carefully and learn what you can do to help yourself overcome this problem.
The risks of low self esteem include both mental and physical health risks. Self-esteem can cause negative thinking which in turn can cause depression, anxiety, eating disorders and unhealthy behaviours and habits.
How Common is Low Self Esteem?
According to Mind (2019), low self esteem can change very quickly and can be caused by abuse, unemployment, academic problems, stress, or health issues both mental and physical.
Some of the above factors such as stress, problems while studying or health issues can affect many people. So, low self esteem is quite common. How common?
Joe Rubino, in his Self Esteem Book, claims 85% of us experience low self esteem. other studies seem to suggest it is quite common and particularly in certain groups such as adolescent girls and boys. This research by Dove found that 60% of girls between 15 and 17 feel bad about their appearance, and stop doing certain activities because of how they feel about themselves. The Stage of Life Survey found that approximately 46% of teenagers completing their survey admitted to experiencing low self esteem on an ongoing basis. This study found that between the ages of 12 and 16 low self esteem rates increase from about 15 to 25% and overall, 17% of the boys compared to 23% of the girls tested low for self-esteem.
What Are The Risks of Low Self Esteem?
Let’s take a look now at some of the dangers and main problems that can arise from low self-esteem and how these can affect you. In this section, we’ll cover effects such as depression, anxiety, drug addiction and loneliness.
You Are More Likely to Develop Anxiety and Depression if You Suffer From Low Self Esteem
One major risk of low self esteem is depression, which can be life-threatening.
According to this study, depression is connected directly to low self esteem. This was also confirmed by this evaluation of 77 studies of depression and 7 of anxiety. Low self-esteem can cause you to constantly feel like you are not good enough. Dwelling on negative thoughts like these can cause you to develop anxiety and depression.
If you would like more information about the risks and dangers of depression, or help understanding it, then visit my site about depression.
Important: Raising your self-esteem can certainly help if you suffer from depression, but seek help if you need to because you support from a professional makes all the difference.
Self-Esteem Issues Can Cause Drug and Alcohol Addiction
According to Skager and Kirst (1989), there is a link between low self-esteem and drug/ alcohol addiction. Many accept that this link is real but more research needs to be done to confirm this. You may turn to addictive substances to make you feel better about yourself. However, this good feeling will go away once the temporary effects of drugs and alcohol wear off. Seeking drug treatment center options may be the only solution once an addiction problem develops.
Children of alcoholic parents also tend to suffer from low self esteem (Skager and Kirst, 1989). so, if this is a problem for you and you are a parent, please seek help.
According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Health (2007), not only can low self esteem play a part in causing drug abuse, it can also cause social issues and criminal behaviour. Therefore, the risks of self esteem are quite damaging to society and to the individual. The Encyclopedia of mental health also states that depression is a leading cause of drug and alcohol abuse. As explained in the previous section depression can be a result of low self esteem, and is a huge risk both to the individual and to society as a whole.
Unfortunately, addiction can rob a person of everything. From their families and personal relationships to their jobs and sense of security, everything is stripped away until there’s nothing left. Likely one of the most important things that an addict gets robbed of, however, is their self-esteem, confidence, and sense of worth.
When you’ve become so attached to a substance that you will do just about anything to get it, it can put you in a very vulnerable place causing you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. You feel ashamed and, therefore, isolate yourself in guilt. Despite attending drug rehab centers in Utah or wherever you attended, and learning skills to turn things around, your apprehension about reality can cause you to lose your confidence.
Why Confidence Matters to Your Sobriety
Having low self-esteem and abusing drugs or alcohol tend to go hand and hand. When you don’t think much of yourself, often you will use to try and cover up those emotions. Now that you’ve gone through addiction recovery, however, it is imperative that you have high confidence in yourself. When you’re confident in who you are and your ability to succeed at sobriety you are more inclined to work the skills, tools, and resources provided to you in rehab to find a new and positive normal.
The Risk of Low Self Esteem Developing Other Unhealthy Habits
So far we have looked at drug abuse, alcohol addiction and potential criminal behaviour. There are also other risks to the health of low self esteem sufferers. These can manifest as unhealthy habits such as eating disorders especially in women, promiscuity, and negative thinking.
If you are unhappy with the way that you look, then you may go to the extreme to change it. Low self-esteem is one of the possible causes of an eating disorder. You may develop anorexia or bulimia. Anorexia is a condition where a person severely restricts their food intake in order to avoid weight gain. They may also throw up or take diet pills to lose weight.
Bulimia is a condition where a person eats large amounts of food and then vomits, fasts or takes diet pills to get rid of what they have eaten. Additionally, you may also spend hours of your day at the gym and exercise excessively. This can lead to fatigue, injury, and poor health.
One reason low self-esteem might be connected with promiscuity is that self worth and self value are so low that a person says yes to others desires and wishes and refuses to say no. They also may seek to pleasure others as a way to become more loved. There are, of course, many risks associated with such promiscuous behaviour and the chance of being taken advantage of or abused by others increases.
This series of studies shows that there is a strong connection between low self esteem and negative thinking. The risk of negative thinking is that it may develop into depression, may lead to withdrawal from social interaction and can affect self-confidence, and therefore, personal and professional achievement can suffer.
Withdrawal From Family Members and Friends, Causing Isolation and Loneliness
If you do not feel good about yourself, then you may not want to be around other people. You may even withdraw from your family members and friends. You may also find yourself losing interest in the hobbies that you once enjoyed. Additionally, you may find yourself getting angry with people easily.
The greatest risk of the above problems is that these feelings of anger, frustration and loneliness may turn inward which can result in very negative behaviour. This inner anger, in particular, can turn into self-hate or depression with the risk of self harm or even suicide a real possibility. The best solution is to seek help and support to manage and overcome these problems. A professional can really help in this situation.
According to Bednar (2000), lack of confidence in one’s social skills can lead to withdrawal and isolation. Bednar also explains that those with low self esteem may believe they are lacking social skills, but this is actually based on a negative evaluation of oneself. Engaging in less social interaction because of this can increase feelings of loneliness.
How to Improve Your Self-Esteem
There are a number of things you can do to improve your self esteem so that the risks of anxiety, depression, negative thinking or eating disorders are reduced. Here are some suggestions, but for more details visit this page about words for building self esteem.
- Avoid Negative Self Talk – encourage yourself to take positive steps to build up your confidence and sense of self-worth. Resist the urge to talk negatively about yourself.
- Do not spend a lot of time obsessing over things that you do not like about yourself. Spend your time dwelling on your positive attributes, rather than engaging in self hate.
- Practice daily gratitude and learn to be thankful for the things that are right in your life. Believe me, there are many!
- Go try self-hypnosis, it’s a powerful technique you can use today to start helping yourself. Find out here about the best downloadable self hypnosis audios that can change your thinking, your behaviour and your life!
- Alavi H. R. (2011). The Role of Self-esteem in Tendency towards Drugs, Theft and Prostitution. Addiction & health, 3(3-4), 119–124.
- Battle, J. (1978). Relationship between self-esteem and depression. Psychological Reports, 42(3), 745-746.
- Bednar ’00, Kiley L., “Loneliness and Self-Esteem at Different Levels of the Self” (2000). Honors Projects. 20. https://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/psych_honproj/20
- “Brands in Action: Dove.” Unilever USA. Accessed December 12, 2020. http://www.unileverusa.com/brands-in-action/detail/Dove-/298217/
- Kahn AP, Fawcett J. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Mental Health (Facts on File Library of Health & Living). 3th. New York, NY: Facts on File.
- Mind. 2019. Self-Esteem. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-esteem/about-self-esteem/
- McClure, A. C., Tanski, S. E., Kingsbury, J., Gerrard, M., & Sargent, J. D. (2010). Characteristics associated with low self-esteem among US adolescents. Academic pediatrics, 10(4), 238-244.
- Rubino, J. (2006). The self-esteem book: The ultimate guide to boost the most underrated ingredient for success and happiness in life.
- Skager, R., & Kerst, E. (1989). Alcohol and drug use and self-esteem: A psychological perspective. In The social importance of self-esteem, 10(5), 248-293.
- Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 213–240. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028931
- Stage of Life. (2015). Teen Trend Report. https://www.stageoflife.com/StageHighSchool/TeensandSelfWorth.aspx
- Verplanken, B. (2006). Beyond frequency: Habit as mental construct. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45(3), 639-656.
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.