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Self-esteem refers to the way we view ourselves and our self-worth, especially in regards to others or to the world at large. People with self-esteem issues often experience feelings of worthlessness that can contribute to or occur along with other mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Self-esteem is what helps us value ourselves and develop our feelings of self-respect.
Low self-esteem or self-image can exist for many reasons, including external factors like abusive or traumatic experiences including bullying at school, as well as intrinsic or internal factors like clinical depression of anxiety disorders. Understanding all the causes is the key to learning how to improve self-esteem and “short-circuit” the self-doubt and critical thoughts that accompany it.
Self-esteem is not a single state, but instead exists on a spectrum. As a result, symptoms can vary from patient to patient based on how badly their self-esteem is damaged. Some of the symptoms of low self-esteem include:
persistent negative thoughts and criticisms about oneself
feelings of shame or inadequacy
feelings of anger
social isolation and lack of interest in participating activities
feelings of hopelessness
feelings of worthlessness
Some people with low self-esteem may also exhibit signs of self-injury or self-harm and may even have suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
Many people become so used to feelings of self-loathing, they may not always recognize the behaviors that are contributing to their self-esteem issues. Therapy can help patients manage low self-esteem issue by first helping them recognize the negative thought patterns that rule their behavior, and then teaching them how to replace those negative thoughts with positive behaviors. When self-esteem issues are part of a larger mental health issue like depression, medication may also help.
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