By: Paul LipskyA self esteem institute has said that depression is worse than narcissism in many cases and that there is no safe alternative.
A report published by the Institute of Psychiatry and the National Institute of Mental Health said that “the self-esteem system is vulnerable to the influence of negative influences”.
The institute said that its findings are consistent with previous studies that found the more self-doubt people feel, the more likely they are to develop depression.
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The report found that “a person with low self-worth was more likely to develop depressive symptoms and to have poorer outcomes than a person with high self-disgust”.
The researchers noted that “people with low levels of self-confidence are more likely than those with high levels of confidence to have depressive symptoms.”
“While this is an important finding, it does not rule out the possibility that the relationship between self-respect and depression is causal,” they said.
Dr Helen Fisher, director of the Centre for Personality and Individual Differences at the University of Edinburgh, said the report was “a big step forward”.
She said the researchers were “absolutely right to say that we need to take a more careful look at the ways that we’re working to treat depression and its links to other negative mental health issues, including self-hate”.
Dr Fisher said that the researchers also looked at the role of positive self esteem in depression.
“It’s a big deal that we find that when we’re really looking at the positive aspects of self esteem that it’s associated with,” she said.
The researchers said that it was not clear how the link between self esteem and depression was caused by depression or by a link between positive self-affirmation and depression.
However, she said that positive self self-assurance was associated with depression in the study, even though it had not been tested for depression in people.
Dr Fisher, who was not involved in the research, said that in people with low esteem for themselves, “there’s an excess of negativity”.
“The more negative things that people are thinking about themselves and their self esteem or self-pity, the greater their risk of developing depression,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“What’s really interesting is the association between low self esteem for yourself and depression, and it’s the opposite of the pattern you might expect to find.”
She said that while depression is a common condition, there was no “universal cure”.
Dr Judith Blanchard, who researches depression at the National Centre for Social Research in Melbourne, said she was surprised by the study.
“There’s a lot of data out there that suggests that depression can be quite common,” she added.
“But I think it’s important to point out that this isn’t an explanation for why depression happens, it’s an explanation of why it’s common.”
The researchers are concerned that depression and self-love could cause other problems, including a “disconnected” personality.
“I think there are lots of ways that the brain can get into the way we think about ourselves,” Dr Fisher told the Today programme, “that could be quite dangerous.”
The report said that many people have difficulties coping with negative feelings because of “their self-sabotaging behaviour, such as avoiding or minimising the impact of their distress”.
Dr Blanchar said that although it was a common mental health problem, it could be a “false sense of security” and that people who are not diagnosed with depression might “have a very distorted view of their own wellbeing”.
Dr Amy Firth, from the University Hospital of Western Sydney, said there was a “strong and healthy tendency to self-compensate”.
She added that although depression is “a very complex disease”, the report highlighted “a real concern about the self-control mechanisms that underlie it”.
“In fact, there are some things that we do know about self-defeating behaviours, like avoiding work or exercising too little,” she wrote in an email to BBC News.
“In other words, there’s a need to know more about what self-neglect really is.”
Dr Fisher also noted that while “most of the evidence about depression and depression in general is in the literature, we have yet to have any systematic research on the relationship” between self and self esteem.
“The fact that we know that self-care is important but it is also associated with a number of other outcomes in particular depression and anxiety is a real concern,” she explained.
The Institute of Psychology, a charity for mental health, has been a leading proponent of a “positive self-concept” for the past 25 years.
The foundation’s new self esteem report was released on Monday, and also called for a “cautious approach” to the “disingenuous notion” that the “psychological and physical problems of modern life are primarily