How a Negative Self-Image Affects Depression

How a Negative Self-Image Affects Depression

Self-image, self-esteem and the ideal self are the three components of self-concept which is the broad view of one’s self. Self-image is what a person sees in herself, self-esteem is the extent to which a person values herself and the ideal self is what a person would like to be. All three components have a correlation to depression and are essentially interwoven with one another.

How Self-Image and Depression Are Linked

A negative self-image is very prevalent among people struggling with depressive symptoms. The renowned psychologist Aaron Beck created the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), which is a 21-question multiple-choice survey used to measure the level of severity in which a person is suffering from depression. BDI is broken into four categories including non-depressed, mildly, moderately, and severely depressed. BDI is widely used among health care professionals for help in determining the severity of a patient’s struggle with depression. A study conducted using the BDI method found a direct correlation between self-image and depression with the following results:

  • 12 percent of non-depressed people reported a negative self-image
  • 33 percent of mildly depressed people reported a negative self-image
  • 50 percent of moderately depressed people reported a negative self-image
  • 66 percent of severely depressed people reported a negative self-image

The study suggests that the more severe the depression is the more likely the person is to be struggling with negative self-image. Having a negative self-image along with depressive symptoms can create a viscous cycle of helplessness and hopelessness. People with a negative self-image are more likely to be depressed, and when they are depressed they are less likely to be motivated to work at changing their appearance. In many cases, the negative self-image can be extremely distorted and simply unrealistic. A major concern for people already struggling with severe depression who develop a negative self-image is the rise of unhealthy eating habits and suicidal thoughts. People often seek to offset a negative self-image by developing an eating disorder such as anorexia, which can be detrimental to personal health. Negative self-image can also correlate with self-worth and thus introduce suicidal thoughts to a person already struggling with depression. Negative self-image and depression often correlate in many other ways including the following:

  • Widely present among adolescents and college students due to social perceptions
  • Women tend to have higher levels of negative self-image and depression while men tend to have higher levels of low self-esteem and depression
  • A person’s self-perception of her appearance often has a greater correlation to depression than another person’s objective perception of her appearance
  • Substance abuse and addiction often develop as a coping mechanism to alleviate the symptoms of negative self-image and depression

Many people struggling with depression and negative self-image believe that their appearance is connected to how other people judge their success and worth in life. Negative self-image and depression are thus greatly affected by the perception of how others view them. The likelihood of substance abuse and addiction are also increased with the addition of a negative self-image alongside an existing case of depression.

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