Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Self-Esteem

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People who struggle with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often find themselves struggling with low self-esteem. They may have poor confidence in themselves or think they are worthless. This can be a harmful symptom of GAD with long-lasting implications. The following is a brief overview of self-esteem theory and some ideas on how you can improve your opinion of yourself while living with GAD.

Self-Esteem Theory

Self-esteem theory states that we have evolved to experience social inclusion and avoidance emotionally. Essentially, it is believed that our self-esteem level is determined by how much acceptance or rejection we experience in the social world. Our self-esteem is developed due to how we view other people reacting to us. Therefore, someone who experiences a lot of acceptance will theoretically have higher self-esteem while those who experience more ​rejection, would have lower self-esteem.

The problem for most people is that they struggle to accurately read the amount of acceptance and rejection in their lives, leading people to have low self-esteem when they are actually very intelligent and loved. This can be magnified for people who have anxiety problems related to other people.​​

See What Is Really There

One quick way to change your self-esteem is to actually examine the levels of acceptance and rejection you experience. While we tend to focus on the negative, such as people who are rude to us or avoid us, we usually have more people that care for us that we easily overlook. Take a close look at the number of people in your life who care for you and then the number of those who neglect you.

Most folks will find a larger number of people that accept them than reject, which should translate into better feelings and self-esteem. However, if more people are avoiding you, take a good look at why and consider making some personal changes. Particularly if you have anxiety, your stress and worrying can be exhausting for others.

Seeking therapy and help for GAD can help manage your symptoms and improve interpersonal relationships.

Take Action

When it comes to self-esteem, many are simply trying to avoid losing rather than gaining. Therefore, many people with lower self-esteem become paralyzed with inaction. Finding the courage to branch out, make new friends, and increase the level of positive social engagement can be very impactful to your self-esteem.

This, again, can be difficult for people with GAD if there are problems meeting new people or feeling judged. Working with a therapist to make this happen can be helpful.

Focus on the Positive

People with low self-esteem tend to beat themselves up internally. Their subconscious thoughts tend to focus on self-defeat and limitations. This can be compounded for people with GAD or other anxiety issues.

Take some time during the day to remember the good things about yourself and celebrate your achievements and accomplishments.

Writing down good moments and successes can give you concrete reminders of what you are capable of during your low moments.

If you have GAD and struggle with low self-esteem, talk to your therapist. There are many treatment options, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, that can help manage low self-esteem and help you reach your full potential. 

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  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. 2015.