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What Is the Connection between Low Self-Esteem and Anxiety?

Low self-esteem and anxiety are often considered linked issues or problems that feed off one another. A person's ability to view themselves objectively and fairly may be directly related to how he or she handles stress, risk, and other anxiety-causing situations. Some medical experts and individuals struggling with low self-esteem and anxiety suggest that the relationship can flow both ways: a person with high anxiety levels may be more likely to develop self-esteem problems.

Self-esteem refers to how a person views him or herself. A person with healthy self-esteem can see their strengths and weaknesses with relative accuracy, as compared to an outside observer. By contrast, low self-esteem is characterized by a tendency or pattern of undervaluing the self, focusing on personal weaknesses and failures, and being unable to construct an objective self-image.

Anxiety is a condition that causes feelings of worrying, nervousness, or fear. It can be mild and disquieting, or in some people may be a debilitating condition that prevents normal activities. It can be caused by many factors, such as an important upcoming event or a test, but can also be related to long-term concerns, such as health, career goals, personal relationships, or money. The primary connection between low self-esteem and anxiety occurs when an existing poor self-image increases the amount or severity of anxiety in a person's life.

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Quite naturally, a person who is unable to see him or herself with healthy accuracy may be exposed to greater causes for anxiety. If a person has an upcoming test, for instance, poor self-esteem may make him or her feel as though they will never perform well, no matter how hard they study. Low self-esteem can make a person feel destined to miss opportunities or perform badly. Even more damaging, a poor self-image can increase long-term worries, as a person may see nothing in the future but a repeating chain of failures and mistakes.

In some cases, it is also possible for people with significant anxiety issues to develop low self-esteem. A person who has great anxiety over a common behavior, such as flying in airplanes, may begin to feel as if his or her fear is a sign of weakness or cowardice. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of isolation from other feelings, and may create a pattern of assuming that anxiety makes him or her “worse” than others.

Getting treatment for both low self-esteem and anxiety can help some people manage these conditions. Many therapists are able to recommend behavioral changes, reading material, and different types of therapeutic treatment that can help patients develop a healthier self-image, as well as coping strategies for anxiety. While a person who has suffered with interacting low self-esteem and anxiety may have difficulty fully overcoming these conditions, seeking psychological help can be a good first step to finding light at the end of the tunnel.

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