Girls’ Self-Evaluations Influence Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are both linked to low levels of self-esteem. Research has shown that low levels of self-esteem predict depressive symptoms and social anxiety in adolescents. But until recently, the differing effects of implicit and explicit self-esteem have not been explored. Peter J. de Jong of the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands recently led a study to determine how intentional self-evaluation (explicit self-esteem) and recalled evaluation (implicit self-esteem) influence the development of anxiety and depression in teens. Additionally, de Jong looked at self-esteem and the impact it had on the common occurrence of co-morbidity of these two problems.

De Jong evaluated over 1,800 teenagers with an average age of 13 and assessed them for levels of implicit and explicit self-esteem and symptoms of anxiety, social phobia, and depression. De Jong found that the teens with low explicit self-esteem were more likely to experience social phobia and symptoms of depression than those with high levels of explicit self-esteem. This was especially evident in the girls. Additionally, de Jong found that as implicit self-esteem decreased in the girls, their explicit self-esteem also decreased, which increased their symptoms of social phobia and anxiety.

The findings suggest that girls who have high levels of explicit self-esteem may be able to overcome negative implicit self-evaluations more readily, thus protecting them from feelings of anxiety or depression. Girls who cannot manage their negative self-evaluations may feel more apprehensive and fearful when they are in social settings, causing them to experience more extreme symptoms of anxiety. De Jong theorized that the relationship between implicit self-esteem and anxiety and depression might be stronger in the girls because females tend to be more aware than boys of their feelings and intuition. Although implicit self-esteem did not affect symptoms of depression, de Jong believes it should still be considered when evaluating the comorbidity of both illnesses in teens. De Jong said the findings suggest that shared and differential self-evaluation may be involved in depression and social anxiety.

De Jong, P. J., B. E. Sportel, E. De Hullu, M. H. Nauta. (2012.) Co-occurrence of Social Anxiety and Depression Symptoms in Adolescence: Differential Links with Implicit and Explicit Self-esteem? Psychological Medicine 42.3: 475-484. Print.

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  • Janna R

    Janna R

    March 8th, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    All of us are heavily influenced by our self esteem and the things that we think about ourselves. When we feel good about our bodies then I think that automatically we feel less anxious and better about presenting ourselves. And when we have those bad days, then you know how that influences us. Make those feelings cumulative, and we have a multitude of days where we don’t like the way we look and then there is where the depression begins to set in. Teens are particularly vulnerable to this kind of self criticism.

  • Ryan


    March 8th, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    You always read about how this stuff affects girls but never boys. Boys have these kinds of issues too, they might not be as willing to talk about them but they are there.

  • Jon


    March 9th, 2012 at 5:50 AM

    what’s more important- what they think about their own selves or what they think other peers think about them, or do those two things go hand in hand?

  • maddie


    March 9th, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Over the years I have watched my own teens go through this very thing, becoming so depressed about their bodies and feeling like they are not meeting society norms for what is thin and beautiful. But as parents we kind of have to keep on keeping on, boosting their self esteem any time we have a chance and just being there for us when they need us. This is definitely not the time to simply sit by and watch this happen.

  • PaulineK


    March 10th, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Girls are plain out so hard on themselves and each other! They are their own worst critics and their own worst enemies! It didn’t used to be this way, I had friends who were like sisters to me growing up but I think that we have kind of lost that. Now they are more interested in one upping each other than taking care of each other.

  • Natalie


    March 10th, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    I’m not sure I understand the meaning of explicit self-esteem and implicit self-esteem. But it’s a rare person who can have high self-esteem (explicit self-esteem?) when others think poorly of them (implicit self-esteem?). I think it’s pretty obvious that they would be connected. I would like more studies done on what CAUSES the difference in self-esteem.

  • Joanie


    March 11th, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    The crazy thing is that girls can turn on one another so quickly, and it is amazing how the things that you think others see in you are about you have so much CRAZY influence over how you feel about yourself!

    Self esteem has to be nourished to be strong, but it can be brought tumbling down as quick as a wink, even by someone who would generally not mean that much to you.

  • nikki


    March 11th, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    it always about being the ‘best’ in your friends circle and even than your sibling,isnt it?there is hardly any young girls who do not feel this ‘competition’ now and younger and younger girls are into this unhealthy ‘competition’ now.

    this creates a sort of feeling low about themselves because,well you know, nobody can be the ‘best’.added to that are the models and actresses who always seem to be growing younger and not older and we dont really have to wonder why this is happening with young girls now!

  • Jonah


    March 12th, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    And like it or not teachers have got to get involved!

    They are the ones who see this kind of stuff first hand at school, where a lot of this starts, and you have to be right on it to stop it in its tracks.

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