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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