Stress, Depression, & Trauma and Self-Esteem

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Some stressful situations can affect our self-esteem, which then affects how we respond to and deal with stress. According to a study conducted by Galanakis et al. (2016), toxic stress or trauma can worsen the symptoms of almost all physical and emotional disorders.

“Trauma is a reaction to an experience that results in the victim/survivor to feel helpless and vulnerable, with a loss of control and safety.” –Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative

“People of color can also experience racial trauma from forms of discrimination and systemic inequities. Weathering the cumulative effects of living in a society characterized by white dominance and privilege produces a kind of physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments.” Dr. Ebony McGee Vanderbilt University

In addition, people who experience abuse, neglect, or life-events that leave them feeling unsafe, including those who are discriminated against based on their heritage and culture, neurodivergence, learning and physical differences, or gender and sexuality are also vulnerable to trauma reactions. If you suffer from depression, mood disorders, trauma, or other illnesses associated with poor self-esteem, you may experience more stress and find it more difficult to handle the daily pressures of life. Here are some factors to consider.

  • The size and strength of your social support network — friends, family, etc, has a big effect on how you experience and deal with stress. Individuals who have a strong social support network experience less stress than their more isolated friends. People with low self-esteem and low self-acceptance sometimes lack social support from friends, family, teachers etc., and this has been linked with higher levels of stress.
  • Physical and emotional fitness can also affect how we deal with stress. If we are physically and emotionally fit, dealing with stress becomes a lot simpler.
  • Often, poor self-esteem means that we are emotionally unprepared to deal with the inevitable difficulties of everyday life, and this increases our feeling of being under stress.
  • The frequency and intensity of stress will also impact our reaction to it. If we have time and space to recover and feel safe, we can manage our stressors better.
  • People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often battle with poor self-esteem. They may lack self-esteem or believe they are worthless. This can have long-term consequences.

To learn more about mood disorders, depression, or dealing with trauma, visit BLOOM’s Mental Illness section of the hub.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.