Self Loathing and Depression
How Feelings of Self-loathing and Depression are Inextricably Linked
Everyone occasionally experiences a feeling of self-loathing, or guilt, or maybe even suffers from low self-esteem. These feelings are normal and usually fleeting. However, for some people, self-loathing and guilt become pervasive and can be indicative of a clinical bout of depression. But what is a reasonable level of self-loathing, and how can someone know if the line between guilt and clinical depression has become blurred? It’s important to understand the signs of normal self-loathing and serious depression to prevent depression from significantly impairing an individual’s day-to-day function.
What is self-loathing?
Self-loathing is a cluster of thoughts someone can have that tell them that they aren’t good enough. Self-loathing can be detailed or general. For example, a person can think that they are a terrible parent, or a bad friend or lackluster employee. Or, someone can think that they are not good enough at much of anything. Self-loathing is usually characterized by an inner voice or an internal critic. The inner critic is scolding and berating. Overall, self-loathing is a feeling of inadequacy.
What are the signs of self-loathing?
The most common symptoms of self-loathing are how a person speaks about themselves or acts in the presence of others. Routine apologizing or expressing a critical voice of oneself are indicators of self-loathing.
Are self-loathing and depression normal?
Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and low self-worth are common symptoms of depression and in that sense, would be “normal.” But depression itself is not normal but is a serious mental health condition that can significantly impair someone’s ability to function.
People often struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Self-loath on its own is not a mental health condition or abnormal. However, pervasive, generalized feelings of self-loathing, or low self-esteem can be indicators of major depressive disorder. Also, feelings of severe guilt or inadequacy can trigger an episode of depression in at-risk people.
What are the significant indicators that self-loathing is a sign of depression?
Studies indicate that people who are at-risk for depression tend to blame themselves for failure. They experience decreased levels of self-worth, and also experience hopelessness and depressed mood.
A study from the early 1990s found that there are two types of guilt. There is shame or delusional guilt that is related directly to a person’s actions. The second type is considered affective guilt and indicates a general, vague feeling of unworthiness. The study found that affective guilt was a more reliable indicator of depression than shame arising from a specific action.
What is the major difference between normal self-loathing, and depression?
Self-loathing is not a mental health condition. Severe levels of self-loathing can be an indication of depression, but the feeling of self-loathing is not a disorder. Depression, on the other hand, is a mental health condition that can impact a person’s ability to function. In serious cases, depression can lead to thoughts and attempts of suicide. Self-loathing by itself is not a reliable risk factor for suicidal ideation and attempts. A person who self-loathes may put themselves down, or have trouble setting goals and attaining them because of low self-esteem. But depression is characterized by an array of symptoms that negatively impact a person in many different ways.
- Pervasive, general feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness.
- Problems with sleeping and eating.
- Social isolation.
- Weight gain or weight loss.
- Self-harming behaviors
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Furthermore, feelings of guilt or self-loathing can be stable over many years. With depression, if symptoms continue for at least two weeks, then it is considered a psychiatric condition that needs to be treated.
How common is self-loathing and guilt in clinical depression?
About 6.7% of the adult population in the U.S will experience at least one episode of clinical depression each year. Significant feelings of guilt and vague feelings of self-loathing are common in major depressive disorder. Studies indicate that the higher the levels of guilt and worthlessness, the more at-risk an individual is for future suicide attempts.
Is there a cure for self-loathing?
Self-loathing by itself does not require medical intervention. For people who suffer from feelings of shame and low self-esteem, one-on-one therapy can be beneficial for alleviating feelings of guilt and improving confidence levels.
How can someone stop depression and feelings of extreme, pervasive self-loathing?
When self-loathing is an indicator of major depressive disorder, there are many effective methods for treating major depression. For most patients, a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective. SSRIs and SNRI medications and TMS are usually the first line of defense in treating clinical depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are adequate for treating depressed individuals. These two forms of therapy can help someone manage negative feelings, such as guilt, and learn how to cope with them in positive ways.
While medications and therapy can treat the majority of depression sufferers, anywhere from 10% to 30% of patients will present with treatment-resistant depression that doesn’t respond to medications. In these instances, deep brain stimulation techniques coupled with therapy can give these patients much-needed relief.
Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a well-known treatment method for stubborn depression. It can also be used to treat schizophrenia, psychotic depression, and bipolar depression. However, some of the side effects, such as short-term memory issues, can be problematic.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy is a safe and effective alternative for treating depression and alleviating feelings of self-loathing. TMS therapies do not have the cognition and memory side effects present in ECT. TMS is non-invasive, and patients can resume their normal activities after receiving treatment. Up to 60% of TMS patients experience immediate relief from depression symptoms after TMS therapy. TMS can be coupled with different therapies and medications for maximum success.
Although self-loathing can be a typical emotional response to certain stimuli, severe feelings of guilt and worthlessness are much more serious. If self-loathing is left unaddressed, it can turn into major clinical depression. But a combination of therapy, medication, and deep brain stimulation therapies can adequately treat depression and alleviate pervasive feelings of guilt.