Researchers from the University of California – Berkeley in the US have linked inflated or deflated feelings of self-worth to afflictions such as bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety and depression.
In a study of more than 600 young men and women, the team found that one’s perceived social status – or lack thereof – is at the heart of a wide range of mental illnesses.
“People prone to depression or anxiety reported feeling little sense of pride in their accomplishments and little sense of power,” said senior author Sheri Johnson, a UC psychologist.
In contrast, people at risk for mania tended to report high levels of pride and an emphasis on the pursuit of power despite interpersonal costs,’ she added.
Previous studies have established that feelings of powerlessness and helplessness weaken the immune system, making one more vulnerable to physical and mental ailments.
Conversely, an inflated sense of power is among behaviour associated with bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
Recent studies have found that people living in developed countries with the highest levels of income inequality were three times more likely to develop depression or anxiety disorders than their more egalitarian counterparts.
The findings make a strong case for assessing traits like “ruthless ambition”, “discomfort with leadership” and “hubristic pride” to understand psychopathologies.
The paper was published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice