Low Self-Esteem vs. Generalized Anxiety: What’s The Difference?

Low Self-Esteem vs. Generalized Anxiety: What’s The Difference?

Anxiety is rough. What makes it even more difficult is going through our day-to-day lives pretending that it’s not. Social media can feel like a walking contradiction. We have never been more connected to each other yet never more disconnected from ourselves. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. There will always be a person that will make us think that we should be further along by now. It can also feel incredibly discouraging when those around us invalidate our feelings by telling us to “just stop overthinking” or “stop being a worry-wart.”

However, how do we know when we’re having a bout of anxiousness and insecurity or if we could be struggling with an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety at a Glance

Source: ADAA

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

Today, we will take a deep dive into low self-esteem and generalized anxiety and discuss how they differ.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about several things. People with GAD find it difficult to control their worries. They may worry more than seems reasonable about actual events or may expect the worst for the future.


Common symptoms associated with Generalized Anxiety Disorder are:

  • Constantly irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle Tension
  • Headaches
  • Nausea


A diagnosis of GAD applies when you find it difficult to control your worry on more days than not for a period of at least six months and experience at least three symptoms. This separates GAD from healthy amounts of worry.


It is entirely normal to feel worried and stressed from time to time. However, people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) will constantly feel stressed or worried, and if there is no reason to feel that way, they will create one. This behavior can begin to pour over into different areas of our lives and start causing severe issues. People with phobias have excessive worry and anxiety towards one particular thing; those with GAD have extreme fear and anxiety towards multiple items and more extended periods.

People with generalized anxiety disorder can also be “high-functioning.” This means that their symptoms can fly under the radar and go unnoticed. It can be easy to rationalize our anxiety by telling ourselves we are simply preparing for the future. However, anxiety can sometimes look both ways before crossing the street and getting hit by a plane. We don’t know when it will come, but when it does sometimes, it feels like all we can do is brace ourselves.

Low Self-Esteem


Low self-esteem refers to the way we feel about ourselves. Low self-esteem can also be synonymous with self-worth, self-respect, and self-love.


Common Symptoms associated with Low Self-Esteem are:

  • Difficulty accepting compliments
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Self-deprecating humor
  • Low self-worth
  • Difficulty setting and enforcing boundaries
  • Imposter syndrome


While people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder are more likely to have low self-esteem, people with low self-esteem don’t necessarily have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Self-esteem is built in the first seven years of life. Unfortunately, during our childhood years, we don’t have control over the environment we are raised in. While it may not be our fault that we have low self-esteem, it is our responsibility to address it when it begins to take over other areas of our lives. It is also essential to consider all environmental facts that may contribute to feeling this way. Our thoughts influence our behaviors; our behaviors create our habits; our habits make our lives. Therefore, how we feel towards ourselves plays a more significant impact on our lives than we think.

The best way to build our self-esteem after childhood is to surround ourselves with people who also have high self-esteem. We become like the people we spend the most time with, so it is vital to choose our company carefully. Another great way to build our self-esteem is to keep our promises to ourselves. If we say we’re going to do something, we need to do it. Doing so helps us build confidence in our character and ability to do hard things. Lastly, it is crucial to eat well and exercise. Our bodies are the vehicles that get us through the rest of our lives, so it is important to practice self-care. The longest relationship we will ever have is the one we have with ourselves. We get to decide if we will live with our greatest ally or our greatest critic. It is essential to choose which it will be consciously.

How Low-Esteem and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Differ

Low self-esteem focuses on how we feel about ourselves, while GAD sufferers concentrate on how they feel toward themselves and how others view them. A change can improve low self-esteem in the physical environment and better self-care habits. At the same time, GAD sufferers may need medication and a treatment plan that a mental health professional supervises to help put their lives back on track. Low self-esteem may affect one area of their lives, while GAD affects every area.


Not caring about what others think of us is a lot easier said than done. This is a mindset that doesn’t come naturally to us.

However, it can be learned.

Changing ourselves for the better is a campaign. It’s a daily fight to do things in our own best interest, even when it might be scary. In this case, that may mean finding a new group of friends that can help lift us or scheduling an appointment at Modern Era Counseling.

Studies also show that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and improves self-esteem.

At times, it’s not the worst-case scenario we are terrified of; it’s the fear of not being able to handle it if it does. Our counselors at Modern Era Counseling can help.

Finally, just remember that regardless of how you feel right now, your mother’s friends on Facebook will always think you’re sensational.

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