Everyone feels insecure from time to time, but chronic feelings of worthlessness are more serious than simple insecurity. Feeling worthless or insignificant on a daily basis is a common trait of depression, which can arise from many different sources. It is one of the hallmark symptoms of depressive disorder, although feelings of self-worthlessness can be overpowering even for those without a mental condition. The feelings of personal insignificance that arise from depression are considerably more intense than that of simple low self-esteem and can be more challenging to eliminate.
Where do feelings of worthlessness come from?
One of the most bewildering aspects of feeling insignificant or worthless is establishing its origin. Particularly in clinical depression, people may suffer from painful emotions that don’t logically follow their life events. Sometimes, in the case of depression, these powerful and destructive emotions develop without clear precedent. However, for others, there are identifiable causes for them.
- Childhood experiences. Childhood abuse, maltreatment or neglect are significant contributors to adults questioning their worth. Adults who grew up with perfectionist parents also find themselves asking why they feel worthless. Perfectionism from parents tends to impart feelings of never being good enough to children, which leads to feelings of inadequacy in later life.
- Attribution and explanatory style. People tend to attribute responsibility either externally or internally. Meaning, they judge things that happen based on external or internal factors about themselves. Some people attribute everything that goes wrong in life to their own personal failings, whether real or imagined.
- Past traumas. People who have been in relationships with highly critical people may internalize feelings of worthlessness. Singular events like being terminated from a job, career setbacks and other major events like divorce, are often catalysts behind feelings of worthlessness.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder. Feelings of worthlessness are common in PTSD. PTSD may also involve survivor’s guilt, in which a person feels unworthy for having survived an event when others did not.
- Depression. As previously discussed, depression often causes people to feel worthless and insignificant. Feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, and worthlessness are all common symptoms of major depression and other mood disorders