Washington: Researchers have found that inflated or deflated feelings of self-worth are linked to such afflictions as bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety and depression.
"We found that it is important to consider the motivation to pursue power, beliefs about how much power one has attained, pro-social and aggressive strategies for attaining power, and emotions related to attaining power," said Sheri Johnson, a University of California - Berkeley psychologist and senior author of the study.
In a study of more than 600 young men and women conducted at UC Berkeley, researchers concluded 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," Johnson said.
"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 said.
Specifically, Johnson and fellow researchers Eliot Tang-Smith of the University of Miami and Stephen Chen of Wellesley College looked at how study participants fit into the "dominance behavioural system."
Dominance behavioural system is a construct in which humans and other mammals assess their place in the social hierarchy and respond accordingly to promote cooperation and avoid conflict and aggression.
The concept is rooted in the evolutionary principle that dominant mammals gain easier access to resources for the sake of reproductive success and the survival of the species.
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.
Similar results were found in a state-by-state comparison of income and mental illness in the US.
For the latest study, 612 young men and women rated their social status, propensity toward manic, depressive or anxious symptoms, drive to achieve power, comfort with leadership and degree of pride, among other measures.
In one study, they were gauged for two distinct kinds of pride: "authentic pride," which is based on specific achievements and is related to positive social behaviours and healthy self-esteem; and "hubristic pride," which is defined as being overconfident, and is correlated with aggression, hostility and poor interpersonal skills.
In a test for tendencies toward hypomania, a manic mood disorder, participants ranked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with such statements as "I often have moods where I feel so energetic and optimistic that I feel I could outperform almost anyone at anything," or "I would rather be an ordinary success in life than a spectacular failure."
Overall, the results showed a strong correlation between the highs and lows of perceived power and mood disorders.