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The Role of Shame in Addiction

Shame is an emotion that all humans will experience occasionally, and one that can be helpful at times, but when it becomes too large a part of someone’s life, it can be destructive. This is a common theme for those struggling with addiction, which can often be fueled by shame or vice versa.

At Renaissance Ranch, our addiction recovery programs include methods for understanding and limiting excessive shame and its harmful effects. Here, let’s look at a few important things you should know about shame as it relates to addiction.

Difference Between Shame and Guilt

The words guilt and shame are often used interchangeably, but they’re not actually the same thing. People feel guilty because they think they’ve done an individual thing wrong; when people feel shame, it’s because they believe they themselves are wrong. People with shame believe there is something wrong with them, rather than with what they did. Shame has been called a sickness of the soul, and can lead to depression, paranoia, loneliness, and low self-esteem.

Shame and Self-Esteem

Shame and low self-esteem are closely related, and usually go hand in hand. Individuals with low self-esteem don’t value themselves, and feel unworthy of respect. Feelings of shame in childhood have been suggested to lead to low self-esteem later in life. These uncomfortable emotions can be the driving forces behind addiction in some cases.

Shame Can Be Good

In moderate doses, shame can be a beneficial emotion. It helps us moderate our behavior, and be less likely to do negative things in the future. The world would be more dangerous without shame.

Dangers of Shame in Recovery

However, from an addiction recovery standpoint, excess shame can be dangerous. Here are some of the key ways:

  • Individual may believe they don’t deserve a good life in recovery, and won’t put the work in
  • Shame can prevent the formation of a network of friends that’s vital during recovery
  • Shame can prevent the individual from enjoying success during recovery
  • Shame can prevent emotional sobriety, a big factor in overall sobriety
  • Uncomfortable feelings as a result of shame will make relapse more likely
  • Family and friends can suffer from self-destructive patterns due to shame

To learn more about the effect of shame on addiction, or for information about our outpatient addiction treatment, speak to the caregivers at Renaissance Ranch today.