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Addiction – The Guilt and Shame Associated with it

Guilt and shame are two very different emotions that lead to opposing actions. People who tend to feel guilty are more likely to try and avoid or fix the behavior that caused the guilt in the first place. Shame-prone people, on the other hand, are more likely to stay in their bad habits and avoid responsibility. Some experts believe that addiction treatment should take this into account and adjust the therapy according to how guilty or ashamed the patient feels. [1]

The general consensus is that guilt highlights features of the individual’s action, whereas shame highlights features of the self. [2]

A person feeling guilt who misses a meeting because of a hangover might think ‘I feel bad for drinking too much and causing inconvenience to other people’, while a person feeling shame might think ‘I am unreliable’. Moreover, while both emotions are triggered by transgressions, feelings of guilt seem to arise in connection with a perceived violation of socially endorsed norms or principles, whereas feelings of shame are more closely associated with a perceived violation of one’s own values or ideals [3].

Additionally, guilt is associated with other-directed feelings of empathy, whereas shame seems to interfere with empathy [4][5][6][7].

Hence, guilt is claimed to be a more social emotion, reflecting a person’s concern with the impact of their behavior on others, while shame is regarded as a more self-centered emotion reflecting a person’s concern with how others view them.

Shame and guilt can come from many strange sources, but what does it matter? Who or what makes you feel shame or guilt isn’t important. What matters is how you respond to these emotions. If you react negatively to your own emotions then you are giving the power to them. However, the only way to do that is to find a way to control and hide your emotions, which isn’t healthy.

The solution to this problem is to face your emotions without shame, guilt, or any other negative feelings. In fact, shame and guilt are only emotions you feel because you are trying to cope with an overwhelming emotion like sadness. Therefore, the only way to feel okay with these emotions is to learn to cope with them, starting from the best depression and anxiety treatment centers in Delhi. Listening to music, talking to a friend, or even talking to yourself are all ways to cope with emotions. The key is to be aware of yourself and to accept yourself for who you are. Not to be perfect, because we will never be. But to be the best version of ourselves that we can be that which we can learn at the best rehab centers in India.

Although they may seem like they're all the same, there is a difference between how our exterior and interior selves are perceived by those around us. While we may not always be the center of attention, we are always influencing those around us. And in the end, the power of influence lies within ourselves. What happens when we shift our focus from what others think of us to what we think of ourselves? And even more importantly, what happens when we don't compare ourselves to others at all? We can still be who we want to be without comparing. We can love who we are and be proud of how we move through the world. We can love others for who they are, without a desire to change them or put them into a box of our creation. We can love ourselves first, in a balanced way, and then we can love others, in a balanced way. We can focus inward and not outward. We can observe and not react. We can be ourselves, good, bad and ugly, and know that we are enough. We can be content with who we are. Focus on your inside.

Shame is something that we all feel at some point or another. It's that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs that comes from thinking about how others might react to our actions or words. And while it's easy to blame others for the shame we feel, the truth is that it often comes from our own internal critic. This is the part of our brain that tries to predict how others will react and then subconsciously convinces us to act in a way that will avoid any potential negative reactions. But the thing to remember is that this is all happening in our own heads - it's not an actual exchange with another person. It's simply a belief that we have about what might happen.

Second, this internal critic grows more hostile and shaming the longer we use drugs. And there's a good reason for that. Shaming children is a powerful (albeit often flawed) way to get them to improve.

It's hard to know how to handle the negative things people say about you. So, it's no surprise that defying people, places and things that are trying to bring you down, is a rewarding and anger releasing experience for most people! At times, it's necessary to stand out to get by in life. But when you're told you're terrible at something, it's hard to keep going. By fighting back and rising above what's being said about you, there's a satisfying feeling of empowerment. Although, it's best to do this in a calm, non-violent way.

So, you get your drugs from your dealer. But what happens to all the feelings of shame? They go to the child part of us, the part that is already feeling insecure, helpless, and hopeless. And when that inner critic is being so harsh, we just feel worse. Getting high seems like the best solution.

Shame can be a very isolating and ground-up feeling, but self-forgiveness can connect with that inner child regardless of anyone else in the world. If you're feeling shame, remember that you are not alone and that there is someone who understands and can keep you company. Though it may sound trite, self-compassion really is the act of connecting with a part of yourself that has been expelled numerous times due to shame.

As the child's shame is relieved, the urge to use or drink may lessen as well. However, that's not the only thing at play. There's still the part of the individual that wants to drink or do drugs, the "firefighter" if you will. This firefighter can be helped by the part of the individual that isn't struggling with addiction. This part can talk to the firefighter and say things like "I've got your back. I'm not the familiar part that's always screaming at you, that critic. I'm going to help take care of things. You don't have to do all this drastic stuff yourself."

When firefighters actually meet someone cool and professional and calm during a call, it can actually help them be more cool, calm, and professional. It can also take away the need to attack and smash all the time. It can feel free to have a little sass, maybe even have a little fun and be more independent.

Here, narrative therapy at the top rehabs in India, may have something substantial to offer – therapy that encourages individuals to tell a better story of their lives and supports them in that endeavor. Perhaps surprisingly, research indicates such therapy works best if it is not solely focused on the future, on what recovering individuals could be or become. [8][9][10][11][12]

Rather, individuals do better when they are encouraged to ‘reclaim’ or ‘rebiographize’ their past both focusing on, and enhancing, remembered moments of happiness, particularly as these are linked to positive character traits or successful moments of coping. [13]

In effect, individuals are better able to project a newly emerging positive image of themselves into the future by first projecting that image into their past, finding in remembered events evidence that the person they want to be is in fact the person they have always been, empowered now to address those dysfunctional features of themselves by drawing on the lived experience of their own positive agency. In keeping with Kennett’s insights, a better future becomes imaginatively possible for these individuals in so far as they are no longer trying to create someone new out of thin air. [1]


  1. 1. Anke Snoek, Victoria McGeer, Daphne Brandenburg, Jeanette Kennett, Managing shame and guilt in addiction: A pathway to recovery, Addictive Behaviors, Volume 120, 2021, 106954, ISSN 0306-4603, (
  2. 2. H.B. Lewis. Shame and guilt in neurosis. Psychoanalytic Review, 58 (3) (1971), pp. 419-438.
  3. 3. O. Flanagan. The shame of addiction. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 4 (120) (2013), pp. 1-11.
  4. 4. K.P. Leith, R.F. Baumeister. Empathy, shame, guilt, and narratives of interpersonal conflicts: Guilt-prone people are better at perspective taking. Journal of Personality, 66 (1) (1998), pp. 1-37, 10.1111/1467-6494.00001
  5. 5. R.F. Baumeister, A.M. Stillwell, T.F. Heatherton. Guilt: An interpersonal approach Psychological Bulletin, 115 (2) (1994), pp. 243-267.
  6. 6. June Price Tangney.Moral affect: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61 (4) (1991), pp. 598-607, 10.1037/0022-3514.61.4.598
  7. 7. June Price Tangney. Shame and guilt in interpersonal relationships. J.P. Tangney, K.W. Fischer (Eds.), Self-Conscious Emotions: The Psychology of Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, and Pride, Guilford Press (1995), pp. 114-139
  8. 8. Maruna and Ramsden, 2004. S.A. Maruna, D. Ramsden. Living to Tell The Tale: Redemption narratives, shame management, and offender rehabilitation. A. Lieblich, D.P. McAdams, J. Josselson (Eds.), Healing Plots: The Narrative Basis of Psychotherapy, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC (2004), pp. 129-151
  9. 9. Shadd Maruna. Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives, American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C (2001)
  10. 10.,Edmund%20B.%20O%27Reilly,Univ%20of%20Massachusetts%20Press%20(1997),-Google%20Scholar
  11. 11.,Mordechai%20Rotenberg,Praeger%20Publishers%20(1987),-Google%20Scholar
  12. 12.,Barry%20Vaughan,(3)%20(2006)%2C%20pp.%20390%2D404,-View%20article
  13. 13.,D.%20McConnell%2C%20A.%20Snoek,(3)%20(2018)%2C%20pp.%2031%2D44,-View%20in%20Scopus

AUTHOR - Dr. Niharika Singh (MBBS, MD Psychiatry, MIPS)
Dr. Niharika Singh received her MBBS degree from Kurukshetra University, following which she went on to complete MD Psychiatry from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bangalore. During her residency program she pursued her thesis on psychosocial factors and personality profile of early and late onset Alcohol dependence syndrome. With a view to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field of mental health, she then continued to train regularly with premier institutes such as Harvard Medical School - McLean Hospital (USA) in Mind-Body Medicine, Beck Institute (USA) in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, NIMHANS (Bangalore) in Addiction Psychiatry, Behaviour Medicine, Clinical Neurophysiology and Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation and has completed Fellowship in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation from Duke University (USA). After post-graduation, her goal has been to inform the public on addiction issues. Her mission is to help those in need of treatment find the best option for them. And with this being her consistent vision, she believes in de-stigmatizing the field of addiction psychiatry and rehabilitation center treatment in India and has been working at a licensed dual-diagnosis facility in New Delhi. Through her contributions to she aims at providing licensed, professional rehabilitative care choices to patients and their families.

REVIEWED BY - Sudipta Rath (M. Phil in Clinical Psychology)
Sudipta Rath has completed her MPhil in clinical psychology from Utkal University in Odisha (India) in 2020 and is currently practicing in New Delhi as a clinical psychologist at dual diagnosis facility. She is a licensed RCI practitioner specializing in all forms of psychotherapy. Addiction and mental health are personal subjects for her, and her goal is that she can give a helping hand to those seeking healthy and lasting recovery.

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