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Shame and Guilt

Shame and Guilt,shame and addiction,how are shame and addiction connected?

Shame & Guilt Overview

Guilt and shame are powerful and negative forces that can severely impact your life. When you experience these visceral emotions, you feel like life is moving in slow motion. You feel paralyzed, frustrated, and even humiliated. The feelings can cut deep, and you try and find ways to ease those feelings in any way possible. With that in mind, it is no surprise that there are strong connections between guilt and shame in addiction. While drugs and alcohol may relieve the pain, you may feel, that relief is short-lived. Without thoroughly addressing your shame and guilt, you will fall further down—and you may develop a substance abuse issue to compound problems. 


This article will explain addiction shame and guilt, what shame and guilt are, and the connections between shame and guilt in recovery. Are your feelings of guilt and shame driving you to use substances? Has your addiction spiraled out of control? Inneractions can help you—starting today. Call us toll-free and speak to one of our compassionate treatment staff.

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Shame and Guilt,shame and addiction,how are shame and addiction connected?

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Shame and Guilt,shame and addiction,how are shame and addiction connected?

What is the Relationship Between Shame and Addiction?

Before we tackle the relationship between shame and addiction, it is important to understand the difference between shame and guilt. Often, people use both interchangeably and consider these emotions one and the same. However, some subtle differences need to be noted to understand the relationship between guilt and shame in addiction.

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame

Guilt can be defined as the painful feeling you experienced when you did something wrong or perceived that you did something wrong to someone else. Guilt is the result of a specific “wrong” action, such as making a mistake, forgetting a loved one’s birthday, or hurting someone on accident or on purpose. In most cases, you address the wrong and make amends, and shortly thereafter, you can learn from the experiences and move on with your life.

On the other hand, shame is the internalization of that wrong. When you feel shame, you allow your guilt to manifest, and it affects the way you feel about yourself. When you feel shame, you feel profoundly bad about yourself. You feel contempt for yourself and feel inadequate as a person. When these feelings linger for considerable periods of time, you may look for ways to ease those feelings. In many cases, you may turn to substances. Therefore, it is not a huge shock to learn there are strong connections between shame and addiction.

How Are Shame and Addiction Connected?

The connection between shame and addiction can be seen as a cycle. Those who have a deep sense of shame are more than likely isolating themselves from family members, friends, and others they love. In their isolation, the feelings of being unworthy and inadequate grow and take over their thinking. Over a period of time, those feelings can develop into a mental disorder like depression. When depression sets in, many people will turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their feelings.

Substances can create a sense of calm and can take the edge off the feelings of unworthiness and being unloved. However, these feelings are temporary. In the case of shame and addiction, people who turn to substances may feel even more shame. This is the result of one seeing themselves as unable to deal with what they feel and having to turn to alcohol or drugs. For those who feel a deep sense of shame, they rarely or ever seek professional mental health help. This is due to the prevailing stigma surrounding mental illness. This stigma is the prevailing social stigma of mental illness being a moral failing and people being “broken” because they have a mental illness. There is also a self-stigma focusing on the strong internal sense of shame one can feel. 

Even if a person wants to quit using substances, stopping use abruptly creates withdrawal symptoms that can be uncomfortable to endure. Depending on the amount of substances used, the length of time substances is used, and how many different substances are used, these withdrawal symptoms can be intense. As a result, people may go back using drugs to stop the withdrawal symptoms. This will be seen as a failure and can further deepen their sense of shame.

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Shame and Guilt,shame and addiction,how are shame and addiction connected?

How We Approach Shame and Addiction

Dealing with addiction, shame and guilt is draining in both the physical and psychological sense. In order to adequately deal with both shame and addiction in your life, you need to seek professional help. Inneractions is a premier intensive outpatient facility that provides evidence-based treatment programs that will help you overcome shame and addiction. Our experienced addiction treatment staff has over three decades of proven experience working with many different populations and a wide variety of addiction and mental health issues.

The following are the integral components that will help you address and overcome your addiction shame and guilt:

Successfully Navigating PAWS

You are probably well aware of the importance of medical detox as part of your recovery. Detox helps you successfully manage the pain and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. However, medical detox only takes care of the physical side of addiction. Psychological withdrawal symptoms will appear, known collectively as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). These symptoms can last between 6 to 18 months and can include the following:

  • Depressed mood
  • Increased sensitivity to stress
  • Agitation
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Issues with memory and cognitive tasks

Our experienced staff will help you navigate these difficult psychological withdrawal symptoms and help you navigate this difficult part of your recovery. To add accountability, you will be screened weekly for drugs to ensure you stay on track and motivated to succeed. In the unfortunate event you relapse, we will treat you with empathy and work with you to get back on the path to recovery. We don’t believe in punitive measures since that would unnecessarily add shame and guilt, which can negatively impact your recovery. 


Concerning guilt and shame in addiction recovery, we realize that underlying negative mindsets can hinder and even sabotage your recovery. To minimize that risk, Inneractions offers effective therapies that will help you address the underlying roots of your guilt and shame in addiction. We offer the following therapies in our drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment programs:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Reality therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy

These therapies will help you identify the negative thought patterns and establish new and healthy ways of thinking. Our experienced therapists will work with you in developing healthy coping skills, and you will also develop a new and fresh outlook on life.

We also offer group therapy to help you develop and be part of a solid support network. In addition to the therapies described above, you are able to take part in some of the following group sessions:

  • Mindfulness
  • Reaching for Recovery
  • Family Programming
  • Surviving Sobriety
  • Gender-Specific Groups

Like all of our other programs, you will attend sessions on a weekly basis which fit your busy work and family schedule.

Shame and Guilt,shame and addiction,how are shame and addiction connected?

Shame and Addiction Can Be Healed Together

If you are struggling with shame and addiction, you may feel that you are losing all hope of finding help. Maybe you have tried drug treatment in the past but were unable to stay in recovery. While the feelings of hopelessness are understandable, the help you need is closer than you think. Inneractions feature experienced staff, evidence-based programs, and an integrated approach to treatment. Our staff will work closely with you in designing a treatment program that will fit your unique and specific needs.

In our outpatient setting, you can attend treatment weekly and is extremely flexible with your work and family schedule. Begin your transformation today and call Inneractions.