NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Overcoming Shame in Therapy

Shame can be a crippling emotion with serious consequences for the individual who is experiencing it as well as his or her loved ones.

Overcoming Shame

What is shame?
Shame is an emotion where an individual feels defective or damaged in some fundamental way. Certain other emotions, like embarrassment and guilt, are often confused with shame.

Embarrassment is usually about a particular incident and it involves other people. It is mostly a temporary, passing feeling, whereas shame is a deep feeling about oneself that one is basically flawed at the core.

Guilt is a feeling that is related to shame, but it's not the same. When an individual feels guilty, he or she feels remorse about something that he or she did or said.

How Does Shame Develop?
People often develop shame after they experience a traumatic event, especially if they blame themselves for what happened. Also, when people grow up in dysfunctional families, either highly enmeshed (where there are poor boundaries) or disengaged, shame is often a strong emotion. I'll discuss this in more detail in later posts.

What are the Consequences of Shame?
The effects of shame are serious. Shame often causes people to want to isolate, withdraw and, in some cases, want to die.

Shame can keep people from forming and developing relationships. Shame can keep people from excelling in life.

Teens who experience shame are more likely to drop out of high school.

Teens Who Experience Shame Are More Likely to Drop Out of High School

As adults, they might drift from job to job feeling trapped but unable to overcome that feeling.

People who experience shame are more likely to develop substance abuse problems.

Shame is often at the core of domestic violence where shame is covered over by rage and directed outward at family members.

Shame can also lead to eating disorders, compulsive gambling, sexual addiction, and other forms of addictive behavior as people who experience shame use these compulsive behaviors as maladaptive ways of coping.

In extreme cases, shame can lead to suicide. Shame is also often linked with traumatic stress.

How Can You Overcome Shame?
People who experience shame often don't talk about it. They might feel so defective and isolated that they are unable to get the emotional support that they need.

Often, people who experience shame feel that they are the only ones who feel this way. They feel that other people could not understand what they feel.

People who feel ashamed often don't know what they feel or how to express it. They often feel locked in with their emotional pain and it's hard for them to find a way out.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you or someone that you love is experiencing the debilitating effects of shame, it's important to get professional mental health.
Getting Help in Therapy

Psychotherapy can be very helpful to people who experiencing shame to overcome this potentially crippling emotion.

In future posts, I'll be discussing the origins and effects of shame in more detail.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR therapist who works with individual adults and couples. 

I have helped many clients overcome the effects of lifelong shame so that they can grow and flourish in their lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also, see my articles:  
Overcoming Shame: Enmeshed Families

Overcoming Shame: Disengaged Families