Coping With Shame in Addiction

Internalized stigmas can cause some people to refuse help for their substance use disorder (SUD). Family or social expectations can cause individuals to feel shame, regret, or fear when they consider reaching out for help. Unfortunately, this shame can prevent people from seeking treatment, which may be necessary to help them recover from substance misuse and overcome negative emotions.

If someone you love refuses to participate in treatment for substance misuse out of shame, we can help. Your family might benefit from receiving professional mental health support in the form of intervention guidance, consultations, or counseling services. You can help your loved one move past guilt and heal from mental health issues or substance misuse. Family support facilitates healing for individuals who might have difficulty with self-worth.

Understanding the Role of Shame

Most people use shame to avoid repeating mistakes. Others acknowledge it to ensure they do not go against social, cultural, or moral codes. In some cases, shame may play a positive role in building character and self-realization.

However, shame is not always helpful. It can become maladaptive for some vulnerable individuals and stop them from attempting treatment.

Unhealthy shame affects self-worth and mental health in multiple ways, including: 

  • Reducing self-confidence and confidence in others 
  • Making people question their beliefs and motivations 
  • Contributing to ambivalence about recovery and treatment 
  • Causing identity issues that leave the person feeling uncertain about their role 
  • Increasing the risk of developing mood disorders like depression

Many people feel shame regarding substance misuse and mental health symptoms. According to Frontiers in Psychiatry, “Feeling shame for addiction is . . . part of the normal phenomenology of addiction.” Fortunately, your loved one can learn to overcome this shame through treatment. Identifying and processing shame is a standard part of recovery.

Substance Misuse and Physical Changes to the Brain

Prolonged substance misuse can cause alterations to the brain that have significant effects on behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), SUD “is a mental disorder that affects a person’s brain.”

The physiological changes involved in addiction affect problem-solving skills, communication, mood regulation, decision-making, and more. Some people may feel ashamed of their lack of control due to the difficulties they face with everyday activities or decisions. However, these changes are involuntary and do not reflect someone’s willingness to change or their moral character.

The choice to misuse substances can become an involuntary compulsion after dependency begins. If your loved one wants to heal from the effects of substance misuse, it is essential for them to understand the realities of addiction. Your loved one can recover from maladaptive shame by accepting their circumstances and reaching out for help.

Substance Misuse Is a Disease

Families can model this acceptance for their struggling loved ones by understanding that substance misuse is a disease. Co-occurring conditions, underlying issues, and other factors contribute to the development of substance misuse. Addictive behaviors are not moral failures; they are symptoms of a brain disease.

The mental health professionals at A New Hope Recovery understand that the disease is not the person. In addition, the symptoms of the disease, including relapse, do not indicate personal failure. Every disease has symptoms, and individuals in recovery need to learn how to cope with them. Treatment can help individuals and families better understand the disease of addiction.

How Substance Misuse Impacts Self-Worth

Low self-worth is a risk factor for developing mental health and substance use disorders. Shame can reduce self-worth and impact a person’s ability to overcome issues related to recovery.

Substance misuse affects self-worth by: 

  • Creating tension within relationships and the family dynamic
  • Decreasing a person’s ability to process emotions in a healthy way 
  • Causing emotional or cognitive issues that interfere with problem-solving and conflict resolution 
  • Contributing to internalized stigmas and a sense of wrongdoing

Self-worth can help you move past guilt and shame. In addition, it can help individuals accept the consequences of past mistakes while remaining hopeful for the future.

Supporting Your Loved One

Family and friends can help the people they care about navigate recovery. Supporting your loved one does not mean ignoring their mistakes or enabling their behaviors. Individuals experiencing substance misuse rarely feel a need to change. If they do, they may not know how to start. By remaining compassionate, you can help them overcome fear, hesitancy, or ambivalence.

A New Hope Recovery can guide you through the process of helping your loved one recognize their need for professional assistance. Shame does not have to keep them from getting the treatment they deserve. You can help them move forward and recover.

Shame provides motivation to ensure people do not continue making the same mistakes. However, when shame becomes toxic, it can cause significant emotional damage. Maladaptive shame often plays a role in the development of mental health and substance use disorders. Research has shown that shame is a component of substance misuse. Treatment centers and mental health professionals can assist individuals and families in overcoming shame and other negative emotions. To recover from substance misuse or mental health issues, people need to feel confident in their ability to avoid relapse. Your loved one can recover and overcome feelings of shame by actively participating in treatment. Shame does not have to stop them from healing. A New Hope Recovery helps families and individuals recover from the damage of substance misuse and mental health issues. Learn more about our services by calling us today at (407) 501-8490.