Living with Chronic Shame? Tips to Cope

Shame has a variety of sources. Sometimes genetics make you more vulnerable, like if you’re living with a mental health condition linked to shame that can run in families. Depression is one example.

Other times, an environmental factor can contribute to shame. If your childhood teachers, peers, or caregivers criticized you rather than commend your actions, this may have affected you to live with shame.

Shame can also occur because of cultural influences. For example, certain cultures place a high emphasis on the concept of honor.

A person who doesn’t conform to the standards and definition of honor set within a cultural context is perceived as bringing shame to themselves and their family.

Undiagnosed learning disabilities or developmental differences can cause shame as well.

For example, students who know they’re different but don’t know why can feel shame when certain aspects of schoolwork are more difficult for them. This is amplified by the effect of parent and teacher frustration.

Specifically, a child who processes letters out of sequence may develop a shame response in learning that their peers don’t process language or letters in the same way.

This feeling of being unlike the other children in regard to reading can fuel feelings of being odd and different, and pave the way for the roots of shame to take hold.

Research also links post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with shame, although it usually appears in different forms, such as:

  • anger
  • depression
  • social withdrawal
  • substance use

Shame can change the way you see yourself. It can also affect your close relationships and the way you connect with society. It’s beneficial to assess its effects if you’re in recovery from trauma.