A common thread running throughout the lives of those suffering from addictions, anxiety, depression, and trauma is the immense shame that they feel. It is important here to distinguish between guilt and shame. Guilt says “I did something bad” while shame says “I am bad.”
Shame causes the loving husband and father to “work late” so he can feed his sex addiction. It causes the high school girl to cut herself rather than ever admitting to anyone that she is depressed. It causes the adolescent to jump from shallow relationship to shallow relationship, seeking physical connection but running from an emotional one. It causes the CEO to drink too much so they can “handle” their uncontrollable anxiety.
But shouldn’t I be ashamed?
If you are struggling with sex or porn addiction, you know deep down the difference between right and wrong, and you probably recognize that you often cross that line in order to fulfill your desires. Afterward, or even in the moment, you feel anger, disappointment, guilt, and sorrow for the damage you have done to your most important relationships, but your compulsion was so strong that you really had no choice. This guilt and shame continues to build up with every passing day until the only way you know how to find release from those feelings is to run back to your addiction.
If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or trauma, perhaps you have high expectations for yourself and the way you will handle an episode of anxiety or depression. When it becomes too overwhelming and the darkness sets in again, you begin to loathe yourself because you feel like you should be stronger than this. It seems like everyone else has it together and some of them have harder life circumstances than you do, so you should just put on a smile and act like nothing is wrong. Perhaps you find that your only way to relieve the pain and shame you feel is by self-injuring or disordered eating.
Hear this: Your behaviors based on addiction, anxiety, depression, or trauma are not a reflection of you as a person. The best way to overcome the shame you are feeling is by properly processing your feelings, beliefs, and behaviors with a counselor. You have already found that the solutions you have come up with on your own do not lead down the right path, so take the step of faith to get the help you need. This is the bravest thing you can do.
I won’t even talk to my partner about this…why would I talk to a therapist?
Unlike the established relationships in your life, you do not have to worry about your therapist judging you, taking sides, or condemning you for your issues or your behaviors. You will likely find that it is easier to talk to a counselor who has no background or involvement in your situation because they will be able to give you objective feedback. Their main goal is to help you get your addiction or anxiety/depression under control so that you can live a full and healthy life. They truly care about your best interests, and they will not be afraid to set up some guidelines for you to try to follow as a part of your treatment plan if you feel that you need some accountability.
Above all, they will seek to normalize your feelings and allow you to be completely open and honest. You will find that when you open up to them and hold nothing back, they are not going to be shocked. They have likely heard hundreds of other stories very similar to yours, and their experience will allow them to guide you along the path to healing. It may take weeks or months, but after the first few sessions, hopefully, you will have gained back some of your dignity and self-confidence, which is the first step on your journey.
At Novus Mindful Life Institute, we believe that everyone deserves to live a healthy and fulfilling life. We are dedicated to helping one person, one couple, one family at a time heal from the impact of addiction. We are located in Long Beach, CA, but we also have a wealth of online resources, and we host The Addicted Mind podcast with many guests that are well-known in the industry.