Woman letting go of shame with Deer Hollow in Utah

How PTSD & Shame are Related: Letting Go of Shame

This entry was posted in PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) unlocks various negative emotions, including fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness, all of which typically fade as a survivor heals. Shame, however, is an emotion that often lingers following a traumatic event. Letting go of shame can significantly help the recovery process.

How PTSD and Shame are Related

Trauma that provokes PTSD is well known for causing deeply rooted feelings of shame over time. These feelings can be a significant risk factor for individuals with PTSD, gradually cultivating a cycle of distress and shame that hinders the ability to live a stable, healthy life.

In scenarios involving first responders and military veterans, shame often emerges after witnessing or being part of traumatic events. The duties and responsibilities of these jobs are usually high-stakes, leading to a sense of failure or powerlessness, particularly if outcomes are perceived as unfavorable or if a life is lost. This can trigger self-destructive behaviors, self-blame, and self-neglect that, in some cases, increase suicidal thoughts or attempts. 

Experts in PTSD say that once established, shame can be a significant barrier to recovery, as individuals struggle with the dual burdens of their experiences and the societal expectations placed upon their roles.

Understanding the Impact of Shame

Unlike guilt, shame is a uniquely destructive emotion that exists without any real purpose. Whereas guilt involves reflecting on a detrimental action or behavior, shame is an internal, self-conscious emotion that makes a person feel profoundly flawed and worthless. They don’t view themselves as having a problem; instead, they believe they are the problem. These thoughts can damage a person’s self-image, destroying relationships and leaving them disoriented about their role in society.

While shame and guilt are equally unwelcome emotions, guilt can encourage someone to make amends and improve self-perception. Shame, on the other hand, offers no such path and serves only to punish oneself.

Getting Help in Letting Go of Shame

Breaking free from shame is essential for individuals recovering from PTSD. Engaging with the right resources and support systems is crucial. In-patient and outpatient treatment options can significantly aid in overcoming PTSD. And while no “anti-shame pill” exists, the most effective way to combat self-loathing and the complexities of shame is through compassion.

Deer Hollow’s clinical team members provide compassionate and empathic support that helps people experiencing PTSD-related shame restructure their thinking patterns and processes, enabling them to see their worth and progress toward PTSD recovery goals. With the proper treatment methods and understanding, one can overcome PTSD and the crippling effects of shame.

Contact us today to learn more.