Shame and Anxiety

One of the dirty secrets of having anxiety is the shame associated with it. Now it has improved a great deal recently but inherently and culturally there is a certain shame associated with being afflicted with anxiety. The stigma of being weak or the whisper of “something isn’t right” affects people a great deal. Shame is a very powerful emotion and has been used to great effect in history to garner a desired outcome.

It’s important to define what shame is. Shame is: “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, and ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another”

Embarrassed Shame GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I found a good article on Psychology today here about anxiety and shame

From the article: “Anxiety disorders are generally categorized based on symptoms and behavioral expressions, such as psychological disorganization, irritability, nonspecific fears, sleep difficulties, panicky feelings, or an inability to concentrate. Yet any given state of anxiety can be best understood by distinguishing it in terms of the emotions that are involved in the experience. Shame is an emotion that is prominent in states of anxiety and often goes undetected as it hides in the shadow of the experience.” 

Shame is a natural consequence of anxiety because we worry what other people think. It would be easy, actually cavalier for me to say “you can’t control what people think so don’t worry about it”. Of course I just said it because it’s an extremely powerful concept to strive for. It’s likely you will never achieve it but it’s a worthy aim.

Quick story on the concept. When I was younger in my 20’s I remember not being able to find my car in a parking lot I was freaking out inside and I had  2 people approach me and ask me if I was okay. It was clear my anxiety was taking over, others sensed it. I was cringing inside, I refused the help, I found my car and I sat there for a half hour calming myself. I remember thinking “these people think I am crazy”. At that moment I was.

Shame had seeped into my emotional process. It prolonged my recovery from that episode. Was it merited? I don’t know, I as unable at that moment to dismiss these strangers from my mind. I kept thinking about what they were saying about me. I wondered for days what their conversation was on the ride home. How they must have mocked me etc. I never saw them again, and 20 years has passed…

Shame is horrible, and it is a component in anxiety. If you are feeling shame its okay you aren’t alone. Identify its source, write it down if needed and really consider why you feel shame and what the source is. You will get through it, things will improve, you are safe, and you doing great, one day at a time.

Are you interested in more posts on Anxiety? Check out one of my previous posts here.