No matter how many times doctors tell us addiction is a disease, the stigma surrounding it persists. Most people attribute addiction to a failure of will and character. With perceived failure comes shame; and with shame comes relapse.
The Long Tradition of Public Humiliation
The US and UK have had a long tradition of public humiliation since the colonial era. This recent upsurge in the use of shame is raising an important question on addiction: Does shame motivate addicts to change or tarnish their self-image and sense of personal responsibility? Shame and addiction are deeply intertwined. Addicts may drink or use drugs to cope with chronic shame and low self-worth, and this in turn may cause shame, creating a vicious cycle of abuse.
A Difficult Emotion to Measure
Shame is a difficult emotion to measure. Addicts are unreliable when self-reporting feelings of shame. A study from the University of British Columbia shows that nonverbal expressions, such as slumping shoulders and a narrowed chest, would be more reliable, as they’re harder to control. Nonverbal expressions strongly predict an addict’s chances of relapse. These also show how bad the relapse would be. The University of British Columbia study suggests that shaming people for difficult-to-curb behaviors may be the wrong approach. When addicts feel ashamed, it’s partly because they feel powerless to change their bad behavior.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Controlling nonverbal expressions of shame could be of help. Body language associated with power and powerlessness is a lot like breathing. Addicts don’t tend to control them, but they can if they stop to think about them. The posture of pride and confidence – chin up and shoulders back – can change the levels of testosterone and corstisol in the body. These hormones affect how they assert themselves. It’s advisable to fake it until they make it when it comes to fighting relapse.
The Right Environment and Proper Assistance
Enrolling in DARA helps with recovery, intervention, and rehabilitation. We’ll carefully monitor any medication while they get help. With our intensive programs, patients will be able to find their identity and start the way towards a healthier and better life. The struggle to fight addiction may go on for a long time, but setting the right environment and providing proper assistance will help them overcome this battle.
Shame is a core emotion of underlying addiction. DARA offers to replace the negative emotions with a positive outlook in life. Contact us to learn how we can be of help.