What Is a Shame Spiral? Tips for Reversing It

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on June 17, 2021.

Perhaps you've received negative feedback or experienced an unsettling situation. While guilt will lead to feelings of remorse, shame will take those feelings much further, causing low self-esteem and hopelessness. Because some individuals experience events and emotions more deeply than others, they are more likely to be affected by shame, leading to a shame spiral that can be difficult to escape from. Those who are more susceptible include sensitive people and individuals with anxiety or depression.

After a triggering situation, the shame cycle will cause these types of individuals to replay the event repeatedly and begin thinking about other disappointing or humiliating events they've experienced in the past.

How Do You Know If You're in a Shame Spiral?

While this cycle can be brought on by any kind of event, it's common to experience shame spiraling after drinking. If a person with alcoholism drinks, for example, they will most likely begin to feel ashamed over their lack of self-control. They may have trouble being present in the moment, ruminating instead on the event and replaying it in their mind.

Once this begins, the person will internalize their post-drinking shame and begin seeing themselves as a failure. They'll likely think about times when they've experienced other shameful situations, causing them to isolate and even experience a depressive episode.

At this point, the person might turn to drinking again to numb these feelings, creating a new shame cycle.

How to Deal With the Shame Cycle

There are several ways you can deal with the shame cycle. Here are five tips on how to reverse it:

  1. Confront your feelings: While it's normal to want to ignore shameful feelings, it's important to acknowledge your emotions. Confronting your feelings can prevent you from ruminating and internalizing the event.
  2. Look to the future: Instead of focusing on your present feelings, look to the future and think positively about how you will move forward from the event.
  3. Distance yourself from shameful thought patterns: To distance yourself and break away from a shame spiral, you can write about the shame you are experiencing or even discuss it with a trusted friend or family member.
  4. Practice self-compassion: No matter if you are experiencing hangover guilt or some other type of shame, realize you are human and it's natural to make mistakes. Give yourself grace and forgive yourself for whatever happened so you can heal and break out of the shame spiral.
  5. Get professional help: If you are having trouble managing shame spirals on your own, receiving help from professionals can equip you with the therapy and tools you need to reverse the cycle.

We Can Help You Reverse Your Shame Cycle at Diamond House Detox

Whether you've been experiencing the shame cycle from drinking or using drugs, the Diamond House Detox provides individualized care that ranges from a 7- to 10-day detox to our 30-day intensive inpatient recovery treatment based on your specific needs. By focusing on substance use and mental illness, we help our clients start their journey to recovery.

Call Now

Interested in learning more about the programs we offer in our home-like environment? We invite you to call (800) 205-6107 or contact us online today.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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