Shame & Symptom

Psychotherapy for Shame-Based Syndromes in Santa Rosa

Shame & Symptom in Psychotherapy

As a depth-oriented psychotherapist, I believe that symptoms often point to something that requires our attention. In many cases, that which requires attention is a deep-seated, internalized shame, resulting from a range of difficult circumstances, including trauma, mistreatment, abuse, bullying, and neglect, to name only a few. Internalized shame reaches from the depths into the surface of our lives, manifesting in any number of symptom patterns. Here are a few of the ways shame may show up:

Depression – Living under the weight of a prolonged sense of shame often leads to depression. Further, because shame cuts us off from and requires that we defend against parts of the psyche, the energy of this effort is drawn inward, leaving our day-to-day life with little excitement or energy.

Anxiety – Shame often compels us to want to appear perfect to others. The façade of perfectionism, however, is a tremendous burden and requires constant monitoring. This “performance” often leads to anxiety, stress, worry, and obsessive thinking.

Compulsive Behavior – When shame is unbearable, some reach for drugs, alcohol, sex, Internet, shopping, and other crutches to reduce its intensity. In this case, one becomes trapped in the cycle of avoidance and compulsive use.

Traumatic Stress – Trauma often leaves the survivor feeling as though the traumatic event was his or her fault. This sense of fault feeds shame and an enduring story of defectiveness.

Relationship Problems – The defensive strategies required to manage internalized shame often interfere with relationship. Shame prohibits vulnerability with others, making it difficult to open up honestly with others.

While the above are only a few brief examples, it is clear that shame can be implicated in many of the struggles clients face. I find in my work with clients that addressing the shame that lies at the root of the problem they present with in therapy is often the most effective way of remediating symptoms and improving one’s life.

Sil Machado, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and neurofeedback practitioner specializing in working with individuals struggling with shame-based syndromes, anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, sex addiction, and perfectionism.