How Shame Damages Relationships

November 26, 2020 Jennifer Lear

How can shame damage relationships? After all, shame has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. It is one of the things that makes human relationships and social structures unique and is arguably a necessary component of every civilized society. However, I believe people with mental health issues experience shame at a disproportionately high level, and this can be incredibly detrimental not only to their recovery — but also to their relationships with the people around them.

How Shame Damaged My Relationships

Pathological shame damaged my relationships and is something I struggled to combat for years. A lack of access to information and support with my childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) led me to believe that my condition must be something shameful, and I expended so much energy trying to keep my "dirty secret" under wraps.

What I see now is that this wasted effort not only slowed down my recovery but shame nearly destroyed my relationships with the people I held dearest. I was so terrified of being rejected by them that I chose to keep them in the dark about a hugely significant part of my life, thereby creating a distance between us, and ironically, rejecting them in the same way I feared being rejected. 

Deal with Shame to Prevent Damage to Relationships

While shame might be a healthy barometer for maintaining social order and preventing us from sliding into anarchy, it is not something you should feel about your mental health or allow to affect your relationships with the important people in your life. Opening up an honest dialogue about your mental health is so freeing and so much more conducive to recovery than keeping everything inside due to shame, and while it might not be easy and there may be people who don't understand, you are entitled to share your truth. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

APA Reference
Lear, J. (2020, November 26). How Shame Damages Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 30 from

Author: Jennifer Lear

You can find Jennifer on Facebook.

December, 3 2020 at 4:19 pm

Its a really nice article, I feel like I am living a lie. DID, and just wanting to stay protected. I reject everything. And it is self destroying. Wish I could feel how to begin.

Leave a reply