I was recently forwarded an article about guilt and its connection to mood disorders.
What this article seems to miss is the more important issue of shame. Guilt and shame are somewhat different but what’s important about shame is that it moves from the act to the person. Shame becomes internalized as a reflection of one’s whole self.
Excessive shame or shame in key areas of identity (such as sexuality or bodily functions) degrades one’s concept of self. This degradation is a perfect incubator for both mood disorders and personality disorders. If someone lacks a strong sense of self, they don’t believe in their ability to succeed– whether in the boardroom or the bedroom.
A degradation of a sexual sense of self through internalized shame is something many experience, especially women and LGBT individuals. This internalized sexual and bodily shame is at the core of many sexual difficulties. Sexuality disorders such as difficulties reaching orgasm and even sexual pain disorders are common results of internalized shame.
Along with mood disorders and sexuality related disorders, researchers have also found links between internalized shame and physical health. Racism has has been found to lead to poor cardiac health. Internalized homophobia can result in higher rates of cancer.
What we experience as “just” psychological can have cascading emotional and physical affects.