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Toxic Shame: The Impact of Toxic Shame & 4 Tips to Manage Shame

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As teenagers and young adults, we often struggle with various aspects of our lives, ranging from family issues to academic pressures, social expectations, and much more. Unfortunately, some of these struggles can lead to something more severe and insidious - toxic shame.

Research Studies on Toxic Shame

Research has shown that toxic shame can have severe and long-lasting consequences for teenagers and young adults' mental health, relationships, and life satisfaction. For instance, a study by Snell et al. (2016) found that shame-proneness was strongly associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in college students, even after controlling for other factors such as sex and race.

Another study by Tangney et al. (2007) suggests that shame-proneness contributes to interpersonal problems such as aggression, hostility, and avoidance, highlighting the importance of addressing shame in the context of social relationships.

Lastly, a study by de Oliveira et al. (2021) emphasizes the need for integrative and person-centered approaches to treating shame, which should address both the individual and systemic factors that contribute to shame and promote resilience and growth.

What is Toxic Shame?

Toxic shame refers to an intense and pervasive emotional state that encompasses feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, and self-loathing. Unlike feeling guilty, which can help us regulate our behaviors and learn from our mistakes, toxic shame is more crippling and destructive, leeching out our self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being.

How Does Toxic Shame Develop?

Toxic shame can develop in many ways, but most commonly, it stems from a combination of social, cultural, and psychological factors. For example, growing up in a household that values excessive perfectionism, criticism, and control can instill a sense of shame and guilt in children, leading them to believe that they are never enough.

Likewise, exposure to trauma, abuse, neglect, discrimination, and oppression can profoundly affect a person's sense of self-worth and belonging.

Examples of Things That Can Cause Toxic Shame in Teenagers and Young Adults

Teenagers and young adults can develop toxic shame from a variety of sources, including:

  • Experiencing bullying, harassment, and social exclusion

  • Feeling pressure to conform to rigid societal standards of beauty, success, and masculinity/femininity

  • Struggling with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and addiction

  • Facing relationship problems, such as disconnection, betrayal, and rejection

  • Failing to meet academic or career expectations due to various reasons

The Impact Shame Can Have on a Teenager or Young Adult

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Toxic shame can have a profound impact on a teenager or young adult's life, affecting various areas, including:

Self-esteem and self-worth

Shame can lead to feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and low self-esteem, making it harder for teenagers and young adults to believe in themselves and their abilities.


Shame can cause teenagers and young adults to feel unworthy of connection and intimacy, sabotaging their relationships and making it difficult for them to establish healthy boundaries.

Mental health

Shame can exacerbate existing mental health issues or lead to new ones, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders.

Academic/career success

Shame can interfere with teenagers and young adults' ability to set goals, strive for success, and pursue their passions, limiting their potential and opportunities.

Tips for Overcoming Toxic Shame

Overcoming toxic shame is a complex and ongoing process that requires patience, self-compassion, and professional support. Here are some tips for overcoming toxic shame:

Recognize your shame triggers

Pay attention to what thoughts, situations, and people trigger your shame responses and try to identify the underlying beliefs and experiences that fuel them.

Challenge your shame beliefs

Question the validity and accuracy of your shame beliefs by examining evidence that contradicts them, seeking out positive affirmations and experiences, and reframing negative self-talk.

Practice self-compassion

Cultivate a compassionate and nonjudgmental attitude toward yourself by acknowledging your strengths, accepting your flaws, and treating yourself with kindness and understanding.

Seek professional support

Consider reaching out to counselors specializing in teen counseling and young adult counseling at Katy Teen & Family Counseling. They can provide a safe and supportive environment to explore your shame and give you evidence-based tools and strategies to cope with it.

How Therapy Can Help

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If you are struggling with toxic shame, remember that you are not alone, and help is available. At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we offer specialized services in teen therapy and young adult counseling, helping teenagers and young adults overcome their shame, build healthy coping strategies, and improve their emotional and social well-being.

Our counselors are specialists who are qualified, experienced, and in tune with the unique challenges facing adolescents and young adults today. We use evidence-based approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), neurofeedback, and other approaches.

Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Helping Teens & Young Adults Overcome Toxic Shame in Katy, TX & Houston

Toxic shame is one of the more common struggles that teens and young adult struggle with. It is often times hidden and is insidious. You can reclaim your self-esteem and self-worth. Don't wait. Start today!

We also have our Sugar Land location. Sugar Land Teen & Family Counseling is located in Sugar Land, TX. We are conveniently located off of US 90 and Dairy Ashford Road.

At our Katy, TX location, we have 70+ years of combined experience. If you are ready to meet with one of our teen counselors or young adult therapists, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:

  1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling

  2. Talk with one of our caring therapists

  3. Begin the healing process today!

Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling

At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:

Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy

Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)

Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)

Group Therapy for Teens

Body Image

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling

Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling can be very effective. The secret ingredient to success is each person willing to look at themselves and work to do things differently, together. When a marriage counselor or couples therapist has this to work with, the success rate can be very high.

Sometimes life will throw challenges at us that create situations that put strain on our marriage or relationship. It may be due to:

  • Choices and actions that have been made by one partner.

  • Financial downturn in the economy creating financial strain.

  • Feeling like you're growing apart.

  • Feeling like you don't have as much in common as you used to.

Whatever the reason may be, marriage counseling and couples therapy can help. Couples therapy and marriage counseling has also been found to work in less time than individual therapy.

If you've worked hard for this relationship and find that there are now barriers in the way of maintaining a healthy relationship, contact us at Katy Teen & Family Counseling.

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