Public Shaming May Lead to Relapse for Alcoholics, Study Finds

Previously, this blog covered the story of one recovering alcoholic who felt judged by fellow sufferers for pursuing a different method of treatment. Now, a new study has delved further into this issue, investigating the role that public shaming may play in instances of alcoholic relapse.

According to a press release from the Association for Psychological Science, researchers from the University of British Columbia have discovered a connection between alcoholics who exhibit clear behavioral symptoms of shame – as indicated by posture and other physical signs – when recounting their substance abuse and the heightened possibility of a relapse. This correlation did not hold for alcoholics who verbally expressed shame.

The study involved conducting interviews with recovering alcoholics who had recently gotten sober. These sessions, in which the participants were asked to recount their last time using alcohol, were repeated four months later. 

The lead scientists involved – Jessica Tracy and Daniel Randles – reportedly sought to determine the role shame and guilt played in the recovery process. The distinction used in the context of this study is that guilt is more closely tied to past actions, whereas shame has more to do with how an individual sees themselves as a person.

“Treatment providers have long suspected that shame is a barrier to recovery, but this is the first time we’ve seen this link evidenced so robustly,” the two scientists stated. They noted that certain methods of approaching alcoholism may be more successful because they focus on guilt rather than shame.

Millions of Americans are currently battling an unhealthy dependence on alcohol, and determining the best way to approach this issue can be challenging. If someone you love is battling such an addiction, contact a professional interventionist about alcohol intervention services.

Intervention ServicesPublic Shaming May Lead to Relapse for Alcoholics, Study Finds