The Adolescent Shame Spiral

April 7, 2023

Hi, I’m Brittany
I'm a Christian Counselor, Couples Therapist & Christ-Centered Yoga Teacher. 

Written By: Amanda Gibbons, LMSW

We all get sucked into negative thoughts, which lead to self-sabotaging and destructive behaviors. Teenagers are most likely to isolate and dig deep into a shame spiral following a stressful event.

What does a Shame Spiral look like:

  1. An event triggers intense feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt or inadequacy.
  2. Those feelings intensify and make you think negatively about yourself.
  3. You begin to perceive the people around you as judging you, or that they are upset with you.
  4. You give in to the urge to quit, isolate, withdrawal, run away, or engage in unsafe behaviors.

Although the Shame Spiral is common, it is not the only way. We can take steps to pull ourselves out at any part of the spiral.

What we can do:

  1. Change the narrative in your mind.

We have control over our thoughts, although it doesn’t always feel that way. If we take intentional steps towards shifting the content of our thoughts from negative to positive, we have the ability to change how we experience challenging things.

Instead of thinking “I can’t do that”, or “something is wrong with me” try shifting your thoughts to “I will give it my best effort”, “I can learn from my mistakes”, or my personal favorite, “I can do hard things”.

When you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, trying putting your thoughts on trial and asking yourself: “Where is the proof that this is true?” “Would I say the same thing to someone that I care about?” “What can I learn from this situation?”

  • Seek out a Healthy Emotional Outlet

When we feel big emotions, sometimes they need to be released. Often that comes out in unhealthy ways, such as beating ourselves up with our intense negative thoughts, or lashing out at the people around us. But there are ways that we can release the intense feelings, but in a healthy way!

You can try: taking a few deep breaths, letting yourself cry, go for a walk, intentionally move your body such as a form of exercise or stretching, stand up and shake your body for one minute, or take a warm shower or a long bath.

  • Talk about your feelings with someone that you trust, or even a journal.

Don’t be scared to name what you are feeling – look up a Feelings Chart to help give yourself the words if you feel like you’re having difficulty naming them. When you are able to find the words you need, sit down with a trusted individual and talk about them. If you feel as though you aren’t ready to talk try journaling, or even writing a letter to a trusted individual that explains what you are feeling.

  • Seek support from a therapist to identify the root of shame and negative self-talk.

Family and friends are great supports, but sometimes there comes a time when we need to speak with a professional to dig deeper and learn more about ourselves. Sometimes the shame is so rooted in our core that we have to talk with a therapist to help us work through the root of the problem, so that we can find true healing.

Shame grows and penetrates a person’s heart when we shove it down deep and try to deal with it on our own. The greatest way to combat shame is to be vulnerable with trusted individuals, such as parents and guardians, teachers and counselors, and allow them to support us on our journey. If you are feeling overwhelmed by negative self-talk and have fallen deep into the shame spiral, it’s not too late to seek help.

Add a comment
+ show Comments
- Hide Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Natural Anxiety Relief

Explore Natural Ways to Manage Stress & Anxiety 


Natural Anxiety Relief

Take charge of your wellbeing and explore the importance of investing in your self care.

 No matter where you're at in your journey, we're available to support your mental health & wellness goals. We offer christian counseling for individuals and couples, as well as yoga, retreats & wellness groups.