The Shame of the Alcoholic

The Huffington Post:

This month in Cleveland a woman was caught swerving her car onto a sidewalk, illegally passing a school bus full of children. A judge sentenced her to stand on the street corner wearing a sign that read, “Only an idiot would drive around a school bus.” In Arlington, Tex., a billboard features mug shots of suspected johns, with the words, “This could be you.”

The scientists wanted to see if shameful body language correlated with mental and physical health, and especially with successful sobriety, four months later. This is the time window during which most newly recovered alcoholics will relapse, and indeed more than half the volunteers never made it back to the lab. But with those who did, there was an unmistakable connection between shame and relapse. The alcoholics who were most ashamed about their last drink — typically a humiliating experience — were much more likely to relapse. Their relapses were also more severe, involving much more drinking, and they were more likely to suffer other declines in health. In short, as described in a future issue of the journal Clinical Psychological Science, feelings of shame do not appear to promote sobriety or protect against future problematic drinking — indeed the opposite.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APS, We’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology.

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