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What is Shame?

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Updated February 19, 2009

Definition:

Shame is an emotion in which the self is perceived as defective, unacceptable, or fundamentally damaged. Shame is often confused with guilt, which is a related but distinct emotion in which a specific behavior is viewed as unacceptable or wrong, rather than the entire self.

People who experience traumatic events are prone to shame, particularly if they blame themselves for the event. Shame can be a particularly problematic emotion because it is associated with a desire to hide, disappear, or even die. Individuals with borderline personality disorder often report associated feelings of shame.

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