Overcoming Guilt and Self-Stigma in Teen Addiction Treatment
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Guilt and self-stigma are common feelings as teens go through addiction treatment. While these feelings are common, teens need to learn how to overcome them during teen addiction treatment to have a successful recovery. We will explore what causes teens to feel this way and how it can lead to roadblocks during recovery. We’ll also share some techniques you can share with your teen to help them overcome their feelings of guilt and self-stigma that can present themselves.

Causes of Shame and Guilt During Teen Addiction Treatment

While guilt and shame are connected, they are two distinct feelings. Shame refers to how we feel about ourselves, while guilt is knowing how our actions have affected others.

When teens are going through recovery treatment, the fog and hold that their substance had over them begins to lift, and they begin to see their actions more clearly. This can make them see the harm they may have caused their loved ones, leading to feelings of guilt. They may also feel guilty if they realize they didn’t follow through on things they promised to do.

Another common occurrence during addiction treatment is feeling ashamed for having an addiction. Your teen may feel embarrassed for being addicted to a substance. While these feelings are common, they can hinder recovery if not appropriately addressed.

How Guilt & Shame Can Hinder the Recovery Process

Guilt and shame need to be addressed in teen addiction treatment to prevent relapse. If your teen believes they are not worthy and incapable of change, shame and guilt will continue to play a role in their substance abuse, hindering recovery.

Teens may begin to feel guilt even before the recovery process begins. They may realize what they’re doing is wrong but continue doing it. This can make them feel guilty for the pain and trouble they are causing.

Substance use disorders are also commonly accompanied by a feeling of self-stigmatization. This can stem from social stereotypes of alcohol and drug use that can make teens feel as though there is something wrong with them because they use drugs or alcohol. When this happens, teens may feel ashamed.

Research shows that shame is the most significant barrier to alcoholics getting treatment for their addiction. [1] This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for teens to learn how to overcome feelings of shame, whether they’re dealing with an alcohol addiction or other substance. The more shameful they feel, the more likely they will turn to negative behaviors. This can result in a vicious cycle.

When teens feel guilt and shame during their recovery process, it can lead to low self-esteem and isolation. If these feelings become too common, they can prevent a teenager from staying on the path to recovery and lead to relapse. If teens feel as though they are too broken, they may feel discouraged to continue their treatment process.

How to Overcome Guilt & Shame During Teen Addiction Treatment

Overcoming guilt and shame during teen addiction treatment is an essential part of the recovery process. Here are some ways you can help your teen stay on track:

Self-Empathy and Self-Compassion

Teach your teen to forgive themselves and empathize with their situation. [2] Practicing positive affirmations is one way to do this, in addition to doing kind things for themselves. Perhaps you can suggest that your teen find one positive thing to say about themselves daily. Write it down in a journal so they can refer to it when they feel low.


Self-care also helps teens feel better about themselves, which wards off feelings of low self-esteem and guilt. This can be done by exercising and eating healthy. Caring for your body this way will help teens feel good about themselves and reduce feelings of guilt. Self-care also allows teens to remember that they are worthy of care.

Practice Mindfulness

Studies have shown that mindfulness interventions can reduce feelings of shame. [3] Meditation has been one proven method, as well as deep breathing techniques. This helps to bring about non-judgmental awareness of the present moment by directing attention to the deep-breathing sensations.

Group Therapy and Peer Support

Attending group therapy sessions and finding peer support can help teens overcome guilt and the self-stigma that they may be feeling. Knowing others are having the same feelings they are helps to lower their feelings of guilt and shame.

Be Around People Who Value You

When your teen surrounds themselves with people who value and lift them up rather than break them down, they can break free of their negative feelings. They can begin to feel good about themselves and reduce their feelings of guilt and shame.

Seek Teen Addiction Treatment at Ember Recovery

At Ember Recovery, we help teens overcome their substance abuse disorders with a variety of programs and therapies. Through our programs, teens learn how to reduce guilt and shame and move forward in their recovery. Call us today or contact us online to learn more about how we can get your teen on the path to recovery.



[1] https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/health-professionals-communities/core-resource-on-alcohol/stigma-overcoming-pervasive-barrier-optimal-care

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306460321001398

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29345803/#