mental health, therapy, counseling and psychology terms glossary

Guilt and Shame

Guilt and Shame are related emotions and they can coexist together. Though the words tend to be used interchangeably, each has an independent meaning.

What is Guilt?

Guilt is a bad feeling associated with a thought or action that is considered undesirable or less than ideal for which one is responsible for doing or thinking.

One may feel guilty for calling someone a bad name – they were responsible for what they said so they are guilty of saying it. 

What is Shame?

Shame is concerned with self-worth and not meeting an internal expectation of the ideal self.

One may feel ashamed of a flaw – but they are not in control of it (not responsible for it) so therefore they are not guilty of the flaw.

We experience these emotions regularly throughout life, though some more than others. Certain events can cause feelings of guilt and or shame to spiral and fester, causing problems in everyday life. A therapist is trained to help identify and shed light on the causes and provide solutions for managing these negative emotions.

At Claibourne Counseling, we offer support for individuals seeking a more confident life!