Shame: The Other Emotion in Depression and Anxiety


Psychologists claim that there are between 6 and 10 basic emotions that humans experience. The six emotions that have been identified as primary emotions include anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. It is not surprising that the main emotion in depression is sadness and in anxiety it is fear. Many individuals who are diagnosed with depression or anxiety experience an excess of both sadness and fear.

Have you ever been depressed or anxious and felt shameful at the same time? Know that feeling shame while being depressed or anxious is normal. Psychologists classify shame as a secondary emotion, and it is formed in reaction to another emotion. It is an inhibitory emotion that takes over your ability to feel just about anything at all and is often seen in both depression and anxiety. Shame can cause individuals to have negative, debilitating feelings because it combines other negative emotions. As a human being, we often feel ashamed of having negative emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, and hate. Shame can often be confused with guilt; however, there is a vital difference.


  • Develops from a negative evaluation of one’s own behavior
  • The feeling of doing wrong
  • A powerful motivator to change one’s behavior for the better


  • Develops from a negative evaluation of oneself
  • The feeling of being wrong
  • Makes an individual believe that change is impossible because the problem is oneself

Shame is a toxic emotion that makes a depressed individual feel too worthless to get out of bed. It causes an anxious individual to avoid social events because they are afraid of drawing undue attention to their perceived flaws. Toxic shame can be so harmful that it destroys self-esteem and fuels the negative emotions that are felt in depression and anxiety.

The following are common thoughts that people who experience toxic shame tell themselves:

  • “I’m so stupid. I can’t do anything right!”
  • “I’m always saying the wrong thing. What is wrong with me?”
  • “I’m so fat. I look horrible. I can’t go to that party.”
  • “I’m such a mess. I hate myself.”

Many people have these negative thoughts from time-to-time. However, individuals with depression and anxiety tend to engage in them a lot more often and with frequently debilitating outcomes. Victims of trauma and abuse are particularly vulnerable to toxic shame. However, one does not have to experience an abusive childhood or severe hardship in order to experience dysfunctional levels of shame. Toxic shame can result from shaming messages spoken by parents, teachers, peers that become internalized and repeated to oneself over and over again.

Recognizing how shame plays a role in depression, anxiety, and other disorders can be a vital step in restoring hope that recovery can happen. Shame can alienate you from your inner self, which is not a healthy way of living. Some people may resort to medication to help with their depression, while others may see a mental health professional. Another option to help with depression and anxiety is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS provides a non-invasive long-term solution to dealing with depression. The staff at GatewayTMS focus on the health and well-being of our patients. If you have tried medication or counseling and have found that it does not work, or just do not want to go down that path, call GatewayTMS at (314) 909-8487 to learn more about TMS and how we can help you manage your depression or anxiety.