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Shame Indicates Anxiety Disorders in Children

Children who exhibited shame had a higher rate of anxiety disorder symptoms.

Guilt and shame - separate emotions, but equal in their negative impact on the self. Which is more of an indicator of anxiety disorder symptoms?

First, let's figure out the difference between guilt and shame. When you feel guilty, you have a feeling that you have done something wrong and it gnaws at you. With shame, there is a deeper feeling of distress and/or humilation.

A study by Muris, et al. (2015) found that guilt and shame feelings in children 8 to 13 years of age were both significantly correlated with anxiety disorder symptoms and behavioral inhibition. (Behavioral inhibition is this case is defined as being wary or shy of new things, people or situations.)

When the overlap between guilt and shame was controlled, it was found that shame, but not guilt, was significantly correlated with being more likely to develop anxiety and anxiety disorder symptoms.

When behavioral inhibition was taken out of the picture, shame was still found to be significantly related to total anxiety symptoms and generalized anxiety scores.

What does this mean? Children who show shame may be more prone to being anxious or developing an anxiety disorder. Guiit also seems to be a factor in children with anxiety, but shame is much more of an indicator.


Muris, P., Meesters, C., Bouwman, L., & Notermans, S. (2015). Relations Among Behavioral Inhibition, Shame- and Guilt-Proneness, and Anxiety Disorders Symptoms in Non-clinical Children. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 46(2), 209–216.

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