Previous research has demonstrated that shame-proneness (the tendency to feel bad about the self) relates to a variety of life problems, whereas guilt-proneness (the tendency to feel bad about a specific behavior) is more likely to be adaptive. The current analyses sought to clarify the relations of shame-proneness and guilt-proneness to substance use problems in three samples with differing levels of alcohol and drug problem severity: college undergraduates (Study 1 N = 235, Study 2 N = 249) and jail inmates (Study 3 N = 332). Across samples, shame-proneness was generally positively correlated with substance use problems, whereas guilt-proneness was inversely related (or unrelated) to substance use problems. Results suggest that shame and guilt should be considered separately in the prevention and treatment of substance misuse.
Dearing, R. L., Stuewig, J., & Tangney, J. P. (2005). On the importance of distinguishing shame from guilt: Relations to problematic alcohol and drug use. Addictive behaviors, 30(7), 1392-1404.