Shameful Addictions

Shameful addiction recovery works in the same way as all others

Shameful addictions are easy to describe. They are powerful habits that are not themselves illegal but need to be hidden away, in order that they can be indulged to the extent desired. The two common shameful addictions that I see are gambling and Internet pornography. Both are entirely undertaken by men.

For gambling, the risk is financial ruin and often requires quite sophisticated and elaborate subterfuge and planning in order to keep the financial cost secret, either from one’s parents or partner. For pornography, the cost is invariably born by the primary partner relationship. And invariably, the underlying normally marriage relationship was under strain to begin with and this was subsequently made worse by the time and subterfuge taken to indulge the pornography.


The critical first stage of recovery from shameful addictions such as gambling and pornography is to deal with the underlying life problems – whether these relate to the primary relationship or issues of work and meaning. And then it is necessary to demonstrate a degree of improvement, which in turn builds self-confidence and the desire for further change.

The next stage requires serious hypnotic work to shift the powerful patterns – of desire and temporary dopamine fuelled excitement that drive the shameful addictive behaviours. And further to investigate whether there are sources of difficulties that go way back – including past trauma.

There is little doubt also that those engaged in shameful addictive behaviours are very open to understanding at a deep level exactly how their behaviours have developed and begun to destroy the essence of their lives.

And of course, this makes sense as of all the addictions that I deal with and which are covered in this website, shameful addictions are almost entirely psychological in that there is no physical consumption of a substance or liquid of any kind. But like most addictions, enormous effort is expended to sustain it while the cost in terms of essential needs not met, can be very high.

Treatment for shameful addictions
So where are you on the road to your gambling/pornography cessation?

These are the stages of change identified by Feelbetter Counselling:

  1. Building control and empowerment by getting needs better met – working indirectly in this way you will be taking the right kind of action that will speed up the maintenance phase and minimise the disruption of the relapses. The addiction, arising out of behaviour which at the beginning was moderate, would have reflected a life that was not working in some way. This could have been in response to a crisis – at work or family perhaps – or something more deep seated concerning basic safety and security, relationships and work and meaning. Auditing needs then and now will be important.
  2. The secret is not to rush into complete shameful addiction cessation but to set objectives that make sense and work in a way that does add to the pressure but in fact relieves it.
  3. The identification and clearing of an unhelpful emotional response – triggered from a past event or set of experiences. To draw the time line – your relationship with the shameful addiction through good times and bad.
  4. Practising relaxation and self awareness. General relaxation can help, as awareness grows, while in a relaxed state, rehearsal can be undertaken of particular trigger situations

What to do Next

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