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Shame And Guilt

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Christine Harris, professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, recently conducted a study that looked at why patients feel guilt or shame when going to the doctor, and the difference between the two. 

"When you are going to see a doctor, you are often going in with behaviors that are unhealthy," Harris says. "Many of us are overweight, or we drink too much, or we smoke, or we have unprotected sex; So the types of things that come up in a doctor-patient interaction are the types of things people feel guilty or shameful."

Half of those in the study were asked to speak on shame, while the others spoke on guilt they had felt. Shame was mostly associated with sex, weight, and teeth. 

Those who were asked of guilt, however, seemed more encouraged. Their problems could be fixed by changing their own behaviors. Losing weight is one example. 

"Just focus in on the behavior. That goes same for the doctors," Harris says. "These are behaviors that can be changed, or should be changed, and avoid making the person feel bad."