Shame in Parkinson'S Disease: A Review

J Parkinsons Dis. 2019;9(3):489-499. doi: 10.3233/JPD-181462.


Shame is a self-conscious emotion marked by an intensely negative self-evaluation. It is exhibited by an individual upon realizing that she/he has violated an important (usually social) norm. Shame can be a source of emotional distress leading to social withdrawal and depression, with a significant negative impact on quality of life. In Parkinson's disease (PD), shame is rarely addressed. Based on reports of persons affected with Parkinson's disease (PwP) as well as a literature review, this article describes PD-related shame. PD-related shame may emerge from motor and non-motor symptoms, from self-perception of inadequacy due to loss of autonomy and need for help, or from perceived deterioration of body image. The neurobiology of shame delineates neuronal networks involved in cognitive and emotions regulation, self-representation and representation of the others mental states. Although this hypothesis remains to be demonstrated, these substrates could be modulated, at least partially, by dopaminergic depletion related to PD, which may open a window for pharmacotherapy. Owing to the negative impact that shame can produce, shame should be actively explored and addressed in the individual PwP. Teaching PwP how to develop resilience to shame may be a useful strategy in preventing the vicious circle of shame. The paucity of existing data on prevalence and management of PD-specific shame contrasts with the manifold reported situations inducing suffering from shame. There is a crucial need for further investigations of shame in PD and the development of interventions to reduce its impact on PwP's quality of life.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; dopamine; embarrassment; quality of life; shame.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Shame*