Shame and posttraumatic stress disorder

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Abstract

Guilt about surviving a traumatic event is thought to be an associated feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Shame is an emotion closely related to guilt but is a distinct affective state. Little is known regarding the role of shame in PTSD and there are no studies of PTSD where shame and guilt are examined simultaneously. We used a measure of shame- and guilt-proneness in 107 community residing former prisoner of war veterans all of whom had been exposed to trauma. The measure of shame-proneness was positively correlated with PTSD symptom severity whereas guilt-proneness was not. This study provides the first empirical data regarding a possible role for shame in PTSD and may have important therapeutic and theoretical implications.

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