The role of shame and guilt in traumatic events: a clinical model of shame-based and guilt-based PTSD

Br J Med Psychol. 2001 Dec;74(Pt 4):451-66. doi: 10.1348/000711201161109.


Post-traumatic stress disorder is currently classified as an anxiety disorder with fear as the predominant emotion. This has led to the development of treatment techniques such as exposure aimed at alleviating fear. This article highlights the need to address other emotional responses, in particular shame and guilt, when assessing and treating PTSD. Hence, it presents two clinical models of shame-based PTSD and guilt-based PTSD. These models are offered as aids to clinicians in assessing and formulating cases of PTSD where shame and guilt are salient issues. The models highlight the importance of assessing meaning in the context of pre-existing schemas and address two pathways to the development of shame and/or guilt: schema congruence and schema incongruence. Several treatment implications are drawn from the models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Shame*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*