Shame and posttraumatic stress disorder

J Trauma Stress. 2002 Jun;15(3):223-6. doi: 10.1023/A:1015255311837.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Combat Disorders / classification
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis
  • Combat Disorders / etiology
  • Combat Disorders / psychology*
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Midwestern United States
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shame*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Warfare*