Background: Shame is a self-conscious emotion and mostly experienced in the context of moral and/or normative transgression. Feelings of shame about one's own body and its intimacy must be seen as different from those, which are experienced as a result of negative social evaluations. Feelings of shame have been discussed as being important in the emotional experience of mentally ill persons, although systematic research is missing.
Methods: A scenario-based self-report questionnaire has been constructed, the "Heidelberger Fragebogen zu Schamgefühlen". It consists of two scales, one measuring shame in situations of bodily experiences and the other one in situations of social competence and achievement. Data have been collected with n=320 patients with various mental disorders and been compared to a control group (cross-sectional study). Additionally correlations between feelings of shame and personality styles have been measured.
Results: Feelings of shame in situations connected with bodily experiences are more important than those raising as a result of negative social achievement. Patients with affective and anxiety disorders show the most intensive feelings of shame - with the exception of social phobia.
Conclusions: Intensive feelings of shame can be seen as a result of low self-esteem, fear of failure and of punishment.
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart-New York.