Shame- and guilt-proneness: relationships with anxiety disorder symptoms in a clinical sample

J Anxiety Disord. 2010 Dec;24(8):811-5. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.06.002. Epub 2010 Jun 11.


Researchers postulate that both shame and guilt are emotions important to anxiety disorders. Extant data, however, indicate that guilt-proneness shares non-significant relationships with psychopathology symptoms after controlling for shame-proneness. To further investigate the relevance of shame and guilt to the anxiety disorders domain, the current study examined associations between shame- and guilt-proneness and anxiety disorder symptoms using data from patients (N=124) with primary anxiety disorder diagnoses. Results indicated that only symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) shared significant relations with shame-proneness after controlling for other types of anxiety disorder symptoms, depression symptoms, and guilt-proneness. Further, changes in shame-proneness during treatment were found to share significant relations with changes in obsessive-compulsive disorder, SAD, and GAD symptoms. The current results indicate that shame is more relevant to symptoms of the anxiety disorders domain than is guilt. The implications of these results for the conceptualization and treatment of anxiety disorders are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychological Tests
  • Shame*
  • Young Adult