Feelings of guilt and shame in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Clin Rheumatol. 2014 Jul;33(7):903-10. doi: 10.1007/s10067-014-2516-3. Epub 2014 Feb 9.


This study aims to determine whether patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience more general feelings of guilt and shame than their peers without RA and to examine possible correlates of guilt and shame in RA. In a cross-sectional survey study, 85 out-patients with RA (77 % female; median disease duration, 11 years) and 59 peer controls completed the Experience of Shame Scale (ESS) and the Test of Self-Conscious Affect (TOSCA). Patients additionally completed measures of health status, self-efficacy, cognitive emotion regulation, and numerical rating scales for life satisfaction and happiness. Patients and peer controls were well matched for sociodemographic characteristics. No significant differences between patients and controls were found for guilt or different types of shame as measured with the TOSCA or ESS. In multivariate analyses, female patients reported more feelings of bodily shame and higher guilt proneness, while younger patients reported more character and bodily shame. Worse social functioning and more self-blaming coping strategies were the strongest independent correlates of shame. Shame proneness was only independently associated with more self-blame, whereas guilt proneness was only associated with female sex. None of the physical aspects of the disease, including pain and physical functioning, correlated with feelings of guilt and shame. Patients with longstanding RA do not experience more general feelings of shame or guilt than their peers without RA. Shame and guilt in RA is primarily associated with demographic and psychosocial characteristics and not with physical severity of the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Self Concept
  • Shame*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors