Objectives: The tendency to experience shame or guilt is associated differentially with anxiety and depression, with shame being associated with greater psychopathology. Correlational studies have shown self-compassion to be related to lower shame and rumination, and mindfulness-based interventions increase self-compassion. Therefore, mindfulness-based interventions may decrease shame. This pilot study aimed to assess the association of shame, rumination, self-compassion, and psychological distress and the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on these measures in a clinical sample.
Design: Single-group design with pre-test and post-test measures.
Method: Thirty-two service users who experienced clinically diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorders in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy programme were assessed before and twenty-two after therapy with measures of shame-proneness, external shame, rumination, self-compassion, and psychological distress.
Results: Shame-proneness and external shame were positively correlated with self-coldness, and external shame was positively correlated with stress and depressive symptoms. Self-compassion increased and self-coldness decreased, while shame-proneness, rumination, anxiety, and stress symptoms decreased from pre- to post-treatment. There was no significant reduction in depressive symptoms, guilt-proneness, or external shame.
Conclusion: Our preliminary findings suggest that mindfulness-based approaches may be helpful in increasing self-compassion and reducing shame-proneness in mixed groups of anxious and depressed patients. Controlled studies of the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on shame in clinical populations are warranted.
Practitioner points: Shame-proneness and external shame showed different patterns of relationship with depressive and stress symptoms and with self-compassion. Shame-proneness decreased to a greater extent than external shame decreased following participation in an MBCT group. Mindfulness-based interventions may benefit shame-proneness to a greater extent than external shame.
Keywords: anxiety; depression; mindfulness; rumination; self-compassion; shame.
© 2018 The British Psychological Society.