Skip to main content

Shame and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Blanchard, E. B., Jones-Alexander, J., Buckley, T. C., & Forneris, C. A. (1996). Psychometric properties of the PTSD checklist (PCL). Behavior Research and Therapy, 34, 669–673.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Brett, E. A., Spitzer, R. L., & Williams, J. B. (1988). DSM-III-R criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 1232–1236.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Engdahl, B., Dikel, T. N., Eberly, R., & Blank, A., Jr. (1997). Posttraumatic stress disorder in a community sample of former prisoners of war: A normative response to severe trauma. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 1576–1581.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Fontana, A., Rosenheck, R., & Brett, E. (1992). War zone traumas and posttraumatic stress disorder symptomatology. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 180, 748–755.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Frazier, P. A. (1990). Victim attributions and post-rape trauma. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 298–304.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Glover, H. (1984). Survival guilt and the Vietnam veteran. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 172, 393–397.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Glover, H., Pelesky, C. A., Bruno, R., & Sette, R. (1990). Post-traumatic stress disorder conflicts in Vietnam combat veterans: A confirmatory factor analytic study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3, 573–591.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Gramzow, R., & Tangney, J. P. (1992). Proneness to shame and the narcissistic personality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18, 369–376.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Hovens, J. E., Falger, P. R., Op Den Veide, W., & Meijer, P. (1993). A self-rating scale of posttraumatic stress disorder in Dutch resistance veterans in World War II. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49, 196–203.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Janoff-Bulman, R. (1979). Characterologic versus behavioral self-blame: Inquiries into depression and rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1798–1809.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Keane, T. M., Fairbank, J. A., Caddell, J. M., Zimering, R. T., Taylor, K. L., & Mora, C. A. (1989). Clinical evaluation of a measure to assess combat exposure. Psychological Assessment, 1, 53–55.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Kubany, E. S. (1994). A cognitive model of guilt typology in combat-related PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 3–19.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Kubany, E. S., Abueg, F. R., Kilauano, W. L., Manke, F. P., & Kaplan, A. S. (1997). Development and validation of the sources of trauma-related guilt survey: War-zone version. Journal of, Traumatic Stress, 10, 235–258.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Lewis, H. B. (1971). Shame and guilt in neurosis. New York: International Universities Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Lindsay-Hartz, J. (1984). Contrasting experiences of shame and guilt. American Behavioral Scientist, 27, 689–704.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Parson, E. R. (1986). Life after death: Vietnam veteran's struggle for meaning and recovery. Death Studies, 10, 11–26.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Stone, A. M. (1992). The role of shame in post-traumatic stress disorder. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 62, 131–136.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Tangney, J. P. (1990). Assessing individual differences in proneness to shame and guilt: Development of the self-conscious affect and attribution inventory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 102–111.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Tangney, J. P. (1991). Moral affect: The good, the bad and the ugly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 598–607.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Tangney, J. P., Wagner, P., Fletcher, C., & Gramzow, R. (1992). Shamed into anger? Relation of shame-proneness and guilt-proneness to anger and hostility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 669–675.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Tangney, J. P., Wagner, P., & Gramzow, R. (1989). The Test of Self-Conscious Affect. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Weathers, F. W., Litz, B. T., Herman, D. S., Huska, J. A., & Keane, T. M. (1993, October). The PTSD checklist: Reliability, validity, and diagnostic utility. Paper presented at the meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, San Antonio, TX.

  24. Wong, M. R., & Cook, D. (1992). Shame and its contribution to PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5, 557–562.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

About this article

Cite this article

Leskela, J., Dieperink, M. & Thuras, P. Shame and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. J Trauma Stress 15, 223–226 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015255311837

Download citation

  • PTSD
  • POW
  • guilt
  • shame