Comparing Shame in Clinical and Nonclinical Populations: Preliminary Findings

Kevin F W Dyer, Martin J Dorahy, Mary Corry, Rebecca Black, Laura Matheson, Holly Coles, David Curran, Lenaire Seager, Warwick Middleton

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OBJECTIVES: To conduct a preliminary study comparing different trauma and clinical populations on types of shame coping style and levels of state shame and guilt.

METHODS: A mixed independent groups/correlational design was employed. Participants were recruited by convenience sampling of 3 clinical populations-complex trauma (n = 65), dissociative identity disorder (DID; n = 20), and general mental health (n = 41)-and a control group of healthy volunteers (n = 125). All participants were given (a) the Compass of Shame Scale, which measures the four common shame coping behaviors/styles of "withdrawal," "attack self," "attack other," and "avoidance," and (b) the State Shame and Guilt Scale, which assesses state shame, guilt, and pride.

RESULTS: The DID group exhibited significantly higher levels of "attack self," "withdrawal," and "avoidance" relative to the other groups. The complex trauma and general mental health groups did not differ on any shame variable. All three clinical groups had significantly greater levels of the "withdrawal" coping style and significantly impaired shame/guilt/pride relative to the healthy volunteers. "Attack self" emerged as a significant predictor of increased state shame in the complex trauma, general mental health, and healthy volunteer groups, whereas "withdrawal" was the sole predictor of state shame in the DID group.

CONCLUSIONS: DID emerged as having a different profile of shame processes compared to the other clinical groups, whereas the complex trauma and general mental health groups had comparable shame levels and variable relationships. These differential profiles of shame coping and state shame are discussed with reference to assessment and treatment. (PsycINFO Database Record

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological trauma : theory, research, practice and policy
Early online date23 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2016


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