Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:
History of Betrayal Trauma Predicts Feelings of Shame
This is a new publication by Melissa along with betrayal trauma expert, Jennifer Freyd. We were interested in whether past experience of betrayal trauma, or trauma perpetrated by someone close to the victim, would have unique effects compared to trauma perpetrated by someone not close to the victim, or non-interpersonal traumas like accidents and natural disasters. We found that history of betrayal trauma predicted shame and dissociation when looking at trauma-relevant pictures, whereas history of trauma without a high degree of betrayal predicted fear, but not shame or dissociation.
Take away: Abuse by someone close may lead to shame-proneness (as well as proneness to dissociation).
Platt, M. & Freyd, J. J. (2015). Betray my trust, shame on me: Shame, dissociation, fear, and betrayal trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
Shame, but not Guilt, Explains the Relationship Between Post-traumatic Stress and Aggression in Men with Interpersonal Trauma History
This study examined whether trait shame explains the associations between posttraumatic stress and aggressive behavior in a sample of 103 men with a history of interpersonal trauma. The authors found that shame accounted for the relationship between posttraumatic stress and a variety of types of aggression, as well as frequency of aggressive behaviors. Results for guilt were not significant.
Take away: Shame, but not guilt, may contribute to aggressive behavior among men who have experienced interpersonal trauma.
Schoenleber, M., Sippel, L. M., Jakupcak, M., & Tull, M. T. (2015). Role of trait shame in the association between posttraumatic stress and aggression among men with a history of interpersonal trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 7(1), 43.
Shame, but not Guilt, Relates to Anger in Adolescent Girls with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
This study looked at how shame and anger function in a sample of adolescent girls with BPD. The authors found that girls with BPD symptoms tended to experience more hostile irritability throughout their week if they also experienced more shame. Unlike shame, guilt was not associated with hostile irritability.
Take away: As the authors state, "shame may be a key clinical target in the treatment of anger-related difficulties among adolescent girls with BPD symptoms."
Scott, L. N., Stepp, S. D., Hallquist, M. N., Whalen, D. J., Wright, A. G., & Pilkonis, P. A. (2015). Daily shame and hostile irritability in adolescent girls with borderline personality disorder symptoms. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 6(1), 53.