The Role of Generalized Explicit and Implicit Guilt and Shame in Interpersonal Traumatization and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and interpersonal traumatization are frequently associated with trauma-related guilt and shame. However, research on generalized guilt and shame in PTSD is lacking. The aim of this study was to investigate generalized explicit and implicit guilt and shame in interpersonal traumatization and PTSD. Interpersonally traumatized women either with PTSD (n = 28) or without PTSD (n = 32) and 32 nontraumatized women completed the Test of Self-Conscious Affect-3 and the Implicit Association Test to measure explicit and implicit guilt and shame. Explicit guilt and shame were significantly higher in women with PTSD than in traumatized women without PTSD. Traumatized women without PTSD showed significantly higher levels of explicit guilt and shame than nontraumatized women did. PTSD was associated with implicit guilt but not implicit shame. In addition to trauma-related guilt and shame, generalized explicit guilt and shame and implicit guilt seem to play a crucial role in PTSD.

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