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Background: Despite considerable progress in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a large percentage of individuals remain symptomatic following gold-standard therapies. One route to improving care is examining affective disturbances that involve other emotions beyond fear and threat. A growing body of research has implicated shame in PTSD’s development and course, although to date no review of this specific literature exists. This scoping review investigated the link between shame and PTSD and sought to identify research gaps. Methods: A systematic database search of PubMed, PsycInfo, Embase, Cochrane, and CINAHL was conducted to find original quantitative research related to shame and PTSD. Results: Forty-seven studies met inclusion criteria. Review found substantial support for an association between shame and PTSD as well as preliminary evidence suggesting its utility as a treatment target. Several design limitations and under-investigated areas were recognized, including the need for a multimodal assessment of shame and more longitudinal and treatment-focused research. Conclusion: This review provides crucial synthesis of research to date, highlighting the prominence of shame in PTSD, and its likely relevance in successful treatment outcomes. The present review serves as a guide to future work into this critical area of study.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, available at DOI: 10.3390/jcm5110094

© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (



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