Shame and disociation

Melissa G. Platt, Jason B. Luoma & Jennifer J. Freyd (2017) Shame and Dissociation in Survivors of High and Low Betrayal Trauma, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26:1, 34-49.

DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2016.1228020

Study type: Quantitative analysis. Participants filled out several psychological measures before and after a dissociation induction was introduced.

Sample size: 127

Demographics: All participants were women prescreened for a history of a least one experience of psychological trauma using the Brief Betrayal Trauma Survey (BBTS). Age ranged from 17 to 52 years (M = 19.9, SD = 3.45). Demographics were as follows: White (75%), Asian (11%), African American (4%), Native Hawaiian or other Pacific
Islander (2%), American Indian or Alaskan Native (1%), and other (7%).

Key findings & quotes:
  • Study examined relationship between shame, fear, and dissociation among women who survived trauma.
  • Participants filled out: State Shame & Guilt Scale; Brief Betrayal Trauma Survey; State Scale of Depression; and     Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded Form (fear subscale). A dissociation induction was used in which participants were asked to recount up to four experiences in which they           knew they should feel an emotion and yet felt detached and to write about these situations.
  • 61% of participants reported at least on High Betrayal Trauma (HBT) and 70% reported at least one Low Betrayal   Trauma (LBT). 
  • “We found that increases in dissociation were related to subsequent higher levels of shame.”
  • Higher levels of shame and fear were recorded in the participants after the dissociation induction.
  • “Our study provides evidence against the bypassed shame theory of dissociation, which is often endorsed by            clinicians. These results are clinically meaningful in that clinicians who are aware that dissociation is not actually      helping their client and that the dissociating client is likely experiencing very high distress might experience more      compassion for the client.”
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