A meta-analysis of the association between shame and dissociation

Shame and dissociation have been implicated theoretically and empirically in trauma exposure and its sequelae, with shame understood as an intense negative emotion and dissociation as a reaction to intense negative emotions. Understanding the connection between shame and dissociation is important for theory and practice; however, the strength of this association remains unclear. For example, in therapy, both shame and dissociation serve as a barrier to engaging with emotion.


Theoretically, these two states should be distinct, as one (dissociation) confers low affective intensity and the other (shame) high intensity. The present meta-analysis focused on the magnitude of the association between these two phenomena and investigated the extent to which gender, trauma exposure, psychiatric comorbidities, and demographic characteristics influence this association given their independent links to shame and dissociation. An initial search of six databases identified 151,844 articles. Duplicates were removed, and additional articles were excluded based on abstract and title screening. After contacting authors for missing data, a full-text screen yielded 25 articles for the present analysis.


The results indicate that shame and dissociation were moderately correlated (k = 33, n = 4,705), r = .42, 95% CI [.35, .48], p < .001, but no clear clinical moderators emerged. Despite this association, very few studies utilized experimental designs to examine the association between these constructs. Future research should focus on experimental study designs to investigate the extent to which shame induces dissociation or vice versa.

Justine A. Rudy, Scott McKernan, Nicole Kouri, Wendy D'Andrea | 2022
In: Journal of Traumatic Stress ; ISSN: 1573-6598 | 35 | 5 | 1318-1333
Comorbidity, Dissociative Disorders, Emotional States, Experimental Design, Exposure, Gender Issues, Guilt, Meta Analysis, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Shame