Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Literature Review Paper Example

5 pages
1334 words
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) is a mental condition that is usually caused by traumatic and terrifying events experienced or witnessed by a person. The common symptoms of the condition includes nightmares, flashbacks, severe depression and anxiety. Those who suffer from the mental condition usually have coping and adjustment difficulty prompting a myriad of research to be carried out to find a lasting solution to the condition. This paper will be a review of the research carried out by Held, Owens, & Anderson (2017) in their study titled, The interrelationships among trauma-related guilt and shame, disengagement coping, and PTSD in a sample of treatment-seeking substance users.

Summary of the research

The multidimensional model recognizes guilt as being a multidimensional concept with cognitive and practical dimensions. The model uses the guilt magnitude as a function of other five variables which are considered as the basic constructs of guilt. The model has been utilized in accounting for guilt which comes as a result of the contexts of traumatic events in a persons life. Alternatively, the model has been used in accounting for the guilt which emerges from the response to the events that evokes guilt. In the model, the proponents identify contextual variables which are believed to affect promoting guilt and distress cognitions. Besides, the situational and social factors contributing to the guilt are also identified. Subsequently, the variables are employed in explaining the interrelationship between trauma and guilt.

Purpose and method of the study

The purpose of the research was to empirically test interrelationships among trauma-related guilt and shame disengagement coping and posttraumatic stress disorder in a sample of treatment-seeking substance users (Held, Owens, & Anderson, 2017). These variables represent the component in the multidimensional model of guilt which was developed by Kubany and Watson (2003). The researcher was in a bid of creating a better understanding of the components used by the model. This involved empirically testing the variables. The move was in a bid to gain a better understanding of the variables used in the model. Essentially, the study was centered around unmasking the interrelationships between PTSD severity, trauma-related shame and guilt and emotion and problem-focused disengagements.

The study involved collecting data from a treatment clinic in the southern part of the United States among treatment-seeking substance users. A sample of 72 was taken. In the sample population, 49 were male whereas 23 were female. This sample composed of an age range of between 18 and 64 years. This is the age that was identified by the researchers as more prone to PTSD. For the demographics, the researchers included the whites, black Americans, Asians, and Hispanic while a minimal 1% represented other races. The whole sample has represented forms of psychopathology such as severe depression, substance abuse disorders (SUDs), and anxiety.

Variables and methods of measurement

The study focused on testing variables such as shame, guilt, and problem-focused disengagement and emotion-focused disengagement and PTSD. The traumatic experiences of the participants were measured using the Trauma History Screen(THS). This is a self-report measure that contains eleven traumatic events where the participants are required to choose from. The scale facilitates the identification of the number of times the participant was affected by the situation and the one event that affected them the most. Furthermore, the PTSD Checklist is used in an assessment of the severity of PTSD. The scale contains 17 components where the respondents are required to record the severity of the traumatic events. Also, the State Shame and Guilt Scale(SSGS) was used to measure the underlying state of guilt and shame on the respondent. Finally, the Coping Strategies Inventory (CSI) is utilized in assessing the models the individual use in coping with the traumatic events. In the assessment, the respondent is required to elaborate how they cope with the events whether by problem-focused or emotion-focused disengagement.

Summary of the results and the conclusion

The results of the study revealed that there exists a direct relationship between trauma-related guilt and emotion-focused disengagement trauma coping mechanism which was in turn directly related to PTSD severity. On the other hand, trauma-related guilt is also directly related to trauma related shame (Harman & Lee, 2010). In summary, the study noted that there exist two different pathways existing in the interrelationship between trauma-related guilt and PTSD severity.

Furthermore, trauma-related guilt is directly related to trauma-related shame. This confirms the findings by Kubany and Watson (2003). Therefore, people who are struggling as a result of trauma-related shame are most likely to experience trauma-related guilt too. According to the study, there also exists an indirect association between trauma-related shame and guilt which can be explained by the use of problem-focused and emotion-focused disengagement trauma coping mechanisms. Essentially, individuals who suffer from trauma-related guilt tend to shut their feelings and themselves from others as well as blaming or criticizing themselves for their traumatic events. Therefore the results provide a further contribution to the research regarding the directions in the treatment of those suffering from comorbid substance abuse disorders and PTSD. Specifically, the patients can be treated by intervening through the trauma-related guilt and shame disengagement.

Significance of the results

The research provides a deep-seated understanding of the multidimensional model of trauma whereby the interrelationship between the variables is extensively discussed. The researchers use the procedures that are precise thereby heightening the validity of the findings. Furthermore, the study espouses the findings from other studies such as that by Kubany and Watson. Therefore the study offers an empirical testing to the study by other researchers.

Moreover, the results of the study shed light on the current trends in the treatment of the patients suffering from PTSD. The research puts across the premise of targeting the coping mechanisms of the patients as an intervention point of assisting them to cope with the PTSD. The researcher believes that handling PSTD should be intervened from the causing factors such as the emotional and problem-focused coping techniques from the patients (Held et al., 2017). The researchers also believed that the individuals who mostly rely on emotion-focused disengagement as a trauma coping mechanism are also most likely to rely on the problem focused trauma coping mechanism and vice-versa. This belief makes the researcher get a clear glimpse of the variables of the study and their interrelationship which eventually makes the study conclude that problem focused and emotion focused disengagement can be vital in the treatment of the PTSD and SUDs.


The study is an experimental research that seeks to empirically test the interrelationships between the variables in the multidimensional model. This eventually sheds light on the development of a new model of treatment of the PTSD. The study employs strategies that are very effective in ensuring validity and reliability. For instance, the study cross-examines other studies and compares the results. The literature review helps in shedding more light in the study. Furthermore, the study uses the measurement scales that have high consistency levels. This has a way of affecting the findings of the study positively ensuring that the right results are collected.

However, in the data collection stage, the researcher fails to mention the ethical concerns that were considered in the carrying out of the study. The researcher should have mentioned whether the study adhered to the confidentiality, voluntary participation and informing the participants of the purpose of the study. This in a way could have affected the results since the participants can fill the measurement scales just for the sake of it thereby compromising the results.


Harman, R., & Lee, D. (2010). The role of shame and self-critical thinking in the development and maintenance of current threat in post-traumatic stress disorder. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 17, 1324.

Held, P., Owens, G., & Anderson, S. (2017). The interrelationships among trauma-related guilt and shame, disengagement coping, and PTSD in a sample of treatment-seeking substance users.. Retrieved 3 November 2017, from

Held, P., Owens, G., Schumm, J., Chard, K., & Hansel, J. (2017). Disengagement coping as a mediator between trauma-related guilt and PTSD severity. Retrieved 3 November 2017, from

Kubany, E. S., & Watson, S. B. (2003). Guilt: Elaboration of a multidimensional model. The Psychological Record, 53, 5190.

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