Posttraumatic stress disorder and aggression among post-9/11 veterans: The role of shame


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often accompanied by elevated aggression. PTSD and combat exposure alone do not fully explain the reliable finding of heightened aggression among trauma-exposed veterans. Shame may be an important affective feature in this relationship. The present study examined the role of shame from a social hierarchy theoretical perspective in a sample of 52 combat veterans from the post-9/11 era. Correlational analyses indicated moderately strong positive relationships among PTSD, shame, and aggression. Trait shame was found to significantly mediate the relationship between total PTSD severity and physical aggression, but not other forms of aggression. For veterans within the context of a hierarchical military culture, separation from the military and PTSD diagnosis may be very salient markers of social loss and social exclusion. Aggression may operate to reduce the negative affective experience associated with shame and to regain social standing. Findings implicate shame as an important emotional component in the relationship between PTSD and aggression.

Publication Title

Personality and Individual Differences