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Br J Psychiatry. 1992 Jun;160:781-7.

Feelings of guilt in major depression. Conceptual and psychometric aspects.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital.


A new scale for the evaluation of feelings of guilt is described. Two types of guilt feeling were of potential interest: 'delusional' guilt or shame (experienced in relation to one's actions), and 'affective' guilt (a more general feeling of unworthiness). Reliability and validity analyses for the first (15-item) version of the scale were performed in three separate and contrasting clinical samples. The second and final (seven-item) version was tested in another sample of major depressives and in normal controls. The HRSD was used as a measure of severity throughout. The BDI and Widlöcher psychomotor retardation scale were also used as external criteria for the seven-item scale. Exploratory factor analysis of this sample yielded two factors--'cognitive/attitudinal' and 'mood/feeling'--of which only the first correlated with scores for psychomotor retardation. It is suggested that these two factors represent two forms of guilt, but that only the former is related to a putative dopaminergic disorder. Guilt scores and measures of severity were not correlated. It is suggested that feelings of guilt should be considered as a behavioural marker for a subtype of depression.

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