The relationship between forgiveness, spirituality, traumatic guilt and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among people with addiction

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Psychiatric Quarterly


Spirituality and forgiveness have been shown to be associated with psychological well-being, while guilt has been associated with poor health. Little is known, however, about the relationship between forgiveness, spirituality, guilt, posttraumatic stress (PTSD) and psychological co-morbidity among people in recovery from addiction. Eighty-one people (F = 36, M = 45) in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction were recruited from two residential units and two drop-in centres in a city in the United Kingdom. They completed the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale (PDS), the General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28), the Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale (SIBS), the Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS), the Traumatic Guilt Inventory (TGI), the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST-22) and the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST-20). The control group comprised of 83 (F = 34, M = 49) individuals who confirmed that they did not have addiction and completed the PDS & GHQ-28. 54 % of the addiction group met the criteria for full PTSD and reported anxiety, somatic problems and depression. They described themselves as spiritual, had strong feelings of guilt associated with their addiction, and had difficulty in forgiving themselves. Controlling for demographics, number of events and medication management, regression analyses showed that spirituality predicted psychological co-morbidity, whilst feelings of guilt predicted PTSD symptoms and psychological co-morbidity. Unexpectedly, forgiveness did not predict outcomes. This study supports existing literature, which shows that people with drug and alcohol addiction tend to have experienced significant past trauma and PTSD symptoms. Their posttraumatic stress reactions and associated psychological difficulties can be better understood in the light of guilt and spirituality. Meanwhile, their ability to forgive themselves or others did not seem to influence health outcomes. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

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