Guilt and Depression:
A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study

Stompe T, Ortwein-Swoboda G, Chaudhry HR,
Friedmann A, Wenzel T, Schanda H.
Psychiatric University Clinic,
Vienna, Austria.
Psychopathology 2001 Nov;34(6):289-298


Although nearly a century has passed since Kraepelin's investigations in Java [Cbl Nervenheilk Psychiatr 1904; 27:468--469], one crucial question regarding guilt in the course of depression has still not been decided: Is there a more or less stable connection independent of culture, or is guilt confined to certain civilisations? This study investigated this issue in 100 Pakistani and 100 Austrian out-patients diagnosed with 'major depression' according to DSM-IV by means of standardised instruments (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia-Life Time Version, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, 21-item version). The experiences of guilt were subdivided into ethical feelings (ethical anxiety and feelings of guilt) and delusions of guilt. It turned out that ethical feelings could be found in both cultures regardless of age and sex. They seem to be primarily related to the extent of depressive retardation. However, the distribution of the two subsets of ethical feelings was culture dependent. Delusions of guilt were confined to patients of the Austrian sample. So, our data qualify the exclusivity of the aforementioned two points of view and support the need for a psychopathologically differentiated approach.
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