Self-Compassion in PLWH: Less Internalized Shame and Negative Psychosocial Outcomes

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People living with HIV (PLWH) may experience internalized shame, which has been associated with negative psychosocial outcomes. Some of these psychosocial outcomes also are linked with worsening disease. Self-compassion, however, is the antithesis of internalizing shame, with elements of self-compassion (self-kindness, mindfulness, common humanity) at odds with indicators of internalized shame (negative beliefs about the self, desire to withdraw or avoid emotion, feelings of isolation). Therefore, we examined whether self-compassion among PLWH was associated with lower levels of internalized shame and, in turn, better psychosocial outcomes. We examined these relations using cross-sectional data collected from 181 PLWH living in the US via their participation in an online survey. Results revealed initial support for lower levels of internalized shame as potential mechanism that may explain how self-compassion comes to be associated with better outcomes among PLWH. Given self-compassion can be induced through intervention, we discuss how future research and clinical work with PLWH might address shame and improve outcomes.