Sad woman sitting on the sofa with depression

What is a moral injury?

Like post-traumatic stress, moral injury (MI) is a type of stress response that follows a morally distressing situation. These morally distressing situations — or morally injurious events — arise when we feel our morals are violated, make us question “right” and “wrong,” and challenge our faith in the “goodness” of ourselves, others, or the world. MI feels like an injury to our moral compass.

Not all individuals who experience trauma go on to develop PTSD. Similarly, moral violations and moral pain do not always mean someone will develop a moral injury. Moral pain exists on a spectrum. On one end are the common moral challenges and resulting moral frustration. For example, someone may experience guilt if they call in sick or could feel angry when a request for time off is denied. At the other end of the spectrum are the more severe moral violations, including morally injurious events that result in moral injury.