Understanding Why You Are Wracked With Guilt

By Ashley Brown

Updated November 18, 2019

Reviewer Kelly Kampf

We've all experienced that uncomfortable feeling like we did something wrong. Guilt may be difficult to deal with, but in this article, we'll consider how. We'll look at ways to manage guilt and the causes of this awful feeling.

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Why Do I Feel Guilty?

A little guilt can be healthy. Guilt is defined as "a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc." Some think guilt exists as a means of stopping people from partaking in conduct that would alienate those closest to them. However, habitual feelings of guilt are also indicative of some further, more deep-seated issue that needs to be addressed. Moreover, never experiencing guilt can be indicative of even worse clinical issues such as narcissism, psychopathy, or sociopathy.

Some of the most common symptoms of a guilt complex are as follows: shame, projecting blame onto others, self-blame, fretting over angering others, and otherwise taking accountability for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of other individuals. There is even evidence to support that women may suffer from guilt more than men.

Understanding Guilt

Before one can truly understand why they are wracked with guilt, they must first understand this emotion. A thorough comprehension of guilt can be quite insightful and solve many problems. Psychology Today has some helpful answers and information.

First and foremost, guilt's inception is purely mental. This means that people experience this emotion when they believe they have engendered harm or are otherwise responsible for someone else's suffering or misfortune. These feelings can exist regardless of whether or not the person is right or wrong. These troublesome thoughts later prompt the feeling that human beings refer to as guilt.

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Causes of Guilt

A person's desire to understand why they are wracked with guilt is fair and intelligible. After all, addressing guilty feelings is a virtually impossible feat if someone is unable to unearth the source of their guilt.

Additional reports from Psychology Today affirm that the five most common reasons behind an individual's guilt are their behavior, something they want to do but have not (yet) followed through on, their own perceived behavior, failing to help another person to a certain degree, and surviving a situation which others perished. There are associated factors and circumstances that accompany the common causes of guilt. Each case comes with its own solution, freeing the afflicted person from their suffering.

  • Guilt Due to One's Behavior. A person's conduct and decisions are one of the most recurrent reasons for being wracked with guilt. More often than not, the conduct either hurt someone placed in harm's way, or otherwise breached a moral, ethical, or legal boundary. Some frequent examples include feeling guilty for cheating on a significant other, causing a car accident, or even killing someone.
  • Guilt Due to an Unfulfilled Desire. Unfulfilled thoughts, cravings, or desires can also prompt feelings of guilt. This may come as a surprise to those who regard guilt as a feeling engendered by prior actions. But that's not always the case. Many people feel guilty for things they haven't done, but want to do. These feelings of guilt occur because the bothered person feels as though their unfulfilled desires may be indicative of a darker, more forbidden side of themselves.
  • Guilt Due to Perceived Conduct. Often people experience guilt because of a situation they believe to have caused, when they really did not. At its worst, being wracked by this form of guilt can be indicative of delusions or other mental health symptoms associated with mental illness. However, false memories or unclear recollections can also be the reasons behind guilt due to perceived conduct.

Have You Been Feeling More Guilty Than Usual Latelty?
Find Out Why. Chat With A Licensed Professional Counselor Today.

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  • Guilt Due to Failure to Help Another Person. Many individuals find themselves wracked with guilt because they couldn't help a person whom they truly loved and cared for. The person can be a romantic partner, parent, child, relative, friend, or coworker. When someone truly cares for another individual who seems to be in trouble or distressed, the desire to be of aid is only humane. However, not everyone can be saved. Some people can be helped while others cannot. This is not indicative of any shortcomings or flaws of the person who tried to be of assistance.
  • Guilt Due to One's Survival. Professionals and specialists often refer to this particular version of guilt as survivor's guilt. Unfortunately, being wracked by this type of guilt is most common after tragedies have occurred, such as loss due to natural disasters, man-made disasters, war, etc. While survivor's guilt can be eased with the passing of time, professional guidance or counseling can help.

What Can I Do?

There is no reason you have to live with the feelings of your guilt, since they are not always warranted. There are things you can do to alleviate some of the burden.

It helps to take yourself out of your thinking. Instead, picture someone else you know doing the action that makes you feel guilty. Would you forgive them or think they were a horrible person? If you would let someone else off the hook, then you really owe it to yourself to let yourself off as well.

Another thing you can do is just roll with it. A little bit of guilt is healthy, just don't let it run your life. If you feel guilty for not spending enough time with your kids during the week, it will probably inspire you to spend more time with them in the future. This is a positive thing and makes you act better. Guilt isn't always something that should be avoided at all costs.

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It is possible that someone else's opinion of you can make you feel guilty. It is important to evaluate this to make sure it isn't the case. You should not feel bad about yourself because of how someone else feels about you. A good way to counteract this is to make sure your relationships with others are beneficial to both parties. For example, if you have a friend that always asks for things and is never around when you need them, you should consider hanging around them less. This person may be causing you to feel guilty or other unhealthy feelings about yourself.

BetterHelp Can Ease Your Guilt

All types of guilt can't just be explained away overnight. You may need to talk to someone to start to feel better. This is where the counselors at BetterHelp can help. They are able to accommodate you, no matter how you want to communicate with them. Online therapy works, and it's easy to fit into your schedule.

Consider the following reviews of BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"When I first contacted BetterHelp, my brain was like a hamster on a wheel. Ashley Santana helped me identify the problems with control and guilt that really had me stuck. She reassured me that some of my feelings were valid and even normal. I feel lighter, more comfortable, and confident now. I sincerely recommend this counseling to everyone."

"Victoria is wonderful. She is accepting and genuine, anything you need to tell her will be met with nothing but positivity. If you are struggling with something that you have shame or guilt about, Victoria will help you and you will not feel judged in anyway. She is a talented counselor with an open mind and a kind heart. You can trust her. Thank you For helping me Victoria. I am forever grateful."

A Final Thought

Experiencing guilt from time to time is normal, especially if someone has committed a sin or otherwise breached their moral code. However, being ceaselessly wracked with guilt should certainly be addressed. There are countless negative consequences to unresolved emotional issues.

With the guidance of BetterHelp, people who may be struggling or otherwise going through the difficulties of life can start to feel better. No individual can do it all by themselves; everyone needs help sometimes. Take the first step.


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