Understanding Why You Are Wracked With Guilt

Updated October 8, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

We've all experienced the uncomfortable feeling that 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.

Have You Been Feeling More Guilty Than Usual Latelty?

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 can also indicate a further, more deep-seated issue that needs to be addressed (such as survivor's guilt). 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 some evidence to support that women may experience guilt more than men.

Understanding Guilt

Before you can truly understand why you are wracked with guilt, you must first understand this emotion. A thorough comprehension of guilt can be quite insightful and solve many problems.

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 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.

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.

If you are at this stage in the process of dealing with guilt, you should consider the fact that there are some common sources of the emotion. 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 in 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 feelings.

  • 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, their 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 they have caused, even though 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 illness. However, false memories or unclear recollections can also be the reasons behind guilt from perceived conduct.
  • 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?

If your guilt is unwarranted, there is no reason why you need to live with it. There are things you can do to alleviate some of the burden.

It helps to take yourself out of your thinking. Instead, try to 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 can make you act better. Guilt isn't always something that should be avoided at all costs.

Have You Been Feeling More Guilty Than Usual Latelty?

It is also possible that someone else's opinion of you can make you feel guilty. It is important to evaluate this possibility 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

If you believe you are living with an undue amount of guilt, you should consult an online therapist. This can be done easily and conveniently right from home. Online therapy will allow you to get in touch with a mental health practitioner who has strong experience in helping others deal with guilt. Just because online therapy is easy to does not mean it is lesser than. In fact, online counseling has been repeatedly shown to deliver the same satisfaction and results as in-person treatment.

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

“In the last 7 months or so, Lois has really helped me in reshaping my perspectives on my relationships and my involvement in them. I have seen a great deal of personal growth occur through her attention and guidance. I have been able to understand where my struggles had come from and deal with difficult ideas like blame and guilt. I'm very grateful for her time and attention and I'm confident that my personal relationships will be stronger and healthier as a result of working with Lois.”

“Dr. Molina helped me understand and validate my traumas in a way that was respectful and compassionate. She helped me find the tools to deal with my anxious and depressive episodes and realize that I am not broken. I now have a more concrete understanding of where my triggers stem from and what I can do about them. I feel confident in my ability to advocate for myself and my needs without feeling guilty. I am extremely thankful.”


A Final Thought

Experiencing guilt from time to time is normal, especially if someone has done something that 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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