Warning Signs Of A Guilt Trip And How To Resist It

Updated January 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

A “guilt trip” may be an attempt by someone to cause another person to feel guilty for something that may not be their responsibility. Guilt trips may be a form of coercion or psychological manipulation, or self-inflicted. While there are methods to overcome and resist guilt trips, you might want to have a complete understanding of all that guilt trips entail in order to avoid them.

Do You Think You Are Being Guilt Tripped?

What Are Guilt Trips? 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, guilt trips involve an attempt to manipulate or control others by causing feelings of guilt.

Those who attempt to cause guilt in others may do so out of an urge to get revenge, cause an emotional response, or remove responsibility from themselves for an action or behavior. 

Guilt trips are often unhealthy and unreasonable. Anyone may be on the receiving end of a guilt trip. If you wonder if you have been impacted, there are several warning signs to look out for. An awareness of the signals might help you set and keep healthy boundaries. 

Signs You Are Experiencing A Guilt Trip 

Those who employ tactics to make someone else feel guilty may intend to cause another person to feel responsible for a complaint or behavior. They may nag, refuse to let up on the subject, or blame the individual outright. They might bring it up as often as possible or laugh when their target feels hurt or upset. 

One example of guilt tripping includes someone visiting a new city and being approached by an individual trying to sell wares. They might tell you no one wants their product and that you’re the only one who can help them while refusing any attempts you make to set a boundary. Or they may physically put their product in your hands and tell you that you must buy it now that it was touched. This behavior is an example of guilt-tripping to induce a response. 

Guilt-tripping behaviors may include isolation, silent treatments, or explicit antagonism. The behavior often upsets the target enough that the individual may gain control over the situation. Individuals employing this tactic may bring up past occasions. They could make statements like, “look how much I did for you,” “if it weren’t for me, where would you be?” and “remember when I was there for you.” 

You might feel tempted to support them to pay them back for previous support or to get them to stop asking. On the surface, it could appear that the individual is being reasonable. However, they may not be. A person who supports you with pure intentions might not later bribe you with that occurrence for personal gain. 

When Do Guilt Trips Happen? 

Those who are the target of guilt trips may be families, close friends, or partners. An attachment with someone may cause them to feel they can manipulate you. The target of the manipulative individual may catch on and feel conflicted. Guilt could turn into resentment or unease in a relationship, which could cause a subject to want to retaliate or end a relationship. 

Children may experience guilt tripping from their caregivers because they are often defenseless and might not recognize signs of psychological abuse. A parent may ask their children to care for them, ignore mistreatment, or behave in unhealthy ways to reward them for basic needs, such as food, water, or care. Children who are the targets of guilt trips from parents may grow up to avoid their parents. They may suffer from low self-esteem and other emotional issues. 

Besides personal gain and manipulation of others, guilt trips may be rooted in a desire for attention or reassurance. Someone might try to make another person feel guilty if they feel bad about a behavior they recently partook in and want to pass the blame to someone else and be reassured that they are not the culprit, even if they were.   

How To Avoid Guilt Trips

Below are a few methods of avoiding guilt trips from others and setting firm boundaries. 

Maintain High Self-Esteem 

Vulnerable individuals who suffer from low self-esteem or difficulty saying “no” may face guilt trips throughout life. They may doubt themselves and ignore their intuition when an unhealthy behavior occurs. If you feel an intuitive sense that a situation is unhealthy, it might be. Maintain self-esteem by surrounding yourself with healthy individuals, learning to set boundaries, and caring for your mental and physical health daily. 

Stand Up For Yourself 

If you’re being pushed to feel guilt for something you didn’t do, stand up for yourself and tell the individual that what they’re doing is unhealthy and you aren’t going to accept it. Tell them “no” if they’re making a request that feels wrong. If they persist, leave the situation when possible.

Do You Think You Are Being Guilt Tripped?

Distance Yourself 

Promptly and permanently ending contact with someone trying to manipulate you may be valuable. If a relationship feels unhealthy, one-sided, or controlling, it might be detrimental to your mental and physical health. In some cases, it may be considered emotional abuse.* 

If you believe you have been the target of guilt trips or feel you may be in the company of someone who is manipulating you, expert advice tailored to your situation may make a meaningful difference. 

*If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Counseling Options 

Consider online therapy if you’re looking for a discreet and affordable option. Through online counseling, you can speak to a counselor through live chat, phone calls, or video calling. 

Either in-person or online therapy can be beneficial, although they are equally effective. Additionally, studies show that online counseling can be especially effective for those healing from or experiencing abuse or unhealthy relationships. If you’re interested in trying an internet-based treatment method, consider a platform such as BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples.

Counselor Reviews

“Rebecca has helped me talk about very personal things I have pushed aside for years. In doing so, I’ve opened up and have had realizations about past experiences, and lifted guilt off me.”

“Loretta has undoubtedly changed my life. In my late attempt to deal with trauma she has shown me the light at the end of the tunnel. Through various strategies and methods she has provided me, I have become less paranoid, guilt-ridden, and anxious. I am so glad I decided to start using BetterHelp and was paired with Loretta.”


Several warning signs may indicate you are experiencing a guilt trip from another individual. Learning to set boundaries, stepping away from unhealthy relationships, and reaching out for help can be beneficial ways to reduce the likelihood of a guilt trip happening to you. If you’re struggling in a relationship or want further professional guidance, consider contacting a licensed counselor for support. 

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