Guilt Answers

How do I get past hating myself for a mistake I made?

I am so glad that you reached out for help, and that you talked with your doctor about a prescription to help with your symptoms. There is no shame in seeking out support from medical professionals, that is wisdom to know that you needed a little help! A huge part of the human experience is making mistakes, we all make them from time to time. It sounds like you have been really beating yourself up for several years about this choice that you made, and I want to offer some suggestions and support to better understand perhaps why you are “stuck” in that space of time and in your life. People who struggle with depressive and anxious symptoms (or guilt and shame) often think in terms that are global, stable, and internal. I want to break each of those terms down individually to best understand this way of thinking. These terms are kind of like a fun-house mirror. They distort and twist our thoughts, feelings and beliefs into a different version of reality that feels so real.Someone who is struggling globally thinks in terms of all or nothing. For example, they might think everything in their life is broken or damaged or destroyed because of one mistake they made. This feels like a global problem that is impacting every single aspect of their life, everywhere that they turn. But pause for a second and ask yourself – is this mistake still affecting every aspect of your life? Or are you allowing one mistake to impact and cloud everything else, even things that are positive in your life? Pause and reflect on the good things that you have going for you right now. Someone who is struggling in terms of stability, they think in terms of always and forever. Those funhouse mirror thoughts, feelings and beliefs convince us that we will always feel this way, and we will never feel better. Our stability feels like forever, that we will always be stuck in this churning loop of guilt and shame over a choice that was made. But ask yourself, there was a time when you were happy before, you can be happy again! Finally, someone who is struggling internally takes on all of the guilt, shame and blame as their own. They may even take responsibility for things that are not theirs to hold. They think that everything is their fault, and they cannot see that most situations have shades of gray, most things are not so black and white. When bad things do sometimes happen, even just by chance, they may even start to believe they deserve pain, hurt and guilt in their life. Ask yourself, do you feel you deserve to be happy? I hope the answer is a resounding, “yes!” So, what do we do with these distorted thoughts, feelings and beliefs? How do we find the happiness beyond the pain, guilt and shame of a past indiscretion? The first step is to recognize these thoughts, feelings and beliefs for what they are, a distorted version of the truth. When we know that they are distorted, we are able to challenge and ultimately change our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. We can ask ourselves, what evidence do I have to support what I am thinking, feeling and believing? If we do not have evidence to support what we are thinking, feeling or believing, we can begin to replace those distorted ideas with kinder, gentler and more forgiving ideas. If a dear friend approached you with the exact same situation, what advice would you give them? Would you tell them that they need to punish themselves for the rest of their life? Or that they deserve forgiveness? Treat yourself like that dear, treasured friend; you deserve happiness too! Forgiveness is possible, even for ourselves. It is a challenge for sure, but everyone is capable of forgiving with hard work and patience. One of the first things is to name and recognize your mistake. Write it out, tell your story and own your choice. Do not edit yourself, and do not leave any details out. Own your choice, every part of it. After that, you can begin to look at your mistake as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth. Are you a different and maybe even a better person because of the choice you made? Will you commit to not making that same kind of mistake again? Can you help someone else learn from your mistake and be a blessing to them? Can your words and support impact someone else’s life who may be facing a similar choice? There is a concept called post-traumatic growth, that basically states that we really learn to live when we can find the deeper meaning in our suffering. This was clearly a very difficult moment in your life that has impacted you profoundly. Is there a deeper meaning to the pain you have been through that you can see? Continuing to punish yourself can sometimes feel like penance or making amends, meaning if you forgive yourself, you must somehow be saying that it is okay what you did, or that you approve of your choice, when that is just not the case. Forgiveness is not approval, it is not condoning or validating the choice you made. You can forgive yourself and still not be okay with the choice that you made and wish that you could have done things differently. Forgiveness is acknowledging that you made a choice you are not proud of and acknowledging and honoring that punishing yourself for the rest of your life will not change the past, it will only make your present and most importantly, your future, unhappy. Forgiveness allows you the opportunity for growth, compassion, kindness and love to re-enter your life, for you and the people you care about. 
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 06/09/2021

Why guilt is pointless?

Guilt is a feeling people typically experience after doing something they think should or should not have done (examples include not recycling or spending too much money on oneself).  Guilt can be connected to a person’s morals and/or ethics.  People can also feel guilt overlying, cheating, or doing something illegal.  Unless another person was harmed, guilt is typically a wasted and useless emotion.  People can also be made to feel guilty by others for not doing something the other person wanted. Guilt is about blaming oneself for something that happened in the past, whether an hour before, months, or years before.  Guilt is also typically self-imposed.  Guilt is pointless because the past cannot be changed, and it is an emotion that focuses on something a person may or may not have done.  Ruminating and dwelling on the past continues to reinforce the negative and make the feelings of self-blame worse.  No good comes of this because when the thoughts that come before the self-blame are continuous and constant, the neurons in the brain are connected, and there is a path that is dug between those neurons.  The more thought and emotion are experienced, the deeper the path becomes.  The deeper the path becomes, the more the thought and emotion are experienced without being conscious of it, and the path becomes deeper, thus creating a vicious cycle. Sometimes the never-ending guilt and self-blame turn into shame.  Shaming oneself never does a person any good and can also impact their self-esteem and self-confidence—the guilt and what comes after can do internal damage to a person.  Guilt can change a person and who they are as well. Looking at the past and learning from one’s choices and decisions, and taking different paths in the future would be more productive than guilt and self-blame since the past has already happened and cannot be altered.  For example, credit card debt cannot be changed; the debt has been occurred and needs to be paid off.  Instead of guilt and self-blame, a person should look to make different decisions in the future.  Taking accountability and responsibility for one’s behavior and actions is more effective than feeling guilt or blaming oneself.
(LISW-CP, LCSW-C, LCSW)
Answered on 05/17/2021

Why guilt occurs?

Guilt is an emotion that can be difficult to deal with for many of us because it feels so uncomfortable.  When we experience guilt, it can be somewhat confusing why it is there at times and can be helpful to question and reflect on why it is there.  Guilt can be purposeful in many ways, and it is important to recognize when guilt occurs to serve a purpose.  For example, if I steal something from a friend and then feel guilty about it, the guilt has a purpose: to learn why I stole it, come up with a plan not to steal again, and feel apologetic to my friend for stealing from them.  Without guilt, I would likely have difficulty maintaining friendships and relationships in my life because I would never actually learn from my mistakes.  Sometimes guilt can pop up for people when it does not have a purpose.  People with low self-esteem and/or deep shame within them are likely to have this type of guilt occur. Due to their shame, they tend to think that they are inherently bad and thus will feel guilty in scenarios where they did nothing wrong.  This type of guilt has no purpose and can quickly become toxic. The toxicity of that kind of guilt can lead to serious mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, among others.  For some people, guilt occurs because it has been ingrained in them. The messages we receive in our formative years of life typically stay with us throughout our lives.  When someone receives messages of being bad in their formative years of life, guilt will likely occur more often than someone that did not have that background.  For example, if someone grew up in a religion that focused on their mistakes, that will likely last throughout their lifetime and keep them focused on their mistakes, rather than some positives.  Guilt will occur for these individuals because it is how they were raised to think about themselves.  They could pick up on actual mistakes but will also likely struggle with thinking they are making mistakes when they are not.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 05/10/2021

What to do about parents who guilt trip?

Your relationship with your parents can be great, but naturally have moments of conflict.  Parents hopefully want what is best for their child, but they are not perfect and will make mistakes with their parenting at times.  One common tactic parents will use to guilt-trip their children into doing something they want them to do.  For example, if a parent wants their child to clean their room, they might repeatedly ask until the child feels guilty enough to go ahead and clean their room.  While this tactic can get the job done eventually, it can be pretty annoying for the child and even lead them to feel shame about themselves.  If you are dealing with a parent that guilt trips, one important step to take with them is to try and explain how their guilt-tripping makes you feel.  To communicate that, it would be best to not come across as accusatory and more from a place of explaining your own experience.  Forming your feelings in the form of an I-statement can help prevent coming across as accusatory. An I-statement is when you phrase your feelings as, “I feel _____ when you ____ because _____.”  Hopefully, that can help them understand how guilt-tripping makes you feel and to consider other tactics instead.  As you approach this with your parents, it will be important to consider the solutions focused on.  Using the example above, you will need to make sure that while you are promoting them not to guilt-trip you, you are also promoting a solution around actually cleaning your room.  Otherwise, it will come across like you are just trying to get what you want without seeing their needs.  If you try these tactics and your parents continue to guilt trip, it could be helpful to enlist outside help.  A friend, family member, and/or counselor could all be great options to help you all through these struggles.  Those people can hopefully help you and your parents understand more about what works and what does not work so that you all can get on the same page. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 05/10/2021

What to do when guilt hits?

Guilt is a powerful emotion. It can help you acknowledge actions and define ways to improve behavior. It can also cause you to hyper-focus on what you might have done differently at some point in the past. Guilt can promote positive growth in some cases, but it can also become a weight that holds you down long after your behavior has changed or you made amends for a past wrong. Pushing guilt away may seem like the most helpful strategy, especially because it can feel like a painful and heavy burden. This can actually exacerbate the feeling, though. Instead, take some time with your guilt. Use a journal or notebook and write down the source of your guilt. For example, “I feel guilty because I yelled at my son.” Next, allow yourself to feel how you feel about it and identify those emotions in writing. Adopt a sense of curiosity about the feelings and the guilt itself. Where did the action that caused the guilt truly come from? Has your behavior changed since that time? Were you in distress? If so, is it a distressing situation that you can take action to manage or heal? Take some time to curiously explore what you might have learned in the situation that caused the guilt, too. Write about the event and what you would do differently if faced with the same event now. If you weren’t ever able to apologize or own your actions in the situation that you feel guilt over, consider an apology now. If you’re not able to do that, write your apology as a journal entry for yourself. Guilt is a normal experience, and so is a mistake. If you did something hurtful to someone else, you are aware of it if you’re feeling guilt. That awareness is helpful to changing behaviors and patterns that will help prevent similar issues in the future. It’s also important to be aware that excessive feelings of guilt that aren’t related to any specific situation or are related to a situation you’re very fixated on may be indicators of a bigger problem like depression or shame. For some people, guilt is a daily experience and very difficult to let go of. If you’re struggling with guilt, talk with a licensed mental health professional to help get to the root of the issue.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 05/06/2021

Will Guilt Cause Anxiety?

Although very important to experience, like many other emotions, guilt can cause pain. Despite the ability to serve as a signal for us to begin taking responsibility for our feelings, decisions, and behaviors we may have made and the conflict that causes, many of us allow these negative feelings about ourselves to bleed further into a sense of shame. When this occurs, we go from experiencing a helpful and adaptive emotion to feelings of unworthiness and believing we are defective and flawed. When these feelings of intense inadequacy and negativity permeate our thoughts and invade us enough to impact our mental well-being, that may be a sign that we have crossed the line and combined feelings of fear and anxiety with guilt and shame. Our desire for approval and fear of consequences for our improper or inappropriate actions weigh heavily on our conscience and become excessive, something we walk around with constantly. This continuous ‘drip drip drip’ of inadequate feelings, repeatedly telling us that we have done wrong, that we are flawed and defective, most certainly lead to intense anxiety. Many people who experience intense anxiety can dig through their past and discover excessive guilt or shame as a key concept behind it.  It is ironically correct to see anxiety as a cause, not just a possible symptom of guilt. In other words, guilt and anxiety combine in a way where it becomes a cycle many of us find ourselves trapped in. It goes something like this: If I am already dealing with anxiety, there is a chance that I already incorrectly attribute the well-being and happiness of other people to me and my actions. In other words, anxious people are more likely to blame themselves when other people are not okay. This distortion in thinking and believing, in turn, contributes to my sense of guilt which in turn causes more intense anxiety. Many people with anxiety report excessively thinking (overthinking) overreacting to words, gestures,s and a variety of things that are believed to signal to the already super guilty and anxious person. The more guilt that develops, the more distressed they feel, which increases the level of anxiety. And so the cycle continues until interrupted and set off course.
Answered on 04/30/2021

Why Does Guilt Occur?

When we conclude or believe that we have done something that goes against or compromises our own moral standards and feels that our conduct has violated some human or universal standard and sense a strong responsibility for the violation, we experience the emotion known as guilt. Although this may seem straightforward and basic, rarely is guilt simple.  We may feel guilty when we fall out of love with someone we once fell in love with.  Or if we work too hard and feel as if we don’t spend enough quality time with the people we love. Or we might feel guilty on the complete opposite end of that spectrum and feel guilty for not working enough and not making enough money to buy those we love the things that they ask for. We can dip into our pasts and bring up feelings of guilt from our childhood, maybe when we allowed ourselves to stand by silently and witness someone bullying someone else. Or we can feel guilty because we are successful and financially stable when our other family members are not as fortunate and successful. And quite often, other people throw guilt our way, either through direct intention or not. When we fall prey to expectations, a very common human occurrence, guilt usually results somewhere directed at ourselves or someone else. And blame is very closely connected to guilt because most of us try our best to get rid of the guilt we feel as it is anything but pleasant. We think or say things like, ‘It's not my fault, it’s hers or his.” We do this much of the time because we don’t want to feel as bad as we do when we guilt us. As long as we can ‘manage’ our sense of guilt, even when we assume it as a consequence of not living up to our own expectations and not having it bleed into shame, we can actually benefit from this emotion rather than suffer at its hands. Sigmond Freud and Carl Jung saw a connection to maturity and growth in our personal development and experiencing guilt, which indicates personal self-responsibility and a desire to try and rectify our wrongdoing. It also can serve as proof that we are entire human beings, neither flawless nor unworthy of love.
Answered on 04/30/2021

What does guilt do to the brain?

Guilt can be a purposeful feeling but can easily turn into a toxic one as well.  If you can live out the purpose of the guilt you are feeling, that can lead to a healthy and growing brain.  When we live out the purpose of our guilt, we are essentially learning lessons from our mistakes.  Therefore, when we are learning, we are keeping our brains active and helping them to grow.  If we can get in the habit of making guilt purposeful and taking action on those purposes, it will hopefully help to nurture a healthy brain.  On the contrary, if you are not living out the purpose of your guilt, it can be quite frustrating for the brain.  The brain wants you to take action, and when we do not do what the brain wants, it can eventually train the brain to do the opposite.  This can easily lead to a bad habit with the brain and the response to guilt.  Guilt essentially triggers fear in our brains, and fear is meant to be lived out for it to be processed.  For example, if I have hurt a friend by doing something mean to them, the guilt should also signal a fear that I will lose the friendship. That fear is purposeful and meant to help me to learn not to hurt my friend again.  Like with any emotion, if we get in the habit of training our brains negatively by not processing through our emotions, that can lead to possible mental health issues.  Depression, anxiety, and even psychosis are possible long-term effects that not living out the purpose of guilt can have on the brain.  If we can actively process through the purpose of our guilt, it can hopefully avoid this.  It is also important to accept guilt as a natural emotion to experience from time to time because no one human is perfect.  If we can validate guilt as a necessary emotion, that can hopefully help us to process it when it happens and thus nurture our brains. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 04/29/2021

What does guilt do to the body?

Guilt is a common emotion, but it can be a particularly painful one. People usually experience guilt when they engage in behavior that doesn’t line up with their personal beliefs or morals. Cheating on a partner, taking an accessible parking space they aren’t permitted for, or even cutting corners on monthly budgeting can lead to feelings of guilt. Emotions like guilt can impact the body in multiple ways. Intense feelings can result in emotional pain, and this can cause physical symptoms that appear in the body and have no underlying physical cause. Any emotion can cause emotional pain that results in physical symptoms. Guilt has been associated with a feeling of “weight” in the body, as in the common phrase, “Carrying the weight of guilt,” but other symptoms are possible. Some of the physical symptoms that may result from intense emotional pain include: Headache Muscle pain and tension, especially in the shoulders or neck Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Dizziness Aches and pains in any area of the body Physical and emotional pain are different, but research indicates that both types of pain share similarities. In brain imaging studies using MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, the same areas of the brain are activated by both physical and emotional pain. Some researchers believe that rather than looking at physical and emotional pain as different, they should be looked at as occurring along a pain spectrum. Intense guilt may cause body tension, which can result in physical pain. Addressing both the emotional and physical pain caused by guilt is important. If you’re unsure that your guilt contributes to the physical pain you are experiencing, visit your trusted medical provider to rule out any potential underlying physical cause. If you’re experiencing strictly emotional pain and guilt, talking with a licensed mental health provider can help. In therapy, you can determine the exact cause of the problem, whether or not it is tied to some larger issue, and create strategies to address what you’re experiencing. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or are feeling hopeless, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  at 1-800-272-8255 for support. 
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 04/29/2021

How can you tell if someone is guilt tripping?

Guilt-tripping is a tactic used by some people to manipulate someone else into guilt.  They can have a variety of reasons for doing this and different tactics in going about this.  One way of guilt-tripping someone that is pretty common is by repeating oneself repeatedly and telling you to get the desired result.  By repeating themselves, they hope that eventually, the person will feel guilty enough to do whatever they are repeating.  For example, if I ask you to buy me a gift and do not receive one, I might decide to guilt trip someone into getting me a gift by asking them over and over again.  Eventually, someone might feel guilty enough that they have not bought me the gift to go ahead and do it out of guilt and probably get me to stop asking.  Another tactic people can use when guilt-tripping someone is to manipulate others to make themselves look better.  If the guilt tripper can deceivingly make themselves look better, that can lead to the other person feeling guilty because they are less than.  Using the same example of gift-giving, if I do not receive a gift after asking for it and then explain that I give them lots of gifts, the person might feel guilty about that even if that is not true.  That guilt can then lead them to go ahead and give me a gift because I have manipulated them to think that I deserve it, and they are less than as long as they do not give me a gift.  Guilt trippers are definitely focused on manipulation, and another form of manipulation is to not pick up on someone else’s efforts and even make joking remarks about their efforts.  The person will feel like they do not do enough and will feel guilty enough to do more.  In this form of guilt-tripping, the guilt tripper is intentionally not picking up on what someone else is doing.  For example, using the gift example, if you actually gave me gifts before, I would not bring attention to that and even make jokes about the contrary to make you feel guilty. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 04/29/2021

How can guilt affect your health?

Guilt is experienced when people engage in behaviors or actions that don’t align with their personal moral beliefs. In some instances, guilt can be a positive motivator that helps correct behavior and inform important actions and choices in the future after experiencing it. In other situations, guilt can become detrimental. It may cause physical strain, trigger the body’s stress response, and contribute to chronic stress and related health issues. While it may make sense to feel guilt after cheating on a partner, if that guilt is still present and impacting your thoughts and feelings nonstop, it may be excessive. Other examples of excessive guilt may be all too familiar for some: mothers constantly feel that what they do isn’t enough, or children are driven to impress the family with perfect grades who feel that even those efforts aren’t enough. Emotions have a physiological response in the body, and guilt is no different. Intense guilt can trigger the fight or flight response, causing a chain reaction within the body. The stress hormones that flood the body, and the physical processes this trigger may cause an intense physical response that results in headaches, nausea, shaking, dizziness, anxiety, and even high blood pressure. While this response typically resolves itself when triggered, if intense guilt or other emotions are perpetually activating the stress reaction in the body, chronic stress and its complications may become an issue. Chronic stress can result in digestive difficulties, a weakened immune response, and cardiovascular health risks. If you’re experiencing intense or extreme guilt, talking with a therapist can be very helpful. In a judgment-free environment, you can process your feelings and related events and get helpful feedback. Learning new ways to think about situations and to cope can be incredibly valuable. Guilt may also be a feature of depression and other serious mental health conditions, so if your guilt is accompanied by feelings of sadness, worthlessness, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, or other difficulties, discuss these with your counselor or your trusted medical provider. If you are experiencing feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-8255 or visit your nearest emergency room.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 04/29/2021

How can guilt affect the brain?

Guilt can be an emotion that has a lot of purposes and is helpful for us to better ourselves, but it can also be somewhat toxic and unhealthy.  Therefore, it can be helpful to think about how guilt impacts the brain.  There are two main types of guilt: healthy guilt and unhealthy guilt.  Healthy guilt is the type of guilt that leads us to better ourselves and learn from our mistakes.  Healthy guilt triggers the brain to take action to make sure we are not tied to the mistakes that we have made.  For example, if I steal something from a friend and am very hurt by that, health guilt should trigger my brain to learn why I stole and what to do differently if I am tempted to steal again.  My brain triggering that action will help the guilt heal and feel as though I am not tied to the mistake I made.  Also, my friend will hopefully feel better about it and show me the energy to see that I have changed.  Overall, healthy guilt has a good purpose and can be a healthy emotion to accept for your brain.  Unhealthy guilt is the type of guilt that ruminates in the body and does not really see action.  When someone makes a mistake and does not live out the purpose of the guilt after that mistake, it will lead to unhealthy guilt.  This can trigger the brain to lose focus on other important areas of that person’s life because their brain is meant to focus on the mistake.  That focus on the mistake without any action can easily develop into serious issues in the brain, such as severe anxiety and/or severe depression.  An anxious brain will be continually heightened and somewhat in flight or fight mode. A depressed brain will likely feel tired, hopeless and lose interest in things that normally interest the person.  Overall, unhealthy guilt can have various unhealthy impacts on the brain and is important to be really cautious of. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 04/29/2021

Can guilt cause psychosis?

Guilt is a negative emotion that can cause a variety of emotions in people.  Like with most emotions, we all can have different responses to guilt.  Our reactions to guilt will intensify in severity as long as we are not processing through guilt.  If someone is not careful and not processing through their guilt, it can lead to different forms of psychosis in some people.  One form of psychosis that could happen for some people is paranoia.  If someone does not change themselves regarding whatever they feel guilty about, that could easily develop into paranoia.  When this happens, the person can be paranoid about what others think about them.  When someone suffers from this kind of paranoia, that can negatively impact their relationships.  For example, if someone is paranoid about what others think, they could isolate themselves because they could think no one likes them.  Another type of psychosis that can happen for people not processing through their guilt is delusions.  Delusions have a way of exaggerating the reality, and in the case of not processing through with someone’s guilt, they can start to develop delusions that they are way worse than they actually are.  Guilt naturally happens after making a mistake, but if it is not processed through then, the person can develop some shame about themselves.  This is because they will feel like they have not actually changed and learned from their mistakes.  Shame can be so toxic to someone’s mental health and could lead to exaggerated delusions.  These types of delusions and paranoia can be really difficult to deal with.  When dealing with those, someone will constantly deal with thoughts of people thinking poorly of them and/or that others think they will continue to mess up.  Those kinds of thoughts can monopolize someone’s mental health to the point that they cannot hold a stable job, stable relationships, stable friendships, among other things. On top of that, these types of psychosis can be coupled with severe depression, severe anxiety, among other severe mental health issues.  Therefore, processing one’s guilt is extremely important, and if they do not, it can have such a severe impact on their life.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 04/29/2021

Can guilt cause physical pain?

Guilt is a common emotion that most people experience at some point in life. It typically arises when we engage in a behavior or action that is out of line with our personal values or that we later judge to be wrong for some reason. Guilt can be confused with shame and is even commonly confused in the literature on the subject, but the two differ. Guilt can be thought of as “I did a bad thing,” which leaves us free to correct our actions with an apology, amends, or simply doing differently in the future. Shame may be thought of as “I am bad,” which removes the ability to make any changes because we’re inherently “bad” in this scenario. Guilt can be a beneficial emotion that leads us to examine behaviors and make positive changes. It can also contribute to overall feelings of sadness, depression, and more, however. Emotions have physiological responses in the body, resulting in different physical experiences like aches or pains or even rapid heartbeat. Embodied cognition is a field of psychology that explores how thoughts and emotions interact with the body to guide behavior. Guilt is often a part of regulating moral or ethical behavior, so it makes sense that many people describe guilt as a “weight” on their bodies in some way. Researchers have found that people who experience guilt frequently interpret the feeling of weight on their bodies, which can lead to tension and cause some pain. If you’re experiencing guilt, take time to determine if it is tied to a specific event or events in your life. If possible, examine your behavior since the events, and look to see how you may have changed in behavior since those events. Chances are, you have. When guilt becomes overwhelming or is accompanied by feelings of sadness, regret, hopelessness, grief, anxiety, or interruptions to your basic routine or ability to function, talk with a licensed mental health professional. A licensed counselor can help determine if you may be experiencing guilt alone or if a larger issue is in play and work with you to create a plan of approach to resolve the issues you’re facing. If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  at 1-800-272-8255.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 04/29/2021

Can guilt cause nausea?

Guilt can be such a negative emotion to experience, even when it is there for a purpose. Just like with other emotions in the body, we all have different responses to each emotion.  For example, some people get verbally loud when angry, whereas others might get more physical when angry. Guilt is very closely associated with stress and anxiety.  Stress and anxiety can be somewhat toxic to the body if it is not processed through.  Stress and anxiety have a common consequence of having an upset stomach and/or nausea.  If someone’s guilt is not processed through and lived out, nausea will likely get worse and worse.  Another part of nausea associated with guilt that is important to consider is that so many human emotions and feelings are created in our gut.  When someone feels guilty, they will often feel it in the abdominal part of their body.  This reaction can sometimes even cause someone to get anxious about nausea and that reaction in the body. When that happens in the body, it can, unfortunately, make nausea worse and worse.  For example, if I feel guilty for hurting a friend and then do not feel like I will change that mistake, I will likely continue to feel guilty.  Then that guilt will cause a nauseous feeling in my body which alarms me, which causes more anxiety which then causes more nausea.  Guilt can cause several reactions in people, especially when they do not live out the purpose of the guilt.  For some people, guilt can cause them to eat emotionally.  This type of eating occurs when eating to cover up an emotion rather than actually feeling their hunger cues.  When someone eats when they are not actually hungry, that can easily cause them to feel nauseous.  Unless they make the connection that that is what is causing nausea, that person will likely continue to use this as what they think is their coping skill.  Therefore, they will, unfortunately, continue to feel nauseous, and so the vicious cycle will continue.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 04/29/2021

Can guilt cause chest pain?

Guilt is a painful human emotion that nearly everyone experiences at some point in life. The feeling of guilt may be terrible, but it isn’t a “bad” emotion. Guilt occurs when our behavior conflicts with our internal moral compass or when we act in a way that we believe was wrong. Cheating on a partner or even taking the last piece of cake can lead to feelings of guilt. Guilt often has a bad reputation, but it can be a helpful tool we draw on to stay true to our values. It can also correct behavior that we want to change, serving as a powerful cue for future opportunities to make decisions that are reflective of what we believe to be right. Every emotion has a physiological response in the body, and often, the more intense the emotion, the more intense response is likely to develop. Guilt that causes an intense response may trigger the fight or flight response in the body, which can result in many physical symptoms. The symptoms you may experience when the fight or flight response is triggered by guilt are: Rapid heart rate Fast breathing or hyperventilation A spike in blood pressure Chest pain Nervousness Shaking or dizziness Feeling faint or nauseated Difficulty concentrating An intense guilty feeling may trigger the cascade of physical responses of the fight or flight response, one of which is chest pain. If you’re experiencing chest pain, it’s always best to be evaluated by a medical professional, especially if this symptom is new to you as part of your anxiety response. A doctor can rule out underlying physical conditions that may result in pain or sensation in the chest. If you’re experiencing guilt that is difficult to control, soak up too much of your attention, or feel overwhelming, talk with a licensed mental health professional. Your guilt may be part of a larger issue like depression, or it may simply be an emotion that processing in a safe and confidential setting may help clear up. If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-8255 for help, or visit your nearest emergency room.
(MS., CMHC., NCC.)
Answered on 04/29/2021

When ambition goes wrong what happens?

Ambition can have some benefits to our mood and functioning; it supports better motivation and drives us to make positive changes in our lives.  However, as with anything in life, too much of anything can also have negative effects.  Here are just a few examples of what goes your ambition becomes too much: Disregard for social norms: Sometimes when our ambition becomes too intense, we become so hyper-focused on obtaining a certain goal that we will disregard the social norms in our society. You may find yourself engaging in behaviors that would disrupt the community around you.  A simple example would be that if you are urgently trying to arrive at a destination you may decide to park in a handicap spot, despite the awareness of social norms and how your behaviors are impacting those around you. Compromise your morals/values: In general, we all have our own set of morals or values that we tend to live by; it helps guide us into making decisions based upon what we believe to be morally sound. However, if our ambition becomes too strong then we may start to “bend” our morals in an effort to achieve a certain goal.  The negative outcome of this is you may start to feel a sense of shame for compromising your values for this goal.  Increased emotional turmoil/lability: This goes along with what was mentioned above, but when we become too focused on our ambitions you may notice that our mood becomes a roller coaster. You may experience “highs and lows” from the build-up of ambition.  There will be an adrenaline burst, this excitement and energy will be short-lived though.  During these energy bursts, your judgment may be impaired and you will engage in behaviors that you would not otherwise engage in.  After that short-lived burst of energy, you will experience bouts of sadness and perhaps guilt, depending on the degree of seriousness of poor behaviors being made.  If you do not pay attention to this pattern, you may end up in a cyclic motion that will likely leave you feeling emotionally drained.  It is best to monitor the range of intensity of your ambition; a mild to moderate amount of ambition would be considered appropriate and healthy.  It is when your ambition reaches a more intense severity that you will likely experience the description above.  Take a self-reflective inventory of your behaviors would be a good way to check-in. 
Answered on 04/26/2021

will the guilt of cheating go away?

The guilt of cheating is something that a lot of people find hard to sit with.  Granted, some people will not experience guilt due to cheating because their focus is mainly on how they have been impacted by the negative consequences of cheating/infidelity rather than the impact that it had on their partner at the time.  I believe that if you are currently experiencing guilt associated with infidelity or cheating, your focus is less on how the consequences affected you and more on how the cheating negatively impacted your partner/ex-partner. Oftentimes, cheating indicates something happening within an individual or within the relationship that is causing some distress or discomfort.  Although this is not excusing the behavior of the one who cheated, it is important to note that sometimes cheating is not necessarily a personal attack on someone.  Therefore, I encouraged clients who struggle with guilt around cheating to consider their state of mind when the infidelity occurred.  There might have been issues in the relationship around communication.  There might have been internal issues within the client.  Whatever was happening at the time, it is important to note this and to validate it because no one who experiences guilt and shame following an event such as cheating or infidelity truly sets out to hurt another person. The second thing that I ask clients to explore when wanting to attempt to alleviate their guilt around cheating is whether or not they are feeling guilt as a result of being caught or experiencing guilt because what they did was untrustworthy, dishonest, and hurtful.  If the client answers that they feel guilt due to the dishonesty, that means that this is a person who, most likely, wants to get to the root of why they did what they did.  Exploring the root cause of the infidelity can help the client come to terms with their shortcomings when it comes to their relationships and what they need to do in the future to prevent hurting their future partners/partners again. This is important because sometimes, something as simple as open communication with their romantic partner would have been enough for the client to feel heard, validated, and prevent cheating. No matter what, the answer to whether or not guilt will go away after someone cheats is that it all depends on the person.  There is such a thing as constructive shame and guilt.  Sometimes, we all need to engage with this constructive shame and guilt.  If someone continues to experience guilt around cheating, then it might indicate that further work needs to be done internally to feel secure and alleviate some of the guilt.
(Masters, of, Social, Work)
Answered on 04/22/2021

Will guilt ever go away?

            Guilt is a very uncomfortable feeling that experience from a very early age.  Guilt is so uncomfortable that some of us ignore and/or avoid it, which can easily turn into shame.  When you are in the thick of guilt, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by it and to question if it will ever go away.  The power of the guilt you feel depends on the severity of the mistake. Some mistakes might have more lasting guilt than others.  The length of the guilt also depends on the consequences associated with the mistake.  If your mistake has lasting consequences, that will likely keep the guilt pretty fresh and hard to move on from.  For example, if you hurt someone in a car accident that was your fault, the consequences of that will likely last for a while.             Whatever the severity of the mistake you made is, it will be important to live out the purpose of guilt.  Living out the purpose will help the guilt heal and move on from it because you will feel like you are no longer tied to the mistake.  Guilt is a purposeful emotion in that it is meant to help us learn from our mistakes.  If we had no guilt when we make mistakes, then we will likely repeat the mistakes.  Therefore, it is important to see how guilt is purposeful and to live out that purpose. For example, if you hurt a friend’s feelings by doing a certain action, the guilt will hopefully help you learn how to do something different that does not hurt their feelings.  By living out that purpose, the guilt will start to heal as you prove to yourself that you are not tied to that mistake.  Another important aspect of helping guilt to heal is to try and pursue forgiveness when it is possible.  Forgiveness can help you feel like the person understands you are not tied to the mistake and that you can genuinely move forward.  If forgiveness is not accessible, try to think of ways of forgiving yourself.  Again, changed action will be important with that and also think about how you are different.  Nobody is perfect, and accepting that while also learning from your mistakes will help you move forward. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 04/22/2021

Why Guilt is Important?

What Guilt Tells Us Guilt can let us know that we are disappointed with something we said or did (or did not say or do something we feel we should have said or done). Recognizing that we feel guilt communicates that we know we can make decisions that can produce more positive results. Without guilt, we may have limited personal responsibility, finding excuses when we do not meet our potential or blaming others for consequences brought upon by ourselves. Having guilt means that we care about how we affect others. Examples One example of guilt is causing sadness or suffering to another person. For example, if we say something to a close friend and hurt this person’s feelings, our guilt can allow us to show remorse. Our guilt can also help us be more careful next time and mindful that our behavior can affect this person. We may also feel guilt when we inconvenience others by being late to an appointment, not holding a door open for someone, or make a driving error that causes someone to have to swerve out of the way or get stuck behind a red light. Guilt can be all-encompassing, causing significant impairment in a person’s functioning, or it can be very brief and minor. We may also have guilt associated with letting ourselves down. Perhaps we did not perform to our potential on a test. In this instance, it may be tempting to blame the professor, thinking that the test was too difficult, to ignore the low grade, saying that the test was not all that important anyway. We could also blame outside sources, such as thinking that your grade would have been higher if someone hadn’t said something that caused you to be upset that day. However, by recognizing that your lack of preparedness for the test was the primary reason for the poor test performance, the guilt you experience can lead you to recognize that you do have control over your success in the class, which in turn can result in studying more for the next test. In conclusion, guilt is often not something to try to push away, although it can become too prolonged or too intense. Paying attention to our guilt can inspire self-improvement.
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 04/22/2021