Why do I feel such soul-crushing guilt over every little thing?

I feel guilt for anything and everything. If I upset someone even slightly and they correct me, I cannot help but beat myself up over it. I will shut down completely if I am corrected/criticized in the slightest. I sometimes wonder if I have BPD II, but I am unsure of a lot of things about myself.
Asked by Kay

Hi there, 

Thanks for your question. I am so sorry to hear about your challenges with guilt and shutdown, and also your concerns with having a clinical mental health disorder. I hope my answer is helpful and provides you with some things to reflect on. 

In terms of feeling guilty, I think figuring out the root of that general emotional response could be helpful for you to figure out how to stop feeling that way about things that should not elicit such an overwhelming response. Guilt is the discomfort that we feel when we have perceived that we have done something wrong, often a result of violating our (or someone else's standards) or failing to action on something. This can result from something real and factual that actually took place or it can result from something that you just perceived or imagined that way. When we have thoughts in the latter category that we just accept as fact, they can make us feel guilt or shame or uncomfortable emotions. Guilt can be a helpful feeling when you have actually done something wrong that requires some sort of amending or responsibility, like the first category of situations. It can become unhelpful and unproductive when your thoughts stem from imagined interpretations of a scenario that then mess with your emotional state and possibly your behavior. I think it's important that when you do something that typically elicits that guilty feeling, question yourself as to "is this something that I know I absolutely messed up or that someone has shown or told me I hurt them/messed up?" If not, then you should try to challenge your thoughts a bit more. "Does me feeling guilty do anything to change the situation?" "Is this even a real, important situation or am I just construing this in my head to be a bigger thing than it needs to?" Additionally, I think it's important to explore if you have people pleasing tendencies. If you are feeling guilty over every little thing like you said, I wonder if you are not allowing your own thoughts, feelings, and wants as much weight as you give others' thoughts, feelings, and wants. You should never feel ashamed or guilty for communicating things with others that you need to and want to vocalize. You are responsible for your own feelings first and foremost. 

The piece about the BPD II is definitely something to explore further. So that we are on the same page, I think you are talking about Bipolar II and not borderline personality disorder, which is often referred to as BPD. While I do not have enough information from this question to provide a whole of feedback, I can say that having a clinical mental illness can of course alter your ability to manage emotions and behavioral responses to stressful situations. If you have concerns if there is something deeper going on, I would encourage you to seek out help from your doctor or another mental health professional who could point you in the right direction in terms of a diagnosis and possible treatment plan. As a therapist, I know how valuable it can be to work through these concerns and learn new skills to cope with these challenges and different behavioral strategies to combat some of your unhelpful tendencies.

I hope that you get the help you need, and wish you all the best of luck with finding some answers. Take care and be well. 

Cory Bedtke, LCSW