Presented by BetterHelp.
A guilty conscience is often what keeps our society running smoothly. For example, someone who steals a package off a front porch may feel guilty and return it to the rightful owner. Or a convicted felon may plead guilty because they have done wrong and want to pay their penance.
While a healthy sense of guilt is not a bad thing, it can turn into a major problem for your mental health. Some people can not gauge when their guilt is misplaced and excessive. Excessive guilt can take away your joy in life, a good night’s sleep, and your ability to function every day.
Learn more about what guilt is, the symptoms of guilt, and how it can affect your mental health. Once you understand how it can affect you, you can learn how to manage it!
What Is Guilt?
Guilt is “aversive and-like shame, embarrassment, or pride-has been described as a self-conscious emotion, involving reflection on oneself”.
In other words, guilt is the way we feel about ourselves after multifarious experiences. It can often feel like embarrassment or shame. When you do something you were not supposed to do, your pride and guilt will tell you to hide and feel bad for what you’ve done.
You can learn more about guilt with the assistance of BetterHelp; they can teach you more about the connection between guilt and mental health through their many medically-reviewed articles.
What Causes Guilt?
There isn’t just one single thing that causes guilt for everyone. Depending on the person and their experiences, guilt can appear almost anywhere. The most talked-about cause of guilt in crime and criminal acts. Most people think of court and a judge deeming someone guilty or not guilty.
When someone commits a crime, they must plead their stance in front of a judge and jury. They have the option to plead guilty or not guilty. Their choice will affect how everyone will perceive them and how they will perceive themself.
A criminal court isn’t the only place that causes guilty feelings to arise. Some people experience survivor’s guilt. Survivors’ guilt is the feeling of shame for surviving a life-threatening situation. Someone may feel shame because others died or because they were not able to save anyone.
There are many justifiable and trivial reasons that you may feel guilty about. In some cases, the guilt is unwarranted. Some adults develop an overly guilty conscious because of past childhood experiences or trauma.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Guilt?
The signs and symptoms of guilt look different for everyone. It mostly depends on the severity of the situation and the personal experience of the individual.
Common symptoms of guilt are shame, embarrassment, and overcompensation of pride. When someone feels guilty about something they may feel intense shame and sadness over the situation. They may also feel as though they should hide from embarrassment. Lastly, some even try to hide it by appearing overly prideful.
If someone is experiencing intense guilt because of a mental health concern such as OCD, anxiety, or depression, they may feel even more symptoms. Guilt can cause physical problems such as tension, headaches, stomach issues, and insomnia.
Guilt also causes someone to experience low self-esteem, extreme sensitivity, and emotional avoidance. In these situations, it is often unjustifiable guilt.
How To Manage Guilt?
When you feel guilty, it is usually because you have done something wrong or failed someone. When this happens, it is best to ask for forgiveness. It’s okay to mess up, everyone does. However, it is necessary to seek forgiveness when we wrong someone or do the wrong thing.
Asking for forgiveness can help you alleviate feelings of guilt. It will often make you feel lighter and less burdened.
Give Yourself Some Grace
One of the most valuable things you can do for yourself and your guilt is to give yourself some grace. Oftentimes, we beat ourselves up with no good reason why. Acknowledge that you are feeling guilty, try to understand why, and give yourself room to feel that way.
Ask Yourself: Is This Warrented?
In many cases, people feel guilty because of a mental health disorder, trauma, or a past childhood experience. It is vital that you ask yourself: is this guilt warranted? By questioning your emotions, you can better understand how you are truly feeling. This way you can decipher the truth from self-deceit.
What To Do When Guilt Becomes Too Much To Bear?
Many do not consider therapy when it comes to guilty feelings, but you may be surprised at how much it can help! Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as talk therapy, has benefited many people who deal with unbearable guilt.
The best thing you can do when the guilt feels unbearable is to seek out professional help. A therapist or licensed counselor can help you work through your thoughts and emotions. Your therapist can support you as you understand why you may feel your emotions so intensely.
The first step in healing is admitting that you need help and seeking it out. Therapy can assist you in becoming a happier, lighter version of yourself!