Skip to main content Skip to bottom nav

Guilt Counseling and Treatment

Guilt Counseling and Treatment

Guilt is a powerful emotion. You may have experienced it too as a result of one or two things you did and regretted doing it. Most people have. Because we all made some choices and decisions that didn’t go well and were labeled as mistakes. And, consciously or unconsciously, you might be guilt-tripping.

This post covers information on what guilt is, major causes of it, physical symptoms, different types of treatments, what you can do to deal with and overcome shame and shyness, and self-help for guilt.

What Causes It?

Guilt is an emotion that makes you self-evaluate negatively, and feel stressed, and fail. It is a persistent belief that you did something wrong and you shouldn’t have done it. Even though mistakes allow you to learn and grow, they still leave you feeling crippled and cause plenty of mental, physical, and emotional pain.

There are a number of factors and reasons that causes guilt and some of them are:

  1. Mental Health Issues. If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, OCD, or other mental health issues, you may assess your thoughts and actions negatively that it leads to feeling guilt.

  2. Growing up experiences. If your childhood experiences are filled with underestimating your abilities or blaming you for every wrong action or outcome, you may be prone to feel guilt often and feel left out and responsible for any and every problem, issue, or concern. You may feel low self-esteem and confidence to make choices or decisions and always second guess yourself.

  3. Peer Pressure or Social Pressure. If you are constantly feeling pressured by others' judgments on your actions and thoughts, you will feel less confident and more guilty of making any choice on your own.

  4. Social norms, religion, and culture. If you do something that is not meeting the standards and beliefs of social norms, religion, and culture you were brought up with, you may experience guilt even if you feel like it doesn’t make any sense to you anymore.

Mental Health. The Effects of Guilt.

The feeling of guilt is different. It is not the same as feeling sad or frustrated. It is more like an outcome of feeling a bunch of emotions like feelings of shame, anxiety, frustration, shyness, etc. It can impact an individual’s self-worth or self-esteem.

There are three most common types of guilt: natural guilt, toxic guilt, and existential guilt. Guilt may cause a profound lack of self-esteem, self-criticism, often feeling anger and frustration, depression, isolation and loneliness, self-sabotage, frequent blaming of others, feeling numb and disconnected from emotions.

The intensity of guilt can vary from person to person. Some may feel less while some may feel stronger. Guilt is common among individuals who suffer from mental health issues like anxiety, depression, OCD, substance abuse, trauma, etc. The reasons for feeling guilt can be anything but the stress of the guilt can have serious consequences on mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Guilt shares a lot of symptoms with depression and those suffering from depression can experience symptoms of severe guilt. This is why it is important to seek help and support.

The Physical Symptoms

When you experience guilt, it not only impacts you mentally and emotionally but also affects you physically. The physical symptoms of guilt are sleep troubles (insomnia), nausea, stomach ache, other digestive issues, muscle tension, headache, migraines, tearfulness, etc. Many feel frustrated, irritated and at times feel on edge. They can be overly apologetic or clingy. But, taking steps to deal with and overcome guilt can reduce the physical symptoms as well.

Along with physical symptoms, one also experiences cognitive and behavioral symptoms too. The cognitive symptoms may include negative beliefs, thoughts, and biases that make one feel like they are not good enough to do anything.

Healing From Depression

Depression can leave you feeling empty, drained, guilty feelings, or low motivation. This can make it hard for one to deal with the daily situation and overcome it. However, to heal from depression, small steps are effective and help you feel more in control of your daily life and change relationships like parent, family, friends, love life to be healthy and positive.

The first step to heal from depression is to start acknowledging the place you are in and how you are feeling and then take it moment by moment to cope up with it. You may not have answers to all the questions and you feel distressed, fearful, and worried about what to do. However, assessing everything in fragments instead of whole will allow you to see things point by point to stop generalization and push yourself to focus more to recognize the good. If it helps, you can start by writing down your strengths and positive points of the day, week, and month. As well as what went wrong and what you might do to change it.

Also, if it helps, seek help. You can reach out to online or offline support groups or talk to a doctor or psychologist. They can work with you on setting attainable goals, a system to reward your efforts, help to create a routine, constructively process your emotions and experiences through various resources like CBT, psychotherapy, medications, etc to bring positive changes and signs in your mental health state.

Overcoming Shame and Shyness

Shame and shyness can be challenging but with the help of the tips below you can help yourself to overcome them.

  1. Rewire Your Negative Thoughts. You cannot overcome shame if you are unaware of how it shows up. When you closely observe and identify, you will notice that certain phrases and statements constantly run in your mind and contribute to shame. In order to overcome these, you need to start reframing your thoughts. You can start by acknowledging it is one perspective and okay to have and then practicing to reframe it as more self-compassionate and positive-oriented thoughts.

  2. Be Kind to Yourself. Everyone has their own mistakes and so do you. It is okay to have them. But do not blame yourself for the failure or see yourself down because of some decisions and choices that went wrong. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. You deserve care and support, especially your own care and kindness. You can start doing it by identifying and noting down your strengths and positive traits.

  3. Practice Mindful Conversations. If you’re shy, small talks can be stressful. Even if you have something to share on the topic, you may not share because you might be worried about how everyone else will judge you for your thoughts. To overcome this, focus on practicing more active listening skills to have a smooth flow of conversation. It will help you practice mindful conversations and enjoy them as well.

  4. Accept Yourself. Shyness is part of your personality. Not everyone enjoys the spotlight and small talks. So if shyness is not causing any problems, you probably do not need to be hard on yourself. Not everyone’s goal is to have many connections and relationships. Introvert personalities feel satisfied with their limited interactions and relationships and allow them to recharge and unwind on their own. This is why you accept who you are and what your goals are.

  5. Seek Professional Help. Dealing with shame can be daunting. But keep trying. You can seek professional help by reaching out to a therapist for online therapy for support and guidance. A therapist or counselor can help you manage your physical symptoms, exploring causes of shame and shyness in more detail, identifying and recognizing social anxiety and other concerns you may have, reframing your thoughts and perspectives to acknowledge your emotions and experiences better, and explore strategies and ways to navigate through your challenges and overcome them in an effective way.

Dealing with Guilt Through Counseling

Working through your guilt with a therapist or counselor can help you deal with this emotion better. As they are trained professionals, they help you work through and process your emotions and experiences that help you feel justified for your actions and choices. You get to learn that you are not to blame for everything and anything that happens. With the help of a counselor, you learn to acknowledge and accept what you did and take steps to make the next course of action.

Featured Contributors