Guilty

Why Do I Feel Guilty for No Reason?

“Why do I always feel guilty?”

Guilt is your mind’s way of keeping you in check and making you considerate towards people around you. It is not a bad emotion; without it, you would be sadistic or narcissistic.

However, constantly feeling guilty even when you did nothing wrong is not normal. It is an indicator of deep-seated psychological issues. The overwhelming sense of guilt can make you miserable. But no one is born with such negative thoughts.

Why Do People Feel Guilty for No Reason?

If you have been feeling guilty for most of your life, without understanding why the following reasons might be to blame.

Conditioning

Children may be conditioned to feel guilty for prioritizing their needs above others. This is most common in cases where a child is forced to care for an adult. The adult may be sick, or disabled. Having to sacrifice their own needs at a young age may condition one to think that having boundaries, or preferences, is selfish.

One may also take in their parents’ beliefs and use them as a moral compass in adulthood. Growing up in a strict or religious household can have this effect. As an adult, choosing a different way of life may cause endless guilt and shame.

Childhood Trauma

Traumatic events such as abuse, neglect, and the death of a loved one can trigger guilt. A child may blame themselves for the event, and carry that guilt for the rest of their lives. It is even worse in case the child reports abuse and is shamed for it. They might grow up suppressing their needs for fear of being shamed.

Depression

Depression can make you feel guilty for no reason. It causes continuous episodes of sadness, feeling hopeless, and feeling ashamed for things that are not a big deal. Because depression takes many forms, it is not easy to identify at first.

What Are The Signs to Look Out For?

“I feel guilty but I am not sure why.” How do you tell if your feeling of guilt is justified? Without knowing whether you are suffering from chronic guilt or not, it is hard to get the help you need. Below are several signs that the feelings you have might be baseless, and that you need help:

  • Always worrying that you have upset those around you
  • Being eager to please others
  • Prioritizing others’ needs and ignoring your own
  • Feeling responsible for others’ bad mood
  • Refusing to ask for what you want because you do not think you deserve it
  • Taking care of everyone else apart from yourself
  • Felling uncomfortable asking for help
  • Criticizing yourself for making a small mistake
  • Feeling guilty for even having bad thoughts

How to Stop Feeling Guilty for No Reason

Chronic guilt affects the quality of life for someone who has it. It holds you back from enjoying relationships with loved ones. Although you cannot get over this feeling overnight, you should consistently work towards changing your mindset. Here are several steps you can take to get over the unjustifiable guilt.

Assess Why You Are Feeling Guilty

Take time to think about your feelings and identify what causes them. You may take to journaling or meditation to get in touch with your emotions. Ask yourself, did you do something wrong? Did you think about something that you believe is immoral? How long have you been carrying around a guilty conscience? Identify all the possible reasons for your guilt.

Make Amends

If you realize that you did something wrong, ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, the best way to get rid of guilt is by admitting and apologizing for what you did. At times, you might have to ask yourself for forgiveness. This is especially true when you have been having bad thoughts that you did not act upon. Forgive yourself for going against your moral code.

Be Kind to Yourself

Your inner critic is often your harshest judge. You may speak so harshly to yourself that you damage your self-esteem. Constant feelings of guilt and shame are reinforced by the voice in your head that criticizes you. Learn to compliment yourself daily and appreciate any effort you make towards being better. Being kind to yourself heals some of the trauma you have experienced in your life.

Embrace Imperfection

No one is perfect; regardless of what you were made to believe as a child. Expecting perfection from yourself results in frustration. When you fail to meet your unreasonable standards, you feel guilty. Accept the fact that you have faults, and so does everyone else. You are bound to make a mistake every once in a while, it does not mean that you are a bad person.

Stay Away from Triggers

Identify what triggers your guilt and avoid it. Your parents, friends, or coworkers might be triggers. You may find it hard to be around certain people without feeling guilty. Avoiding your triggers lessens the number of times you feel upset over things you cannot control.

Practice Positivity

Having a positive outlook on life helps deal with unexplained guilt. Be grateful to loved ones for being there for you. Express your appreciation clearly and let them know that you do not take their presence for granted. Acknowledge that you would not be where you are without their support. Doing so makes you feel like less of a burden and helps you understand that you have nothing to feel bad about.

Final Thoughts

Feeling guilty even when you have done nothing wrong can stem from childhood trauma or conditioning. It can be overwhelming to feel guilty all the time. By identifying and dealing with the underlying reasons, one can get rid of the feeling. If you are struggling with guilt, you might want to seek therapy. Working with a licensed counselor can help you cultivate a positive mindset.

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more