Guilt and the Importance of Coping With It

Guilt is a self-conscious emotional response to something someone feels that they should or should not have done. While people experience guilt for different reasons, it's typically a response to causing harm to another or engaging in a behavior they feel is morally wrong. 

Guilt is a feeling aversive enough to lead to self-reflection and behavioral changes. For this reason, a certain amount of guilt serves a valuable social purpose. Guilt can play a role in reinforcing meaningful relationships and serve as a lesson to discourage similar hurtful acts.

However, when experienced in excess or out of proportion to the harm caused, it is most often an unnecessary burden. Like embarrassment or shame, we all experience guilt in life, but once we've learned the lesson it teaches, we need to be able to move on.

The first step you can take toward coping with guilt is to apologize and remedy the situation, making up for the offense or pain caused. If the guilt persists, it could be due to repeated thoughts of failures or worries over things that were out of your control.

It is important to note that this "excessive or inappropriate guilt" can potentially be an underlying symptom of a mental health condition. In this case, taking time to reflect on why you're experiencing these feelings of guilt might be necessary.

It can help to have this conversation with a therapist, especially when an underlying mental health condition exists. That said, therapy can help with addressing intense feelings of guilt even without an underlying condition present.


Diane K. Schmidt Counseling Services | 8575 W. 110th Street, Suite 304 Overland Park, KS 66210 | Phone: 913.730.6778 | Email: diane@dkschmidtcounseling.com