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Unnecessary Guilt

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Some reason when there’s a problem that someone has drawn attention to such as why is the door open? Send me into a state of panic and fear. My anxiety is Sky Rockets as I mentally search for solutions to a problem. What I find troubling is that even though I am not at fault the guilt and anxiety and fear consume me! And then in a state of panic I race to solve the issue and abandon any tasks I was in. As bad as when someone says “Oh God!” Jump and Race Across the house with the fear gripping me and an over-exaggerated urge to fix it.

Unnecessary Guilt

Answered by on -

A.

You seem to be discussing two issues here: anxiety and unnecessary guilt. They seem intertwined, but given the little information I have it’s difficult for me to know with certainty if that is the case.

One should only feel guilty when they have done something to warrant such a feeling. If something has occurred and it’s not your fault, it should not lead to your feeling guilty. For instance, you mentioned a door being open. The question would be: did you leave the door open and perhaps secondarily, did you do it on purpose (as opposed to an accident)? If you had nothing to do with the door being open, then how could you be to blame? If you were not involved in any way, then it would be wrong and inappropriate to feel guilt.

Let’s say that you did leave the door open and it was your fault. Feeling guilt, in that situation, would make sense but guilt to what degree?

It may be more if leaving the door opened meant that your AC bill skyrocketed because all of the cold air escaped into the atmosphere or if you let your pet cat outside and he or she got lost and never came home. Feeling some guilt would make sense. Even if you did it by accident, feeling some level of guilt would make sense because the outcome was negative and you were to blame.

The key phrase being some level of guilt. Not an overwhelming or an incapacitating level of guilt. How guilty one should feel should match the circumstances of a situation.

If someone else had left the door open, and you had nothing to do with it whatsoever, you should not feel guilty. You might feel sad or upset about it, if something bad has occurred as a result of the door being left open, but you should not feel guilty.

The key to determining whether or not you should feel guilt is examining your role in any given situation. If you have nothing to do with a particular situation, and no power to intervene or control the outcome, then it’s irrational to feel guilt.

Feeling unnecessary guilt could potentially be linked to the anxiety you described in your letter. You mentioned that you are hypersensitive to situations and seem to feel an “over-exaggerated” sense of both anxiety and guilt. Based on the information provided in your letter, I would agree that your responses seem exaggerated. It’s important to examine why you are responding in such a manner and most importantly, getting treatment to prevent it in the future.

Your next step should be undergoing an evaluation with a mental health professional. They can evaluate your symptoms and determine what may be wrong. They will likely recommend treatment including counseling and potentially medication. Discuss your treatment options with your provider.

The good news about anxiety is that it is a highly treatable condition. In fact, it is one of the most treatable disorders in the world. Cognitive behavioral therapy could target both your anxiety and inappropriate feelings of guilt. Good luck with your efforts. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Unnecessary Guilt

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2020). Unnecessary Guilt. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/08/20/unnecessary-guilt/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Aug 2020 (Originally: 20 Aug 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Aug 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.