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Freeing Yourself from Excessive and Complicated Guilt

Guilt counseling, Pinehurst NC

Freeing Yourself from Excessive and Complicated Guilt


There is nothing entirely “wrong” with guilt. In fact, many experts believe that it is a good thing in small doses. If it is mild to moderate, it can work positively in the sense that it can encourage a person to feel more compassion for others, to do things that are morally upright and socially acceptable, and to take corrective action to be a better person.

What can be unhealthy or unproductive is when it takes on a form that becomes an unrelenting source of uneasiness and pain. This kind of guilt can be sneaky and destructive, both for you and those around you. If your guilt results in your feeling uneasy with intense negative emotions and when these feelings are stopping you from living a happy, fulfilling life, be aware – it might be excessive or complicated guilt.

What can you do to save yourself from complicated guilt? You can take steps to assuage your pain and suffering. Trying to work on it on your own may seem encouraging, however, to increase your chance of success, it may be more productive to have a professional to help you sort out issues and navigate through it.


What is guilt?

“Guilt is an automatic behavioral + emotional response to believing that we have “done something wrong.”  It is something that is commonly learned from a young age and onward. Its natural purpose is for people to be alerted when they have done something they shouldn’t have. It is commonly considered “good,” as it can promote self-nurturance, encouraging people to act positively. It is healthy because it can prompt self-censorship, to avoid the common blunders in life. These may be why it is sustained or tolerated long enough for it to develop, until such a time that it exerts an immense adverse impact on a person’s thoughts and behavior.

Guilt is unhealthy when it takes on the destructive form of a “guilt complex.” Excessive and complicated guilt or a guilt complex is defined as “an obsessive disorder in which you feel that you’ve done wrong and that you always do wrong. It’s considered a negative, internal emotion that you experience when you think that you’ve done something you shouldn’t have. Even if you didn’t cause someone else’s misfortune, pain, or suffering, you may think you’re responsible, and feel guilty.”

When you have this emotional issue, you may endlessly blame yourself for all the misfortunes that happen to you and those around you or associated with you. In response, you may want to stay away from people, ruining your relationships with others. It can make you stop from trying or bettering yourself. And if it is a manifestation of a deep emotional wounding, without help, excessive and complicated guilt can drain your emotional energy, hindering and damaging your quality of life.


Effects of Excessive or Complicated Guilt

Excessive guilt can lead to future serious emotional issues. Research has long supported that children consumed by guilt are more vulnerable to emotional conditions, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), later on in life. In a study done by Washington University, results showed that “excessive guilt in children might be linked to a part of the brain that is connected to controls for several different behavioral disorders.” 

Complicated guilt can also have damaging effects on your physical and emotional health. It can also trigger other emotional conditions, such as depression, anxiety or extreme stress. According to WebMD, “If you’re guilty, you’re probably getting stressed. If your body releases stress chemicals, it puts you at risk for minor stuff like headaches and backaches, it [guilt] also contributes to cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal disorders. It can even have a negative impact on the immune system over time.”

Guilt can take a toll on your self-esteem and confidence; create feelings of being inadequate, ashamed, pessimistic, incompetent, and/or nervous. It can similarly strain relationships and result in day-to-day life being more challenging than usual.  Excessive guilt may prevent you from having effective communications with other people and weaken your resolve to pursue ambitions. If you are a parent, you may become overly sensitive or ineffective because of guilt.


Easing Guilt to a Healthy Level

Excessive guilt is unhealthy. It can, however, be treated and resolved, so that it stimulates change and improvement. Similar to how guilt can help you stay within the boundaries of morality and social acceptability, it can be used to drive you into positive action to help yourself and others. The question is: how do you ease or reduce guilt to a healthy, productive level?  A therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC can help.

Know that it is possible to reduce your excessive or complicated guilt with the assistance of the right intervention from an experienced counselor or therapist.  If you are constantly harboring feelings of painful guilt, isn’t it time to find resolution. Also, if people are using guilt to manipulate you, won’t standing up for yourself be worth seeking the assistance of a proficient therapist?  A therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC, can help you face your emotional wounds, so they’re easier to recognize, accept and resolve.  Call now to schedule your first appointment!


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Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
Credit Cards:  
Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
Credit Cards:  
Location: Pinehurst, NC

Counseling Information

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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311