If you have experienced something awful, life-altering, or deeply disturbing, you already know how difficult moving on from that can be. You may struggle to think of other things or find it challenging to overcome what happened and move on with your life. For many people, experiencing, surviving, or witnessing traumatic events can leave them feeling confused, anxious, depressed, or even ashamed.
Are you trying to cope with any or all of these emotions? Perhaps you also feel as if there was some way you might have prevented the situation.
If so, you may be suffering from trauma-related guilt.
What Is Trauma-Related Guilt?
Trauma-related guilt is the unpleasant feeling of unease, regret, and guilt towards a certain situation or event. Most of the time, suffering from trauma-related guilt or shame will feel like a heavy mental burden as you experience the event in your head. You may replay the events, wondering if you could have done something differently to change what happened.
For instance, the driver during a car accident may feel guilty if passengers passed away. They could feel like driving a different route or leaving at a different time may have led to a better outcome. This feeling can make people incredibly guilty and regretful, turning into what’s called survivor guilt or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
That being said, trauma-related guilt can happen to anyone. Accident survivors who have been through physical abuse, sexual abuse, a natural disaster, a terror attack, or exposure to combat all report such emotion.
Trauma-related guilt is a serious disorder, as it can lead to other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts. What does this shame look like? Consider the following signs:
What Are The Symptoms Of Trauma-Related Guilt?
Trauma-related guilt can manifest itself in many different ways. It’s important to remember that not everyone experiences trauma-related guilt and shame in the same ways. However, the following signs are most common:
- Flashbacks of a traumatic event
- Irritability, anger
- Feelings of sadness and helplessness
- Fear or anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of interest and motivation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings that you could have done more or altered the outcome
If you do suspect that you are suffering from trauma-related guilt and shame, the following measures and consulting with a licensed therapist for guidance and treatment is an important and helpful next step.
Steps To Help You Overcome Trauma-Related Guilt
Trauma-related guilt and shame do not disappear easily or overnight. However, we have some tips to help you cope with trauma-related guilt and shame to aid you in your recovery.
Remember, even though your thoughts and feelings may not be rational, they are understandable given the circumstances. However, acceptance is key to processing the situation and your guilt. Like other losses, acknowledging and grieving your experience helps make guilt more manageable and resolvable.
It is so important to practice self-care when you feel distressed. Whether you exercise, meditate, rest, read, or simply make a practice of getting enough sleep, caring for yourself is vital. You deserve self-compassion. Intentionally and practically reminding yourself that it’s okay to feel better is an important part of moving forward.
It can lessen your feelings of guilt and shame if you meet the needs of other people. You may enjoy supporting others, lending a helping hand, donating blood, or volunteering so that you can positively make a difference in someone else’s life. This helps create meaning and purpose beyond your trauma.
Don’t forget how essential it is to communicate and connect with family and friends to talk about your feelings, experiences, and thoughts. A good support system can be pivotal in your recovery. If you’re not comfortable talking with family and friends, then it could be worth seeking support groups in your community or online.
Mindfulness techniques can also aid your recovery. For instance, you may want to try practicing yoga poses, deep breathing exercises, or reflection activities.
If you are struggling, don’t continue to suffer. You deserve relief. Therapy can help you deal with the trauma and your emotions. With the proper resources, tools, and treatment, you can work through and overcome your trauma-related guilt. Please reach out for support soon, I am here to help.