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We All Feel Waves of Guilt

Guilt—A feeling every individual with bipolar has experienced.

While the reasons may vary, it seems that we’re all feeling bad about ourselves.

For instance, this past weekend, my mood started dipping during a social event at a friend’s house. I just couldn’t smile anymore. I was irritated and antisocial and tired.Guilt Ridden Glasses 

I asked if I could sit outside alone for a few minutes.

I hunkered on a bench with my knees up to my chest, trying to avoid any stray gazes from inside the well-lit Townhome.

At the moment, I didn’t care too much about what everyone else was thinking.

A day later, though, a wave of guilt snuck up, as usual.

Why didn’t I just handle it better? What do they think of me now? Do they think I’m crazy?

I don’t know why I care so much. I guess it’s because, even subconsciously, being bipolar has caused me to feel less confident about myself. I am always wondering if I’m behaving appropriately or if my bipolar is “talking”.

I have experienced a lot of opposition in my life. Now that I’m feeling better and making progress, I am paranoid that I’m making mistakes.

I’m always feeling guilty.

I feel guilty when I have to leave family gatherings after a couple of hours.

I feel guilty when I can’t make it to events, or don’t want to pick up the phone, or answer voicemails for a week.

I feel guilty when I get sensitive at work, think a thought that I don’t find acceptable for a “normal, successful person”.

A lot of this guilt can be brought on by ourselves, but others make us feel guilty too.

They may blame our bipolar disorder for disagreements or suggest that we think less about bipolar in order to feel better.

Excessive Guilt

Is there anything behind these feelings?

One of the symptoms of bipolar is actually excessive guilt. It is a disproportionate feeling of guilt often accompanied by low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.

Someone with excessive guilt might feel like they have let others down. They belittle themselves and feel inadequate.

It can even become difficult to recognize successes or positive personal attributes.

One of the most interesting symptoms of excessive guilt, in my opinion, is the obligation to satisfy others. I particularly feel this symptom a lot. I get very upset when I’m not perfect in someone’s eyes, especially during my work day. If my boss isn’t pumping me up, I’m deflated.

What kind of effect does this guilt have on us?


As the mind ruminates about the past, little attention is given externally. This reminds me of when I do something that I find embarrassing at work, and keep thinking about it even though my boss keeps talking. I lose what he says.

I’m so busy worrying about what I just did, that I’m not paying attention to what I will have to do in the future.

The world can also become dark, unrealistic, and negative. I’m sure we all can relate to this. When we beat ourselves up, when everything we do is negative, it’s going to feel like we have a cloud over our head. It’s hard to beat the cycle.

What Do I Do Now?

I am in the same place you are. I experience excessive bipolar guilt all the time and I haven’t been able to keep it at bay just yet. But I think the first step is to recognize that our guilt may be irrational at times. Just because we feel it, doesn’t mean it’s reality.

We have to start recognizing our irrational thoughts in order to change our thinking.

Working with a therapist might be helpful for some.

What are other ways that you can think of to keep excessive guilt at bay? Are we able to combat this monster or do you think it’s something we have to deal with in having bipolar disorder?


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We All Feel Waves of Guilt

Kat Dawkins

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APA Reference
Dawkins, K. (2013). We All Feel Waves of Guilt. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Feb 2013
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