PTSD and Guilt: How to Stop Taking the Blame

Suffering through trauma can lead to a complicated emotional response. While not everyone who undergoes a traumatic experience will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), many people who live through trauma will receive this diagnosis. And sometimes, guilt goes hand-in-hand with PTSD.

Not only does the survivor have to deal with the mental and physical health effects of trauma, but they may also feel guilty about what happened for a variety of reasons. Maybe they believe that the event was their fault. Or maybe they feel that they didn’t do enough to prevent it. Some people with PTSD also experience survivor’s guilt.

Let’s explore the relationship between guilt and PTSD, as well as several treatment options for trauma survivors.

Sharing Your Feelings

Sometimes, simply opening up about the guilt you’ve been carrying since going through trauma can make you feel a little lighter. However, trying to talk to someone who hasn’t walked in your shoes can be difficult, and you might worry they won’t truly understand you.

But talking to a therapist about been on your mind can be freeing. They can provide you with the tools you need to deal with these feelings in a healthy way.

Caring for Yourself

Guilt can cause you to drop your healthy habits. You might feel that you don’t deserve love and care, so you end up neglecting yourself. Building basic routines can help you rebuild your foundation. For instance, cooking meals at home, going for walks to break up long work days, and heading to bed earlier can all be beneficial.

Having support from your loved ones can also make it easier to commit to routines like this. For example, you could go for walks with a friend or cook with family a few nights per week.

Addressing Negative Beliefs

Chances are, some of your beliefs related to your traumatic experience are not necessarily grounded in fact. For example, you may feel that you’re to blame for what happened, even if there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. Alternatively, someone else who was involved may have tried to make you feel guilty for what happened, and you’ve been unable to shake the feeling.

By working with a therapist, you can address these negative beliefs and rebuild your thought patterns based in evidence. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective therapeutic modality for this process.

Exploring Early Life Experiences

Did you experience trauma early in life? As a child, you may not have truly understood what was happening. The adults in your life might have even tried to imply that what happened was your fault, even if you were far too young to have any control over the situation.

Exploring these early life experiences can help you understand the roots of your guilt. For example, you may realize that someone else was projecting their own guilt on to you, and now, you can recognize that what happened was not your fault.

Setting Boundaries

Setting strong boundaries can help you alleviate these feelings of guilt. For example, maybe you’ve been taught that putting yourself first is selfish. Or perhaps you feel like you do not deserve to set standards for the behavior of the people you allow in your life.

Setting boundaries is the key to releasing these guilty feelings. Understanding that it is good, but it’s also essential to prioritize your own mental and physical health, is an integral part of healing from trauma.