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Bipolar Guilt: Feeling Guilty. My Family Member Has Bipolar Disorder

Learn about the causes and effects of guilt and how to deal with guilt. For friends and family of people with mental illness.

Many family members of those with a mental illness feel guilty about their feelings or situation. Learn about the causes and effects of guilt and how to deal with guilt.

Supporting Someone with Bipolar - For Family and Friends

Nearly all relatives of people with mental illness feel guilty, at some point, about their relative's or their own situation. Although it may never completely disappear, the feeling can be significantly reduced.

Causes of Guilt

  1. Blaming yourself or regretting your feelings (especially anger), thoughts, or actions regarding your ill relative
  2. Feeling bad about having a better life than your relative does (survivor guilt)
  3. Society's ostracism of families who have a relative with a mental illness

Effects of Guilt

  1. Depression, lack of energy for the present
  2. Dwelling on the past
  3. Diminished self-confidence and self-worth
  4. Less effectiveness in solving problems and achieving goals
  5. Acting like a martyr, in an effort to make up for past sins
  6. Being overprotective, which leads to your relative's feeling more helpless and dependent
  7. Diminished quality of your life

Deal with guilt by developing more rational and less painful ways of thinking about the situation.

  1. Acknowledge and express your guilt with an understanding listener
  2. Examine the beliefs underlying your guilt. (For example: "I should have done things differently when he was a child"; "I should have noticed the signs sooner and done something to prevent it"; "I should have never said that to her."
  3. Counteract these false beliefs, using the information you have learned about the causes and course of mental illness
  4. Try not to dwell on the past
  5. Focus on how you may improve the present and the future for yourself and your ill relative
  6. Remind yourself that you deserve a good life even if your relative may not be fortunate enough to have one

APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2008, December 4). Bipolar Guilt: Feeling Guilty. My Family Member Has Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-support/bipolar-guilt-feeling-guilty-my-family-member-has-bipolar-disorder

Last Updated: June 4, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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