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The Psychological and Physiciological Effects of Guilt

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Abstract: Guilt has physiological and psychological effects. The psychological effects can include something bad, such as feelings of worthlessness or inferiority. Guilt can also serve in a positive way as a motivator. A person may suffer physiological effects such as insomnia and physical pain.

Discussion: Guilt is feelings of culpability, especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy. There are negative physiological effects caused by guilt. Guilt can make someone over responsible. They will think that life has to be perfect, and will do everything to try to please everyone. It may make someone over conscientious so that they may neglect their needs to avoid affecting others with the negative consequences of an action. Oversensitivity becomes a problem, as one becomes obsessed with every aspect of right and wrong in the making of a decision. Guilt can mislead or misdirect you; a person may not be able to figure out their true feelings, because of irrational beliefs lying behind guilt. The feelings might be ignored because of the fear of guilt, and one would not be able to respond to anything positive or negative. People may be so overcome by guilt that they feel worthless and label themselves as a "bad person." Guilt can evolve into shame, depression, or anxiety.

To the contrary, guilt can have positive psychological effects as well. Guilt tells us when we have let ourselves down, though sometimes it's not really our fault. People are reminded of their morals because of guilt, otherwise we would never feel that we have done something wrong. This serves as a motivator to change. As guilt causes discomfort, it can be used as a need to change things in your life, and eliminate the guilt. For example, if someone bullied an individual, they would probably eventually realize they have wronged that person and feel guilty. The guilt would motivate the bully to change their attitude, which would lead to a better life.

Moreover, continual guilt may affect someone physiologically. Someone feeling guilty may suffer from: languidness, imagined illness, real illness, headaches, stomach disorders, and vague pains. Guilt can also cause cardiovascular strain which reduces relational intimacy and a startle response which creates feelings of alienation. It may even be a detriment to work performance because it can cause hyperarousal. A person may also feel chronically fatigued. Without



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