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People who have survived a very traumatic event when others did not may feel guilty for their survival and they may blame themselves for things they did or could have done differently in the past.

“A woman in Chicago blames herself for spending money on a car last year instead of saving towards her Haitian sister’s potential immigration.”

While some guilt about things left undid or unsaid is a normal part of the grieving experience, excessive survivor guilt can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety and it can also make people more reluctant to seek out help for the way they feel.

Treatment for Survival Guilt

If your feelings of guilt aren’t going away and are interfering with your quality of life, it’s important that you make contact with a mental health professional to discuss effective treatments that can help you get past the legacy of trauma.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is commonly used to treat PTSD and survival guilt to help people change negative patterns of thinking that produce negative and hurtful moods and behaviors. 

CBT can work quite quickly, it does not require of you to talk about your past or your subconscious dreams and it provides you with real world skills and techniques that you can practice in daily life to help you feel better.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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