11 Scientific Facts About Guilt Every Woman Should Know

woman overwhelmed with guiltAccording to a recent survey, 96 percent of women feel guilty at LEAST once a day. About what, you ask? It would be faster to tell you what types of things we women DON'T fret over.


No need to commit a crime or cheat on your partner to feel ashamed, apparently. We're kicking ourselves for everything from what we had for breakfast to how we treat our friends.

Here, 11 facts that sum up what a bad habit guilt can be -- and how insidious it is for women.

1. Women are having a guilt epidemic. According to research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, women experience significantly higher amounts of shame and guilt than men. For women, both emotions are linked to self-criticism, whereas perfectionist tendencies came into play with men.

2. We're hardwired (and taught) to feel sorry or shamed. A Spanish study found that men are actually "guilt-deficient," thanks to a lack of sensitivity. We women, on the other hand, are constantly, excessively concerned with how our actions will affect others. Part of this might be hardwired into our brains, but the researchers also point to society -- which teaches girls to "be good."

3. Just taking a work-related call at home can bring on feelings of guilt. A study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that women actually felt 30 percent more guilty and distressed than their male partners when they had to mix work and home responsibilities. (And moms with young kiddos felt the worst.)

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4. Excessive guilt is actually a symptom of another condition. And that's major depression, which women suffer from twice as often as men.

5. Growing up can make you feel guilty. More specifically, growing up in a physically abusive family environment. While boys in this sad situation may grow up to become more hostile and angry, girls experience higher shame and guilt. The reasons why range from feeling helpless to coping with the violation of their personal boundaries.

6. Guilt can do a number on your sex life. The guiltier you felt about having sex for the first time, the less likely you were to enjoy it -- or any future sexual encounters.

7. Feeling guilty could lead to an eating disorder. While shame about eating behavior is a stronger predictor of eating disorders in women, guilt -- about both eating habits and body shame -- can lead to EDs, too. In fact, one study found that 94 percent of bulimics have "pathological guilt."

8. Many women experience guilt after physical abuse and rape  -- and for very different reasons. Victims of domestic violence may feel guilty because they weren't able to help their loved ones refrain from violence. Rape victims can feel like the rape was their fault.

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9. You can actually stop feeling guilty if you're a working mom. A Harvard study found that the daughters of working moms grow up to have more successful careers and more equal relationships.

10. One little word can help ease your guilt. And that word is ... "no." Saying no and starting to set firm boundaries will help you take better care of yourself. Don't expect it to be easy though. Chances are you've been dealing with feelings of guilt since you were a kid, so it's not going to disappear overnight.

11. There's a surprising trick you can play on yourself to feel less guilty. It's pretending that you have NO choice but to be selfish and take care of yourself. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that we feel guilty when we actively pursue our own self-interests. But when we're told we have no choice, that guilt goes away.


Image via iStock.com/PeopleImages

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