Episode 27: OCD and Guilt

Episode 27

OCD and Guilt

In this episode of Purely OCD, Kelley and Lauren discuss how guilt can play a role in OCD. They also talk about the difference between guilt and shame. The two consider how to navigate the presence of guilt when it arises with OCD and also answer questions from the audience.

Guilt tends to come up a lot with Moral scrupulosity.

When someone has Moral Scrupulosity, guilt can be a trigger. If someone doesn’t feel guilty, they might wonder: “What does it mean that I feel guilty?”

Lauren talks about feeling guilt related to the fear that she might not have been 100% honest when it came to her intentions around eating a piece of Tiramisu.

Many people experience guilt given that they have certain thoughts.

E.g. “I had a thought about hurting a child. What does that mean about me?” This is where guilt can start to get into the realm of shame.

So what’s the difference between guilt and shame?

Shame involves the perception that “I am bad” versus the “I’ve done something bad,” which is more reflective of guilt. 

Kelley and Lauren discus the fact that guilt does arise when you’ve done something objectively wrong. It can be a functional emotion. That said, you can have guilt without having done something wrong.

Ultimately, having thoughts is not cause for guilt or shame.

Lauren: Thoughts are thoughts, and thoughts don’t need any sort of attention inherently.

Kelley: The antidote to shame is vulnerability. Just so everyone knows. If you’re feeling lots of shame about something find someone that’s trustworthy enough that you think you can share something that you feel shameful about and have them respond to you in a very loving, compassionate, unconditional way shame will be punched in the face.

Lauren: Right in the face

Kelley: Just right in this area. Aggressive.

Note: Being willing to feel guilt in exposure work is just as important as being willing to feel anxious in exposure work. 

When it comes to compulsions – the desire to compulsively confess when feeling guilty can be strong.

So what about exposure and response prevention with guilt?

Sometimes doing certain exposures will lead you to feel guilty (e.g. this sometimes comes up when someone brings on intrusive thoughts voluntarily).

Even if you’ve done something and guilt is an appropriate reaction, the degree of guilt may be excessive. This happens a lot with OCD. 

“Guilt is a feeling and so is anxiety and so is sadness and so is happiness. But to not interpret it is the key. Is instead to allow yourself to have an emotional experience because your brain is actually operating. It’s good. If you feel the spectrum of emotions that’s so good. Let yourself feel feelings… Because we have prefrontal cortexes that like to figure things out and we have cognitive abilities that other creatures don’t. We overthink things instead of just being like a cat who’s just like ‘I’m pissed at the world’ but it doesn’t matter why… Letting themselves be mad. Cranky little @$%holes!” –

Kelley Franke, LMFT

When guilt comes up, you can do a fact check: “Is this something that requires guilt?”

After one reality check and then we must accept uncertainty. Sometimes there’s anxiety related to feeling future guilt – “I’ll never be able to live with myself if that happens.” Ultimately it’s down to accepting uncertainty when the facts suggest that this is your best bet.

Lauren and Kelley round out the episode talking about their lived experience.

Kelley: I think I’ve pretty much felt all of these at some point. Taste the rainbow! 

Lauren: Yeah – the skittles of OCD!!


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Disclaimer: This information is meant to be general information not unique to any individual. Before following any guidance or advice found on this site or in the Purely OCD Podcast a visitor or listener should always consult with their own licensed healthcare practitioner. The Purely OCD Podcast and Website are not therapy or intended as a replacement for therapy. They are for educational purposes only.

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