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What Is Guilt Tripping?

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

being guilt trip meaning

damircudic / Getty Images

  • Getting Help

Frequently Asked Questions

A guilt trip means causing another person to feel guilt or a sense of responsibility to change their behavior or take a specific action. Because guilt can be such a powerful motivator of human behavior, people can wield it as a tool to change how others think, feel, and behave. 

Sometimes this might involve leaning on something that someone already feels guilty about. In other cases, people might induce feelings of unjustified guilt or responsibility to manipulate the other person's emotions and behaviors.

If someone has ever made you feel bad about something you’ve done (or didn’t do) and then used those bad feelings to get you to do something for them, then you have experience with guilt tripping.

This article discusses the signs, types, and impact of guilt trips. It also covers some of the steps you can take to cope with this type of behavior.

Signs of a Guilt Trip

Guilt trips can be intentional, but they can also be unintentional. There are chances that you have even guilt-tripped people into doing things before.

Sometimes guilt tripping behavior can be easy to spot, but it can also be much more subtle and difficult to detect.  Some key signs that others may be guilt-tripping you include:

  • Making comments suggesting that you have not done as much work as they have done
  • Bringing up mistakes that you have made in the past
  • Reminding you of favors they have performed for you in the past
  • Acting as if they are angry but then denying that there is a problem
  • Refusing to speak to you or giving you the silent treatment
  • Making it clear through their body language , tone of voice, and facial expressions that they disapprove of what you were doing
  • Suggesting that you “owe” them
  • Engaging in passive-aggressive behavior
  • Making sarcastic comments about your efforts or progress

It is important to note that this type of indirect communication can occur in any interpersonal relationship. Still, it is more likely to take place in relationships that are marked by close emotional connections.

It can show up in romantic relationships, but guilt trips may also be utilized in family relationships, parental relationships, and even work relationships.

Types of Guilt Tripping

There are many different types of guilt trips that people may utilize depending on the ultimate goal or purpose of the behavior. Some of the different purposes of a guilt trip include:

  • Manipulation : Sometimes, the primary goal of a guilt trip is to manipulate someone into doing something that they normally would not want to do.  
  • Conflict avoidance : In other cases, people may use guilt trips to avoid directly talking about an issue. It allows them to get what they want without having to engage in direct conflict.
  • Moral education : Guilt trips can also be a way of getting someone to engage in a behavior that the individual feels is more moral or “right.”
  • Elicit sympathy : In some cases, guilt-tripping allows the individual to gain the sympathy of others by casting themselves in the role of someone who has been harmed by the actions the other person is supposed to feel guilty about.

Guilt isn't always a bad thing. While often troubling and unpleasant, it can serve an important role in guiding moral behavior. When people experience guilt, they can fix their mistakes and avoid repeating the same errors in the future.

Researcher Courtney Humeny

A guilt trip does not appear to induce the benefits of guilt, such as making amends, honesty, and mutual understanding.

Impact of Guilt Trips

Invoking feelings of guilt to change someone’s behavior can have a wide variety of effects. Whether guilt is wielded intentionally or not, it prevents healthy communication and connections with others. Some of the most immediate effects of this form of covert psychological manipulation include:

Damage to Relationships

Research suggests that guilt trips can take a toll on close relationships. One study found that people hurt by their partner's criticism were more likely to use those hurt feelings to make their partner feel guilty and offer reassurances.

However, the study also found that the partner who had been guilt-tripped into offering assurances was more likely to feel significantly worse about the relationship.

In other words, inducing feelings of guilt may work to get your partner to do what you want—but it comes at a cost. It can impair trust and cause the other person to feel that they are being manipulated. 

One of the reasons why guilt trips can poison relationships is because they can lead to lasting feelings of resentment.

"A guilt trip imposes aversive states associated with guilt, along with feelings of resentment from feeling manipulated," Humeny suggests.

A single occasion of someone using a guilt trip to alter your behavior might not have a serious impact on your relationship. Repeated use of guilt trips can leave you feeling bitter.

If you feel that your partner is always going to guilt you into something that you don't want to do, it can decrease intimacy, reduce emotional closeness, and ultimately make you start to resent your partner.

Research suggests that appeals to guilt are a common type of persuasion technique . However, while guilt can compel people to take certain actions, it can also sometimes backfire.

Low-level guilt tends to motivate people to act on the persuasive message. High levels of guilt, however, often fail due to what researchers call "reactance." 

"An individual in a state of reactance will behave in such a way as to restore his freedom (or, at least, his sense of freedom), for example, by performing behaviors that are contrary to those required," explain researchers Aurélien Graton and Melody Mailliez in a 2019 article published in the journal Behavioral Sciences .

In other words, guilt trips can backfire and lead people to behave opposite how someone else wants them to act. For example, someone guilt-tripping you into calling them more often might actually result in calling them less.

Poor Well-being

Feelings of excessive guilt are associated with several mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression , and obsessive-compulsive disorder . Being subjected to guilt trips may contribute to the development or worsening of such conditions.

Experiencing guilt can also lead to many immediate and unpleasant emotions and symptoms such as anxiety, sadness, regret, worry, muscle tension, and insomnia.

This type of covert manipulation may also sometimes contribute to the development of a guilt complex , which is a persistent belief that you have done (or will do) something wrong.

Over time, guilt can lead to feelings of shame. Shame can affect your self-image, which can then contribute to social withdrawal and isolation.

How to Cope With Guilt Tripping

There are a number of tactics that can be helpful when dealing with a guilt trip. Some steps you can take include:

  • Acknowledge the request. Let them know that you understand that it is important to them. Responding with empathy and showing that you see their needs may help them feel that they are not simply being ignored. Validating their emotions may help lessen the intensity of those feelings.
  • Share your feelings . Explain that you also see how they are trying to make you feel guilty so that you'll do what they want. Then tell them how that type of manipulation makes you feel. Suggest that interacting in that way will lead to resentment and that more direct communication forms would be more effective. 
  • Set boundaries . Boundaries help set limits on what you will and will not accept. Even if you do end up helping them with their request, make sure you clearly articulate your limits and explain the consequences of crossing those boundaries. Then be sure that you enforce those limits if they are crossed.

Other things that you can use include protecting your self-esteem and distancing yourself if needed. You're more likely to fall for a guilt trip if you already feel poorly about yourself, so find strategies to build up your sense of self-worth. 

If the other person keeps trying to manipulate you with feelings of guilt, reduce your communication with them or even consider ending the relationship.

Protecting your own well-being should be a top priority. A person who tries to manipulate you with toxic feelings of shame and guilt does not have your best interests at heart.

Getting Help for Guilt

If you are experiencing feelings of guilt or related symptoms of anxiety, stress, or depression, talk to your health care provider or a mental health professional. They can recommend treatment options such as psychotherapy or medications that can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of your life.

Your doctor or therapist may suggest a type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) , which may help reduce inappropriate guilt feelings. This type of therapy can help you identify and change the negative thoughts and cognitive distortions that can contribute to feelings of guilt.

Your therapist can also help you learn to recognize the signs of a guilt trip—and help you practice strategies to cope with this type of emotional manipulation.

An example of guilt tripping might be your friend calling you and saying, "I know you are too busy with work to hang out. I'll just spend the evening by myself. I just thought that since I helped you get that job you would make sure to make a little more time for me." This type of comment is designed to induce feelings of guilt and bring up the idea that you "owe" them in some way.

Guilt tripping is often designed to manipulate other people by preying on their emotions and feelings of guilt or responsibility. This can be a form of toxic behavior that can have detrimental effects on a person's well-being as well as their relationships.

While both behaviors are destructive and toxic, they differ in key ways. Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse that involves denying another person's reality and making them question their own experiences. Guilt tripping, on the other hand, is about causing another person to feel guilty in order to get them to change their behavior.

Humeny C. A qualitative investigation of a guilt trip . Conference: Institute of Cognitive Science Spring Proceedings.

Overall NC, Girme YU, Lemay EP Jr, Hammond MD. Attachment anxiety and reactions to relationship threat: the benefits and costs of inducing guilt in romantic partners . J Pers Soc Psychol . 2014;106(2):235-56. doi:10.1037/a0034371

Aurélien G, Melody M. A theory of guilt appeals: a review showing the importance of investigating cognitive processes as mediators between emotion and behavior .  Behav Sci (Basel) . 2019;9(12):117. doi:10.3390/bs9120117

Tilghman-Osborne C, Cole DA, Felton JW.  Definition and measurement of guilt: Implications for clinical research and practice .  Clin Psychol Rev . 2010;30(5):536-546. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.007

Miceli M, Castelfranchi C.  Reconsidering the differences between shame and guilt .  Eur J Psychol . 2018;14(3):710-733. doi:10.5964/ejop.v14i3.1564

Herr NR, Jones AC, Cohn DM, Weber DM.  The impact of validation and invalidation on aggression in individuals with emotion regulation difficulties .  Personal Disord . 2015;6(4):310-4. doi:10.1037/per0000129

Cleantis T. Boundaries and self-care . Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

Hedman E, Ström P, Stünkel A, Mörtberg E. Shame and guilt in social anxiety disorder: effects of cognitive behavior therapy and association with social anxiety and depressive symptoms . PLoS One . 2013;8(4):e61713. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061713

Johnson VE, Nadal KL, Sissoko DRG, King R. "It's not in your head": Gaslighting, 'splaining, victim blaming, and other harmful reactions to microaggressions .  Perspect Psychol Sci . 2021;16(5):1024-1036. doi:10.1177/17456916211011963

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Is Someone Guilt-Tripping You? How To Identify and Respond to This Form of Emotional Manipulation

being guilt trip meaning

“Guilt-tripping is intentionally or unintentionally causing feelings of guilt in another person to manipulate or control them,” says Monica Vermani, C.Psych , a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma, abuse, and relationships. She says it’s all about exerting influence and power.

  • Amelia Kelley, PhD, PhD, MS, LCHMC, ATR, RYT , a trauma-informed therapist, author, podcaster, and researcher
  • Monica Vermani, C. Psych. , clinical psychologist, public speaker, teacher and author
  • Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD , clinical psychologist

It’s vital to note that the person being guilted may not even be in the wrong. “The natural emotion of guilt is employed as a manipulative tactic to create a sense of responsibility for something they may or may not have done,” says Amelia Kelley, PhD, LCMHC , a trauma-informed relationship therapist, podcaster, researcher, and co-author of What I Wish I Knew . “The narcissists and emotional abusers will use guilt as a gaslighting tactic to make their target take responsibility even if they are not at fault.”

In various ways, this kind of behavior boils down to a desire to gain power or control. “Typically, when others guilt-trip you, they are attempting to have the upper hand in some way, get something out of you, or keep you on your toes,” says Nancy Irwin, PsyD , a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma.

People who've experienced negative relationships or are disempowered are often the type to utilize guilt-tripping as a means of claiming control. “It may be the fear of being hurt again [that leads someone to guilt-trip],” says Dr. Kelley, adding that this is common for someone with an insecure attachment style or a fear of abandonment . “It could also be a result of the guilt-tripper not feeling comfortable with vulnerability and struggling themselves to take responsibility for their actions,” she adds, describing a behavior typical in the victim narcissist (or the narcissist who acts as if others are always out to get them).

  • 01 How do you know if someone is guilt-tripping you?
  • 02 What is narcissistic guilt tripping?
  • 03 Is guilt-tripping gaslighting?
  • 04 What is the negative impact of guilt-tripping?
  • 05 Why am I guilt-tripping myself?
  • 06 How to stop guilt-tripping yourself
  • 07 How do you respond to someone guilt-tripping you?
  • 08 When to seek professional help


How do you know if someone is guilt-tripping you?

The experts say guilt-tripping can be either blunt and obvious or subtle and hard to identify. To tell if someone is manipulating you , they suggest looking for the following signs:

  • Making passive-aggressive suggestions about how you haven’t done your “fair share”
  • Reminding you of all the favors they’ve done for you
  • Giving you the silent treatment ( yes, it’s a manipulation tactic !)
  • A disapproving tone of voice, facial expression, or gesture to convey disappointment
  • Making a cutting or unkind comment then saying they were “just joking”
  • Continuing to bring up the “offense” or “mistake” either subtly or dramatically
  • Glaring at you or deeply inhaling after hearing about a similar situation, or saying something like “Yes, I know the feeling”
  • Making baseless accusations
  • Struggling to take responsibility or ownership for their part
  • Making you feel like you have to “make something up to them,” justify your intentions, or over-apologize
  • An absence of an equal exchange of give and take, in which you’re always showing up for them without being able to ask for the same in return

Examples of guilt-tripping phrases

Generally speaking, there’s a key sign to look out for in these statements, Dr. Kelley says: dichotomous (aka, black-and-white) language.

Guilt-trippers “typically assign judgment and responsibility and are laden with blame and emotional blackmail aimed at the recipient of the comment,” says Dr. Vermani.

As specific examples of what a guilt-tripper may say, the experts listed the following:

  • “You always/never….”
  • “You make me feel…”
  • “Men/women always…”
  • “If you really cared or loved me…”
  • “I thought you were on my side…”

What is narcissistic guilt-tripping?

Guilt-tripping behavior can be common among narcissistic people . “Narcissists are brilliant at projecting their own flaws or perceived inadequacies onto others,” Dr. Irwin says, noting they can’t own their mistakes, apologize, or self-correct. “Whatever comes out of a narcissist’s mouth, simply pause and ask yourself who they are really talking about.”

Guilt-tripping also gives them the control and power they seek, or more generally, what they want. “They seek attention and use guilt as a means of maintaining power over their victims,” Dr. Vermani adds. If the narcissistic person can make their partner think that they’re at fault, they may be better able to control how their partner acts.

Is guilt-tripping gaslighting?

Guilt-tripping and gaslighting are similar in that both are emotional abuse tactics used to manipulate and control, the psychologists say. They aren’t quite the same thing, though.

Gaslighting is making someone question their sanity, Dr. Irwin says, while guilt-tripping is informing someone of a claimed offensive and holding on to it.

Despite their differences, the two are often used in conjunction. “Gaslighting is meant to confuse or distort someone’s reality, which is not always the case with guilt-tripping,” Dr. Kelley says. “Commonly though, in order to employ a guilt trip, there needs to be distortions of reality that occur, which is where gaslighting comes in.”

She adds it can also be used to justify threats and accusations or engage the target in a power struggle. “[Targets] are constantly having to look at themselves and what they did wrong, which takes the spotlight of blame off the narcissist as the target remains on the defensive,” she explains.

What is the negative impact of guilt-tripping?

Guilt-tripping can hurt the relationship and the mental health of the person experiencing it. A 2010 study in Clinical Psychology Review 1 found that persistent guilt exacerbates depression, anxiety, and OCD symptoms, just to start.

“It has a direct impact on self-concept and self-esteem,” Dr. Kelley says. “If someone always feels they are to blame, or in the wrong, it can make it difficult to speak to oneself with compassion and continue to believe that you are worthy of the love and respect each and every one of us deserves.”

This can create an unhealthy power dynamic, she adds, as well as fail to properly address the situation at hand.

Further, Dr. Vermani notes that guilt-tripping can lead to resentment, a lack of trust, and anger in relationships, as well as an increased sense of powerlessness, anxiety, and/or mood disorders.

Why am I guilt-tripping myself?

People with insecurities or low self-esteem may be more prone to making themselves feel guilty, even for things they didn’t do. They may also be quick to assume someone is blaming them when they're not.

“As human beings, we all want to be heard, seen, and valued,” Dr. Vermani says. But when someone has low-self-esteem, she continues, they're highly critical and look for reassurance that their negative thoughts are right. “By assuming guilt for things that they have not done and are not their responsibility, they validate the narrative that they are inadequate and unworthy of love,” she says.

Self-imposed guilt-trips can be taught, too. Narcissistic people in particular tend to impose this kind of thing on others, according to Dr. Kelley.

“It is difficult to believe your needs and boundaries are valid if you are made to feel less than or like something is wrong with you,” she says. “Guilt-tripping can cause an enmeshed view of the self where what we do becomes who we are—which is not a correct or a healthy way to view the self. If you feel you are constantly causing damage in your wake, it can create an ongoing self-dialogue that becomes internalized assumptions about one’s negative impact on the world around them.”

Dr. Irwin adds another possible contributing factor in that situation: “Many times, people with low self-value want to be liked, and they will accept poor treatment to keep that person in their life,” she says.

How to stop guilt-tripping yourself

Sometimes, you may give yourself a guilt trip. When that’s the case, how can you stop feeling guilty ?

Give yourself compassion

This act of self-love, alongside being mindful of what exactly is going on, is crucial, according to Dr. Kelley. More specifically, she encourages leaning into the growth mindset , or the idea that we can improve as human beings. “[Know] that mistakes happen to all of us and they are there to learn from.”

Ask yourself if the guilt is appropriate or excessive

One piece that can help with self-compassion and letting go of guilt is by asking yourself: Is it called for? “Appropriate guilt is when you do/say something out of line with your ethics and integrity,” Dr. Irwin explains. “It calls you to a higher level.”

Excessive guilt, on the other hand, is unnecessary and unhelpful. It’s also usually “manufactured by someone else in order to manipulate you or to invite you to hold their guilt for them,” Dr. Irwin continues.

Foster healthy habits in your relationships

Surrounding yourself with healthy relationships can be a great self-esteem booster. Dr. Kelley encourages finding people who encourage you, setting boundaries with those who don’t.

Additionally, implement other healthy communication skills when the situation calls for it. “Make amends when needed and then practice the stages of forgiveness for yourself, whether or not someone else is granting that for you,” she says. The stages of forgiveness often begin with acknowledging the hurt or offense caused, followed by understanding and accepting the pain it inflicted. Then, a willingness to let go of resentment and anger gradually emerges, leading to a state of compassion and empathy toward the offender, ultimately culminating in a sense of peace and closure.

Remind yourself of key truths about guilt

Feeling external guilt is a red-flag emotion, according to Dr. Vermani. But what does that mean, exactly?

“It is a sign that there is someone who wants something from you—either your time, your energy, or your resources—that is in direct conflict with what you want for yourself,” she says. “When people expect things from you that are different from what you want to do, guilt is that red flag that arises to tell you that there is a conflict that you have to resolve…that is to say, the difference between what somebody wants from you and what you want from yourself.”

Aim to live authentically

Continuing on her above point, Dr. Vermani encourages people to do what feels right to them first and foremost. “Our goal in life is to live authentically,” she says, “not to people-please and sacrifice our limited resources of time and energy for others.”

How do you respond to someone guilt-tripping you?

Recognize what’s happening.

Acknowledging the fact that the person is guilt-tripping you—and what that means about the relationship—can be helpful in and of itself. Dr. Vermani reminds it’s “a red flag indicating that someone wants something of you that is not in alignment with what you want for yourself”—and remember, your goal is to live for yourself, not others.

Another key truth about guilt-tripping: It’s wrong and unhelpful. “Realize that guilt trips are a form of verbal and/or nonverbal hurtful and manipulative communication,” she adds. You don’t need that in your life!

Assert your boundaries

When setting boundaries around your time and energy, try to remember your power and stay calm, knowing you did nothing wrong. “This issue is not your fault and you will not be held responsible for it,” Dr. Irwin says. “Don’t go on and on explaining…you lose power.”

She encourages speaking succinctly and making eye contact while setting and reinforcing your boundaries.

Consider whether the relationship is worth continuing

Besides setting boundaries, Dr. Kelley encourages assessing whether you want to have this relationship anymore. “If someone makes you feel you are at fault all the time, this is not a healthy dynamic, and the sooner you set a solid boundary, the less long-term damage the person can have on you and your self-esteem,” she points out.

Practice making mistakes and getting through them

Yep, you read that right—allow yourself to mess up! “Try new things and experience making mistakes on purpose and then surviving those mistakes,” Dr. Kelley says. After all, without failure, there is no growth.

Encourage conversations that move you forward

When someone is guilt-tripping you, they may go on and on about the mistake you made. Dr. Irwin urges refusing to get on their guilt train, even when you hurt them in some way.

“Assertively communicate to the person that you know you made a mistake, have apologized/corrected it, and wish to move on having learned from it,” she says. “No need to hang onto negative feelings.”

Work on your self-esteem

Boosting your level of self-esteem is another suggestion from Dr. Vermani that can serve as “armor” when a guilt-tripper is trying to tear you down. Spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself, challenging negative thoughts, avoiding “should statements,” and recognizing triggers are all helpful self-esteem exercises .

Remind yourself of your power and right to say “no”

You aren’t powerless here, nor do you need to “give in” to what the guilt-tripper is throwing at you. Dr. Vermani encourages working on getting comfortable with saying “no.” Besides simply saying the word, she continues, this may look like calling the person out. Show them you won’t allow them to treat you that way.

Work with a mental health professional

Let’s be real: Setting boundaries is easier said than done. If you’d like a little extra support, consider seeing a counselor. They can help you create positive change, Dr. Vermani says.

When to seek professional help

For Dr. Irwin, the answer is simple: “As soon as one or both parties are in enough pain.” Assess for any gut feelings signaling this.

Dr. Vermani shares additional signs, including:

  • Experiencing extreme distress or mental health concerns
  • Noticing your day-to-day functioning is negatively impacted
  • Realizing you’re engaging in manipulative behavior
  • Struggling with feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness

A more proactive approach may be your best bet, though, according to Dr. Kelley. She encourages seeing a professional ahead of time, saying “before it even feels problematic, as I believe we all deserve an amazing support system and therapist in our corner.”

Otherwise, she continues, reach out when you feel like you’re losing parts of yourself or distancing yourself from other healthy relationships. Remind yourself regularly that you deserve better.

  • Tilghman-Osborne, Carlos et al. “Definition and measurement of guilt: Implications for clinical research and practice.”  Clinical psychology review  vol. 30,5 (2010): 536-46. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.007

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How to recognize a guilt trip & respond when it happens.

Sarah Regan

If someone has ever tried to make you feel bad about something without directly saying it, you may well have been a victim to guilt tripping. This behavior isn't uncommon, but if you don't know what to look for, you might not realize it's happening. Here's how to spot guilt trip signs, plus how to deal with it, according to experts.

What does "guilt trip" really mean?

Guilt tripping is a type of behavior that involves making someone feel guilty for something rather than directly expressing your displeasure. As therapist and relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW, explains to mbg, it's a form of manipulation designed to either make the person feel bad or to get them to do something you want by evoking guilt.

According to both Page and licensed marriage and family therapist  Shane Birkel, LMFT, guilt tripping is classic passive-aggressive behavior because it indicates an inability—or at least an unwillingness—to communicate in a healthy and constructive way.

This kind of behavior can be seen across all kinds of relationships, from romantic to parent-child relationships to friendships, and even in the workplace between bosses or co-workers.

Why it's not OK to guilt trip someone.

It's not a bad thing to express when you feel hurt or upset by someone else's behavior, Page notes, but when you start to become passive aggressive and manipulative about it, that's when it becomes a problem. "Guilt tripping is indirect and manipulative, [and] it works by making people feel bad about themselves," he says.

Birkel adds that guilt tripping also doesn't require the same vulnerability as directly sharing your hurt and how you're feeling. "It's shaming the other person, making comments that make the other person feel bad, sort of blaming and attacking—and so in that way, I don't think there's ever an appropriate or OK situation to guilt trip. It's always going to be a harsh way of treating the other person," he notes.

Open and vulnerable communication, such as saying, "Hey, I understand we all run late sometimes, but it makes me feel like you're not prioritizing our time together when you show up late," for example, would not be guilt tripping, Birkel adds.

Is guilt tripping a form of gaslighting?

Gaslighting and guilt tripping are not the same, though they have "large areas of overlap," according to Page. He notes that gaslighting is all about denying someone's reality to make them question themselves, which is a "deep form of manipulation."

Guilt tripping is more about making someone feel bad or guilty for their behavior. That said, dark personality types like narcissists and other toxic people will often use both of these manipulation tactics freely and without remorse, Page explains.

Common signs to look out for:

  • Behavior and comments meant to make you feel guilty or bad
  • Making you feel like you owe them something
  • Refusal to say what's wrong but acting upset
  • Expressing negative feelings about you in indirect ways
  • Comments like "I must not mean that much to you," "I'm glad you could finally squeeze me into your busy schedule," or, "I do so much for you," etc.
  • Talking about you as a bad person, partner, friend, etc.
  • Withholding affection and/or attention as punishment
  • Passive-aggressive behavior

The main things you want to look for when it comes to someone guilt tripping you are an inability to express negative feelings directly and behavior that makes you feel guilty. As Page explains, "When you feel that sharp pang of guilt, ask yourself, what is happening? Are you being made to feel that you are less of a good person, or were they actually bothered appropriately by something you did that you need to fix and correct?"

When you become aware of how guilt feels in your body and the thoughts it makes you think, that's the quickest way to identify guilt tripping behavior, he adds. And if you're noticing a trend that this person has a hard time expressing when you've done something that bothers them, that's a telltale sign too.

Reasons for guilt tripping.

There are plenty of reasons that people resort to guilt tripping, whether subconscious or very much conscious. A lot of the time, Page explains, it's simply the "easiest" option, compared to actually being vulnerable and stating your needs and feelings in a direct way.

Sometimes people want sympathy, sometimes they want to manipulate your behavior, and sometimes they may just be looking for attention. But the key is they're not willing to be outright about what they're wanting from the interaction.

According to Birkel, guilt tripping someone can also be "a twisted way of trying to get compassion." They're trying to make you feel bad about what you did because they want you to understand how it hurt them, he says.

"Often, when we feel that something is wrong but we don't feel that we have a right to ask for what we want, we use guilt tripping or other passive-aggressive behavior instead," Page explains. "In other words, our guilt around our own needs makes us guilt trip other people."

Birkel also notes this kind of behavior can stem from having this behavior modeled for you growing up, as well as not having your needs met as a child. "If someone grew up in a family where they weren't allowed to have a voice, or their wants and needs were shut down by a parent, they might start guilt tripping others because they never learned how to communicate directly," he explains.

How to respond to a guilt trip.

How you choose to respond when someone guilt trips you will depend on everything from your communication style to how much patience you have in the moment and how serious the situation is. In extreme cases, especially in situations where you're being unfairly blamed for something, you always have the option to set a boundary and walk away from the conversation.

With all that said, Page and Birkel both recommend extending compassion when you can. "Underneath the guilt tripping is a request, hidden in blaming, passive-aggressive behavior," Page explains. And as Birkel notes, that hidden request is often compassion and understanding.

For starters, there might be an apology you can and should make if you did actually hurt this person (intentionally or not). Birkel suggests starting there, and to emphasize that you understand why they're feeling the way they do. That can sound like "I understand why you're upset, and I apologize for X."

Then, once the apology is made earnestly and accepted, perhaps a couple of hours later, he says you can bring up that you didn't appreciate the way they approached the conversation, saying something like, "Again, I understand why you were upset, and I felt like you were trying to make to feel guilty, so I'm hoping you could communicate with me more directly about what's going on for you in the future."

Ultimately, Page says, it's important that you and the other person both get to speak your mind about how you're really feeling. In some cases, for instance, you might be letting somebody down and disappointing them, but that doesn't mean that you have anything to feel guilty for; you just might not be able to meet their expectations, he explains. "On the other hand, when you listen to what they want and need, if it feels valid, you might want to reconsider your actions," he adds.

It comes down to honest, open, and vulnerable communication, which is a skill that can take time to cultivate. But the good news is, the more you practice healthy communication , the easier it becomes over time.

The bottom line.

Guilt tripping can range from small, rare instances to extreme cases of manipulation. If things escalate to the point of emotional abuse , remove yourself from the situation as best you can. Otherwise, guilt tripping is a behavior (albeit a frustrating one) that can be worked on and improved with healthy communication and vulnerability.

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What is a guilt trip: 5 types, examples, signs, how to recognize, avoid, and stop guilt tripping.

What Is A Guilt Trip

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Guilt is a natural human emotion that is often used by others as a tool for control and manipulation. People take advantage of this by inducing feelings of guilt in others, making them feel responsible for things they don’t do, or may not have control over. 

This practice is commonly referred to as the “ guilt trip ,” It can be harmful to both the person inducing the guilt and the person feeling it. What is a guilt trip ? This article will help you explore the various types of guilt trips , how they are used and provide coping techniques to help you avoid falling into this trap. 

What Does Guilt Trip Mean? By understanding the dynamics of the guilt trip and learning to recognize it, you can protect yourself from emotional manipulation and maintain healthier relationships.

What is a Guilt Trip?

A guilt trip is a method employed to induce feelings of guilt or responsibility in another person with the only intent of altering their behavior or inspiring them to take a specific action. The potent influence that guilt has on human conduct makes it a useful weapon for influencing the thoughts, emotions, and actions of others. Guilt trips are often utilized to manipulate people into doing what someone else wants or to force someone to reconsider their choices and decisions.

Another important thing is understanding the difference between the natural guilt feeling and the one induced by others in you. The former means that you are guilty of something you have done wrong, have never done before, or failed to do. While in the latter one, an individual attempts to create unjustified feelings of guilt or responsibility in you with the intention of manipulating your emotions and actions. 

Types of Guilt Trips

Guilt tripping refers to a manipulative behavior in which someone makes another person feel guilty or ashamed in order to control their actions or decisions. Here I have listed some of the most common types of guilt tripping:

  • Emotional Guilt Tripping: This involves using emotional manipulation to make someone feel guilty for not doing something or for doing something that the manipulator disapproves of.
  • Reverse Guilt Tripping: This involves making the other person feel guilty for not taking care of the manipulator or for not doing things their way.
  • Historical Guilt Tripping: This involves reminding the other person of past mistakes or shortcomings in order to make them feel guilty in the present.
  • Responsibility Guilt Tripping: This involves making someone feel guilty for not fulfilling a responsibility or for not doing something that is expected of them.
  • Martyr Guilt Tripping: This involves making someone feel guilty for not sacrificing enough or for not putting the needs of others above their own.

It’s important to note that guilt tripping can be harmful and lead to feelings of low self-esteem and decreased self-worth. If you think you’re guilt tripped, it’s essential to set boundaries and learn to assert yourself healthily and assertively.

What Is A Guilt Trip

Purposes of a Guilt Trip

Why would someone guilt trip you, or why do I guilt trip others? Guilt tripping is not unpurposeful; a person who guilt trips others always has some specific purpose behind this. Read the mentioned-below purposes behind guilt tripping. 

  • Manipulating or controlling other’s behavior 
  • To gain sympathy or attention
  • To enforce their own moral or ethical beliefs
  • To make others feel obligated to them
  • To evade assuming accountability for their own conduct.
  • To express anger or frustration
  • To punish or inflict emotional harm
  • To resolve feelings of insecurity or jealousy
  • To exact revenge or retribution
  • To elicit an apology or expression of regret.

It’s important to note that guilt tripping is often an unhealthy form of communication and can damage relationships. It’s better to find alternative ways of resolving conflicts or addressing problems in a healthy, respectful manner.

Signs of Guilt Tripping

It can be challenging to recognize the signs when someone is guilt tripping you. However, some common are:

  • They make you feel guilty or bad for not doing something.
  • They make you feel like you owe them something for doing something for you.
  • They use guilt or manipulation to get what they want.
  • They make you feel like you should do something for them because they did something for you.
  • They create a sense in you that you are inadequate or that they surpass you in some way.
  • They make you feel like you’re responsible for their feelings.

If you’re experiencing any of these signs, someone is likely guilt tripping you.

Examples of Guilt Tripping

Here are some examples of guilt tripping :

  • “You know how much this means to me, but you still won’t help me out.”
  • “I just don’t understand why you can’t make time for me, even though I make time for you.”
  • “I gave up so much for you, and this is the thanks I get?”
  • “If your love for me is genuine, you will undertake this for me.”

These statements are examples of guilt tripping tactics, which involve attempting to manipulate and exert control over someone through emotional appeals.

It’s important to note that while guilt tripping can be an effective way of getting someone to do what you want, it is not a healthy or respectful way to treat others. It’s better to communicate openly and honestly and try to find a solution that works for everyone.

How to Stop Guilt Tripping

If feelings of guilt are constantly burdening you, taking control of the situation and stopping the guilt trip is essential. The first step to achieving this is by setting boundaries with the person who is causing these feelings. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate regarding their behavior towards you. By clearly communicating your expectations, you are letting them know you are not willing to be mistreated.

It’s also crucial to speak up and let the person know how their words or actions are affecting you. Be assertive and confident in your communication, but remain respectful and calm. Don’t be afraid to disagree with their point of view and walk away from the situation if necessary. Remember that you have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty, and it’s important to protect yourself from being manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do. If the situation becomes too overwhelming, seek help from a trusted friend or professional. The most important thing is prioritizing your well-being and taking control of the situation.

Is Guilt Tripping Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a type of psychological manipulation in which someone makes you feel like your thoughts and feelings are wrong or invalid. It’s a form of emotional abuse in which the wrongdoer tries to make the victim question their sanity or reality.

It’s important to distinguish between guilt tripping and gaslighting , as they are two different yet related dynamics. Guilt tripping is a tactic that seeks to control through emotional manipulation but does not usually involve questioning the validity of one’s perceptions and emotions. On the other hand, gaslighting is a deliberate attempt to distort reality and make someone doubt their own thoughts and feelings.

Additionally, guilt tripping can also serve as a means of gaslighting when the person tries to make you feel guilty for things you did not do or for not performing actions you were not requested to undertake.

How to Recognize and Avoid Guilt Tripping in Relationships

It’s essential to recognize and avoid guilt tripping in relationships. Here are some useful tips for recognizing and avoiding guilt tripping:

  • First, learn about the signs of guilt tripping and be aware of them.
  • Express yourself and inform the individual about the impact of their words on your emotions.
  • Clearly establish your limits, and fill you up with the courage to say “no.”
  • Avoid falling victim to manipulation or domination.
  • Don’t be scared to walk away from the situation.
  • If the problem goes uncontrol and becomes unbearable, don’t hesitate to seek assistance.

How To Deal With Guilt Tripping

If you’re dealing with someone who is guilt tripping you, it’s essential to know how to handle the situation. Here are some useful tips for dealing with it:

  • Stay calm, and don’t take it personally.
  • Recognize the signs of guilt tripping , and don’t allow yourself to be manipulated.
  • Speak up and let the person know how their words make you feel.
  • Respectfully disagree with them.
  • Set boundaries, and don’t be afraid to leave the situation.
  • Reach out for assistance if the circumstances become excessively burdensome.

Bottom Line

Being subjected to guilt trips can lead to feelings of distress and undermine your mental and emotional health. In order to safeguard yourself from these situations, it’s crucial to identify and fend off guilt trips. By being aware of the warning signs and taking the necessary steps to handle them, you can prevent yourself from being controlled and manipulated. Remember that declining is always okay, and you are under no obligation to engage in anything you do not wish to. By taking charge of these situations, you can lead a more fulfilling life free from undue stress and pressure.

If you’re in a relationship with a person who is guilt tripping you, it’s crucial to find a way to communicate with them. Setting boundaries and seeking help if the situation becomes too overwhelming can also help.

No one deserves to be manipulated or controlled, so don’t fall into the trap of a guilt trip. Recognize the signs of guilt tripping and learn ways to handle the situation better if it arises. It is within your rights to decline, and you are not obligated to engage in any activity you do not wish to participate in.

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Definition of guilt-trip

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

Definition of guilt trip  (Entry 2 of 2)

Examples of guilt-trip in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'guilt-trip.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

1974, in the meaning defined above

1970, in the meaning defined above

Dictionary Entries Near guilt-trip

Cite this entry.

“Guilt-trip.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guilt-trip. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

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A Conscious Rethink

What guilt tripping looks like in the real world (+ how to respond to it)

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woman guilt tripping man

Guilt trips are spectacularly awful.

They’re one of the most underhanded and harmful ways that people try to manipulate others…

…and sadly enough, they can be very effective.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to stop them from happening.

Read on to learn how to recognize this form of manipulation, and how to get it to stop.

How to spot a guilt trip.

You’ve undoubtedly been on the receiving end of a guilt trip at some point in your life.

After all, it’s one of the most effective ways to manipulate someone else into doing something, and has been used by parents, partners, co-workers, and friends since the dawn of time.

If anyone has tried to make you do something you don’t want to do (or something they want you to do despite the fact that it makes you uncomfortable) by trying to get you to feel bad, that’s a guilt trip.

In fact, they’ll tap into something they know will upset you or cause anxiety or guilt in an attempt to modify your behavior, or force their will upon you somehow.

Examples can be things like:

“Do it for me. I do so much for you, I don’t think I’m asking too much of you to do this one little thing for me.”

Or, if you attempt to refuse:

“I’ll remember this, so the next time you ask me to do something for you, I’ll just be too busy.”

Yeah, that kind of thing.

They’re often accompanied by deep, gut-wrenching sighs, disappointed glares, and various other passive-aggressive markers until they get what they want.

And then they’ll try to guilt trip you for taking so long to sort it out.

They’re really nasty, multi-layered, and utterly unnecessary.

Sadly, they’re also most often used by those closest to us, which makes them even more despicable.

Why guilt trips are so effective.

Those closest to us are well aware of what hurts us most and makes us afraid.  

For example, most people are quite close to their parents and would feel very sad when they died.

A manipulative elder parent might use guilt to get what they want by saying that if they died suddenly and you didn’t do the thing they wanted, you’ll have to live with that guilt for the rest of your life.

I once knew a single parent who was manipulated into allowing his elderly mother to sleep in his child’s room, despite the fact that it made both him AND his daughter uncomfortable.

Why? Because his mother was old and sickly, and insisted that if they didn’t allow her to do what she wanted, they would be depriving a dying woman of her only real happiness in life, and they’d feel terrible about that after she was gone.

Of course it worked, because despite her manipulative nature, they did love her.

As such, they knew she was winding down toward the end of her life, and wanted to make her last years as comfortable and happy as possible.

And she knew it, and milked it for all it was worth, in every way imaginable.

Whatever the guilt trip – by whomever the perpetrator is – the underlying message will be: “If you don’t agree to do what I want, bad things might happen, and you’ll feel terrible if they do.”

How to stop someone from guilt tripping you.

As you can imagine, it’s quite difficult to stop this kind of cycle from continuing, but it is absolutely possible.

It’s not fun, and in simplest terms, there’s only one person who can intervene when it comes to guilt trips.

Can you guess who it is?

If you’re familiar with the phrase “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission,” you can rest assured that the same goes for guilt tripping:

Guilt trips only work if you allow them to.

Let that sink in for a moment.

You might feel immense resentment toward another person for “making you” feel guilty about something so they can manipulate you into doing what they want…

…but they can’t actually make you do anything against your will.

If you don’t play along and let it affect you, that guilt trip is powerless.

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How to respond to a guilt trip.

The key to solving this issue is very, very simple:

Stop giving a crap. And call them out on theirs.

Seriously. That’s literally ALL it takes.

Recognize their childish, ridiculous behavior for what it is, and don’t allow it to affect you.

In fact, any time they start whinging at you because you won’t do what they want, picture them as the petulant toddlers they’re behaving like. 

Stand your ground , and make it clear to them that their behavior is unacceptable.

You can let them know that you understand that it’s important to them that you do what they want, but that their approach is so off-putting as to ensure that it’s not going to happen.

If they’d like you to do the thing, they need to learn how to ask you with courtesy and respect.

If you really don’t want to do something, say something like:

“I see how important this is to you, but it’s not something I wish to do, so as much as it might upset you, I’m not going to do it. And that is that.”

If it’s simply that their guilt-tripping ways make you want to resist, say something along the lines of:

“Listen, as much as you may want me to do this, the way you are going about it is not going to work. I won’t be guilt tripped into it. Ask me like an adult and I might treat you like one.”

But always…

Be prepared for ugly fallout.

Standing your ground isn’t going to be easy: the person who’s been guilt tripping you isn’t likely to change their ways any time soon.

In fact, they’ll likely go all out and triple their efforts to bring you back into line. 

This can involve anything from the silent treatment to verbal abuse about what a horrible, selfish person you are.

They might even try to poison friends and family members against you , playing the victim and going on about how you neglect them, abuse them, or otherwise refuse to “help” them.

Some may even go so far as to purposely injure themselves just to prove their point.

An example of this might be an older parent throwing themselves down some stairs because you went out on a Friday night and left them alone, instead of staying home to watch TV with them like they wanted you to.

Fortunately, this type of drastic action can be counterbalanced with equal measures.

If, to use the example above, a parent or spouse is self-harming in an attempt to manipulate you, then a trip to the psychiatric ward may be in order.

That may sound extreme, but the possibility of being “locked up” might be just the thing they need to snap them out of this kind of behavior.

A psych evaluation may also be incredibly helpful to them, if it diagnoses a chemical imbalance that can be treated with therapy and/or medication.

Either way, there’s going to be a good outcome. 


Realize that changing habits will take time.

If the person you’re dealing with was raised by guilt-tripping parents and/or grandparents, then they likely learned this type of behavior very early on.

As a result, their actions are going to be pretty ingrained and will need time – and repetition – to change.

If and when they try to lay a guilt trip on you again, stop them and point it out to them.

Sure, they’ll most likely deny it, or turn it around and try to gaslight you and say that you’re interpreting their behavior that way. But don’t let them get away with it.

Make it very clear to them that continuing to approach requests with guilt and manipulation will cause resentment, and distance.

Basically, if they keep it up, they’re going to destroy whatever relationship they have with you. 

Establish the need for them to ask you to do things directly , and to also accept that you may not be able to comply, for any number of reasons.

This could be anything from having other plans already, to really not wanting to do the thing for personal reasons.

And that’s okay.

Sometimes it seems as if many people really don’t understand that others don’t exist just for their benefit, at their convenience!

That doesn’t mean that it’s okay for them to bully or manipulate you into doing what they want, whenever they want it.

Be wary of labels.

Now, there’s another aspect that needs to be considered, and that’s whether you’re perceiving something as a guilt trip when it wasn’t intended as one. 

People are remarkably complex beings, and verbal communication can often miss the mark.

What one person means isn’t necessarily what another perceives.

If someone is hypersensitive to criticism, for example, any offhand remark could be misconstrued as an attack, when it wasn’t intended that way at all.

Similarly, someone may sincerely ask for your help with something in a manner that you interpret as being guilt-trippy, but that wasn’t how they meant it.

This is why clear communication is so vital. 

Try not to get defensive or argumentative , but talk to this person very clearly and explain how their tone is coming across to you.

Sure, dealing with any kind of conflict or confrontation can be uncomfortable, but it’s also the only way to learn one another’s communication styles.

And that leads to far healthier, stronger relationships in the long run.

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About The Author

being guilt trip meaning

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.

being guilt trip meaning

Warning Signs Of A Guilt Trip

A “guilt trip” may be an attempt by someone to cause another person to feel guilty for something that may not be their responsibility. Guilt tripping may be a form of coercion or psychological manipulation, or it may be self-inflicted. While there are methods to overcome and resist guilt trips, you might want to have a complete understanding of all that a guilt trip entails in order to avoid them.

What are guilt trips? 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a guilt trip involves an attempt to manipulate or control others by causing feelings of guilt.

People who attempt to cause guilt in others through guilt trips may do so out of an urge to get revenge, cause an emotional response, or remove responsibility from themselves for an action or behavior. 

A guilt trip is often unhealthy and unreasonable. Anyone may be on the receiving end of a guilt trip . If you wonder if you have been guilt tripped, there are several warning signs to look out for. An awareness of the signals might help you set, and keep, healthy boundaries. 

Signs you are experiencing a guilt trip 

Dealing with people who use guilt-tripping tactics honestly requires understanding their intentions to make someone else feel responsible for a complaint or behavior. These tactics can include nagging, refusing to let up on the subject, or blaming the victim outright. A study of these behaviors reveals that they often cause emotional distress, making it easier for the manipulator to gain control over the situation. Thanks to increased awareness, it's possible to recognize and avoid such scenarios.

One example of guilt-tripping includes someone visiting a new city and being approached by an individual trying to sell wares. They might tell you no one wants their product and that you’re the only one who can help them while refusing any attempts you make to set a boundary. Or they may physically put their product in your hands and tell you that you must buy it now that it was touched. This behavior is an example of a guilt trip being used to induce a response. 

Guilt-tripping behaviors may include isolation, silent treatments, or explicit antagonism. The behavior often upsets the target enough that the individual may gain control over the situation. Individuals employing this tactic may bring up past occasions to stir feelings of guilt. They could make statements like, “look how much I did for you;” “if it weren’t for me, where would you be?;” and “remember when I was there for you.” 

You might feel tempted to support them to pay them back for previous support, or to get them to stop asking. On the surface, it could appear that the individual is being reasonable. However, they may not be. A person who supports you with pure intentions is not likely to later bribe/threaten you with that occurrence for personal gain. 

When do guilt trips happen? 

Those who are the target of guilt trips may be families, close friends, or partners. An attachment with someone may cause them to feel they can manipulate you. The target of the manipulative individual may catch on and feel conflicted. Guilt could turn into resentment or unease in a relationship, which could cause a subject to want to retaliate or end a relationship. 

Children may experience a guilt trip from their caregivers because they are often defenseless and might not recognize signs of psychological abuse . A parent may ask their children to care for them, ignore mistreatment, or behave in unhealthy ways to reward them for basic needs, such as food, water, or care. Children who are the targets of a guilt trip from parents may grow up struggling with their mental health and avoid their parents. They may suffer from low self-esteem and other emotional issues. 

At times, a guilt trip may be rooted in a desire for attention or reassurance, and it's true that an individual might try to make another person feel guilty if they feel bad about their own actions. Over the course of several weeks, one may observe how these words and actions can transfer blame and responsibility through a guilt trip, even when it's misplaced.

How to avoid guilt trips

Below are a few methods of avoiding a guilt trip from others and setting firm boundaries. 

Maintain high self-esteem 

Vulnerable individuals who suffer from low self-esteem, or difficulty saying “no,” may face guilt trips throughout life. They may doubt themselves and ignore their intuition when an unhealthy behavior occurs. If you feel an intuitive sense that a situation is unhealthy, it might be. Maintain self-esteem by surrounding yourself with healthy individuals, learning to set boundaries, and caring for your mental and physical health daily. 

Stand up for yourself 

If you’re being pushed to feel bad for something you didn’t do, stand up for yourself and tell the individual that what they’re doing is unhealthy and you aren’t going to accept the guilt trip. Tell them “no” if they’re making a request that feels wrong. If they persist, leave the situation when possible.

Distance yourself 

Promptly and permanently ending contact with someone trying to manipulate you may be valuable. If a relationship feels unhealthy, one-sided, or controlling, it might be detrimental to your mental and physical health. In some cases, it may be considered emotional abuse.* 

If you believe you have been the target of a guilt trip or feel you may be in the company of someone who is manipulating you, expert advice tailored to your situation may make a meaningful difference. 

*If you are facing, or witnessing, abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat .

Counseling options 

People can find their way to therapy through a number of avenues. You may talk to a doctor about your mental health struggles so they can offer their professional medical advice. Diagnosis or treatments for mental heatlh conditions may be suggested and your doctor may be able to help with those options. They may also refer you to psychiatrist for official diagnosis and to prescribe any medications to help manage symptoms of a mental health condition. You may also receive referrals to a therapist to talk to a professional about your mental health challenges or for help managing difficult situations such as how to handle someone who regularly guilt trips you.

You may also consider online therapy if you’re looking for a discreet and affordable option. With online counseling, you can speak to a counselor through live chat, phone calls, or video calling. 

Either in-person or online therapy can be beneficial, although they are equally effective . Additionally, studies show that online counseling can be especially effective for those healing from, or experiencing, abuse or unhealthy relationships. If you’re interested in trying an internet-based treatment method, consider a platform such as BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples.

Counselor reviews

“Rebecca has helped me talk about very personal things I have pushed aside for years. In doing so, I’ve opened up and have had realizations about past experiences, and lifted guilt off me.”

“Loretta has undoubtedly changed my life. In my late attempt to deal with trauma she has shown me the light at the end of the tunnel. Through various strategies and methods she has provided me, I have become less paranoid, guilt-ridden, and anxious. I am so glad I decided to start using BetterHelp and was paired with Loretta.”

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Below are a few frequently asked questions regarding a guilt trip.

What does guilt feel like?  

When you feel guilty, you may feel ashamed, worthless, unkind, or upset. You might obsess over your actions and wonder how you could’ve improved. You may begin to believe that you must make changes to make up for the impacts of your perceived actions. Guilty feelings might make you feel paranoid, sad, alone, or helpless. 

Although a guilt trip may bring on guilt, you might also feel guilty when you have done something against your moral code, hurt someone else, or made a mistake. In these cases, guilt may be a healthy response to help prompt you to consider how to improve your behaviors in the future. 

Why do I feel so guilty?

Feeling guilt can be natural when you have intentionally or accidentally hurt someone. If you have done something wrong, guilt may help guide you to apologize or make up for your actions. 

However, if you feel guilty for something you didn’t do or for the actions of another, you might be experiencing a guilt trip. Ask yourself if you have a responsibility in the situation. If not, why do you feel guilty? Are you trying to take responsibility for another person’s emotions? In these cases, stepping back and deciding what is healthiest might benefit you. 

What are self-inflicted guilt trips?

Self-inflicted guilt may be guilt you force on yourself, even if you did not do something wrong. You might feel better blaming yourself before someone else does. Or, you might believe you should feel guilty for an honest mistake. Often, a self-inflicted guilt trip may occur even if no one is blaming you or trying to make you feel guilty. 

If you find yourself criticizing yourself often and being hard on yourself when you make mistakes, it may be a sign that speaking to a counselor could benefit you. 

What should I do when someone wants me to feel guilty?

If someone wants you to feel guilty, ask yourself if you have done something against your moral code or have hurt someone else intentionally or unintentionally. If you’re struggling to understand your part in a situation, professional guidance or talking to a close friend could help you decide. Accept responsibility if you have done something wrong. However, note that humans may make mistakes, and respect any efforts to do your best throughout the situation. 

Try not to apologize for a situation that was not your fault. If you are being manipulated into buying a product, acting a certain way, or staying in a relationship via a guilt trip, consider setting a boundary and saying “no.” If you struggle to do so, a therapist could help you learn healthy ways to set boundaries with others.

What are the long-term effects of guilt trips?

You might not experience long-term effects, depending on how a guilt trip has impacted you. However, if the guilt trip is constant or severe, you might notice a drop in self-esteem or difficulty trusting others. In some cases, low self-esteem or an unhealthy relationship may cause symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

How can I set boundaries?

Set limits on your time, body, belongings, space, and attention. If someone else is trying to do something that harms you, let them know you do not accept it. You might try these phrases: 

  • “Please leave me alone.”
  • “I am not interested.”
  • “No. I will not repeat myself.” 
  • “I can’t have this conversation.” 
  • “Let’s talk about something else.”
  • “If you continue pushing me, I will end this friendship.” 
  • “This behavior is unhealthy, and I will not accept it.” 
  • “Please stop.” 

Should I leave someone who is constantly trying to make me feel guilty?

You may choose to leave someone if the relationship does not feel healthy. A constant guilt trip could be unhealthy or emotionally abusive behavior. If you feel judged, pressured, or disrespected in your relationship, it could benefit you to choose to stay or leave. A therapist could be valuable if you want support in deciding what to do. 

How can you deal with guilt?

If you are struggling with guilt, or with a guilt trip, determine whether it is healthy or unhealthy guilt. If it is healthy guilt, appropriate to the situation, do the following:

  • Acknowledge what you did wrong
  • Sincerely apologize once for your behavior
  • Ask the individual how you can make amends 
  • Attempt to make amends in a way that is consensual and feels healthy 
  • Make appropriate changes to your behavior
  • Accept what happened and note what you can do to improve in the future 

Healthy guilt may help you make personal growth. However, unhealthy guilt that is out of proportion to what happened or is undeserved may cause turmoil. Try the following in these cases: 

  • Ask yourself where the guilt is coming from (you or someone else)
  • Sort out what you are responsible for and what you aren’t
  • Recognize you have the right to set limits for yourself 
  • Ensure you are not pressuring yourself 
  • Set and keep clear boundaries with others
  • Practice meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, or systematic muscle relaxation 

How can a therapist help me with guilt?

A therapist for guilt may offer advice, diagnosis, or treatment, depending on your unique situation. You might discuss the situation that led you to feel guilty. Additionally, your therapist could help you understand if the situation is healthy or if someone else is pressuring you. They might outline a treatment plan to help you move forward.

What is considered guilt-tripping? What is an example of guilt trip? Is guilt-tripping gaslighting? Is a guilt trip toxic? Is a guilt trip a narcissist? Is a guilt trip a form of control?

  • Potential Causes Of Feeling Wracked With Guilt Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson , MA
  • What Is An Admission Of Guilt? Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia , LCSW
  • Relationships and Relations

What Is A Guilt trip? Why Do People Do It And How To Respond

  • Updated August 3, 2021

Has someone ever made you feel so bad about something that it made you go to great lengths to make it up to them?

Has a friend or partner ever manipulated you to hang out with them or come home early by appealing to your natural compassion and kindness?

Has a parent ever made you feel like you’re an ungrateful child for not calling them, even if you call them a reasonable amount? If so, you may have been guilt-tripped.

You may want to watch a film entitle The Guilt Trip, from director Anne Fletcher. The movie stars Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand and revolves on the evolving relationship of a salesman named Andy Brewster and his overbearing mother Joyce Brewster during a road trip.

Andy Brewster discovers he was named after the first love of his mother Joyce. Andy Brewster arranges a road trip to San Francisco in the guise of a sales pitch. However, they find out through his son, Andrew Margolis Jr., that Andrew Margolis has died.

The Guilt Trip chronicles the road trip of a lifetime that shows the dynamics of parent-child relationships.

What is a guilt trip?

Guilt-tripping is the act of causing another person to induce feelings of guilt as a means of manipulating them to take action and change their behavior.

Not all guilt is part of a guilt trip – guilt is a natural emotion and motivates us to make amends or corrections when we’ve made a mistake or let someone down. Still, since guilt is a strong motivator for change, some people use it to manipulate others. 

Guilt-tripping can happen in all kinds of relationships, from friendships to professional, familial or romantic relationships. People who guilt trip friends, partners, coworkers, or family members do so because they know what will make the other person feel guilty and want to use that to their advantage. 

Suppose someone has convinced you that you’ve done something wrong and has tried to make you change your behavior even if you’ve apologized for a mistake or if you haven’t done anything wrong in the first place. You may have experienced guilt-tripping if you’ve been taken advantage of your guilt by making you do something you don’t want to do.

Signs of a guilt trip and guilt tripping behavior

Sometimes guilt trips are intentional. The guilt tripper knows how to make you feel bad and uses that to their advantage. At other times, guilt trips are unintentional.

A person may have simply been trying to express their frustration or other emotions, and someone else responded by helping them because they felt guilty. 

Guilt-tripping behaviors can be both obvious and subtle. It helps to learn how to recognize a guilt trip, so you can stop it in its tracks if it’s happening to you or if you’re doing it to someone else. 

Common signs of guilt-tripping include:

  • Recalling past mistakes
  • Reminding the other person about past favors
  • Comparing how much work you vs. they have done
  • Silent treatment
  • Expressing disapproval indirectly through body language and tone of voice
  • Suggesting there is a debt involved or that one is owed
  • Passive aggressive behavior
  • Sarcasm about your efforts

Guilt-tripping, as outlined in the signs above, can happen in all kinds of relationships. They are often used in romantic relationships because one partner knows that they matter to the other person and that the other person is likely to go to great lengths to make something up to them. 

Why do people guilt trip?

Guilt-tripping serves several purposes for those who use it. It is important to understand how people use guilt trips and why you feel like you have done something wrong when they guilt trip you.

The most common reasons why people guilt-trip others include:

1. People guilt trip to engage in emotional manipulation

Often, one guilt trips another to manipulate them into changing their behavior. Usually, it’s something that the other person doesn’t want to do or would struggle to fit into their schedule.

Manipulative guilt trips can make the victim neglect important personal responsibilities just to overcome the guilt they feel, the guilt caused by the first person’s manipulative tactics.

2. People guilt trip to avoid conflict

One may guilt trip another to get out of having an important conversation or confrontation. The guilt trip serves as an excuse not to have to justify a want.

Instead of trying to make a clear, open communication channel, the guilt tripper tries to get what they want in an indirect way.

3. People guilt trip to gain sympathy

Some guilt trippers use this sly tactic on others to gain sympathy, which makes them feel better about themselves.

Suppose the guilt tripper can convince others they themselves have been harmed or have been the victim of a situation caused by the other. In that case, they may elicit feelings of guilt, a sympathetic response from others, and even receive special treatment.

Consequences of a guilt trip

Guilt is a natural emotion. We all feel it from time to time. Especially when we know, we’ve done something wrong. Feelings of guilt may help us to recognize the flaws or mistakes in our behavior and take action to make amends. 

However, some people take advantage of the power of guilt. They use guilt for their own gain. They make others feel they’ve done something wrong and manipulate them into doing things they don’t really want to do. 

There are consequences to guilt-tripping. Intentional or unintentional, guilt-tripping can harm several aspects of our lives and the lives of those we love, including our relationships, our mental health, and our personal growth and ability to communicate maturely and effectively. 

Some of the most common consequences of guilt-tripping include:

1. Strained relationships

Guilt-tripping most often occurs in close relationships. This is also where it can do the most damage.

A partner who feels hurt or betrayed by the other person may use those feelings to make their partner feel negative emotions like guilt and to elicit a change in behavior that involves special treatment and excessive apologizing. 

The partner who receives the guilt trip naturally feels guilty. Over time, if guilt-tripping continues, the victim of the guilt trip may start to view the relationship as unhealthy and put an end to it. 

As such, making your partner feel guilty may serve an immediate purpose in that they will do something you want them to do, but it can rupture the quality of the relationship in the long term. 

2. Poor mental health and emotional turmoil

Though a small degree of guilt is natural and even useful in motivating us to take action, prolonged feelings of guilt can damage our mental health.

Some of the most common mental health conditions feature a significant amount of guilt, including depression , anxiety , OCD, and borderline personality disorder.

Being the victim of a guilt trip can exacerbate these conditions if the victim is already struggling with them or may evoke issues in a person with underlying, unprocessed past guilt. 

Even in cases where there is no underlying mental health condition, persistent feelings of guilt can make a person feel stressed, anxious, sad, worried, tense, and restless. 

Guilt may eventually lead to shame, which permeates into all aspects of a person’s life and affects their self-image and self-esteem, and may cause them to withdraw from others. 

Guilt-tripping can cause the onset of a guilt complex in some people, where the person believes that they are extremely liable to make a mistake no matter what they do. This is most often seen in adult children of guilt-tripping parents.

The dangers of guilt-tripping parents

One of the most dangerous consequences of the guilt trip happens when the guilt is inflicted on children by their parents.

Guilt-tripping is a sign of emotional immaturity and leaves a lasting impact on a child. If a child is made to feel guilty by their parents, they are likely to internalize the feelings and carry them into their adult life.

In their adult relationships, any instance of guilt will evoke their deeply internalized self-blame and even shame and may elicit inappropriate reactions that are not based on the present but on one’s childhood experiences.

Why do parents guilt trip their children?

Parents who guilt trip may do so out of fear that they will lose emotional closeness with them. They want to keep them close and maintain an emotional connection, but they don’t know how to do so effectively.

The parent may struggle with direct, honest communication and resort to manipulation to influence their child’s behavior and keep them close by.

To be healthy and to learn independence, children should be explorative and share their time and energy with friends and various other family members.

As a child becomes more independent and emotionally mature, the parent may fear being left behind and manipulate their child into spending time with them and having a consistent relationship.

The parent may even feel angry that their child is not giving them enough attention, or believe that they are entitled to special treatment, or that the child ‘owes’ them their time.

These are characteristics of narcissistic parents , so if any of the above reflects your experience as a child, it is worth investigating the nature of narcissism and the effect narcissistic parents have on their children.

When the parental guilt trip backfires…

Parental guilt-tripping may work in the short term.

The child is likely to internalize the guilt and acquiesce to the parent’s wishes to alleviate it. The child may call their parents more often, spend more time with them, or work extra hard around the house because they’ve been manipulated into doing so by the parent. 

However, there is a price to pay for guilt-tripping. The child’s experience of internalizing guilt may soon lead to resentment and lead to the opposite of the parent’s wishes.

Their resentment may create more emotional distance and make them not want to call or visit home as much as they would have had there been no guilt-tripping.

Children of a guilt-tripping parent, even when they’re adults, may respond to the manipulation through:

  • Emotional shutdown
  • Passive aggressive outbursts
  • Experiencing negative feelings
  • Complying with the parent’s wishes but being upset or frustrated about it
  • Distancing from the parent

If a child responds negatively to guilt and manipulation, they may distance themselves from the parent.

The parent, who wants more closeness, may panic and use even more guilt-based tactics to close the gap. This, in turn, creates more negative reactions in the child.

The whole situation becomes a cycle of guilt and distance that can cause significant strain to the relationship.

How to respond to a guilt trip

Below we have outlined some effective tips and tools to help you respond to a guilt trip without succumbing to it. It may take some practice to follow them but it’s more than worth it.

Guilt-tripping is an extremely unhealthy behavior and can make you feel terrible about yourself. Remember the following next time someone tries to guilt-trip you.

1 . Don’t take it personally when someone tries to guilt trip you

In the throes of a guilt trip, you may believe that you have a responsibility to help the guilt tripper because they have convinced you that you’re the only person who can help change the situation. The truth is that it’s highly unlikely that you’re the only person who can help.

Skilled guilt trippers can be manipulative and may convince you otherwise, but it’s important to stand your ground and look at the situation objectively.

2. Recognize emotional immaturity

If someone tries to guilt-trip you, they may not care about your feelings. They know how to pull your strings, and even though they know that if you were to feel guilty, you’d feel bad about yourself, they do it anyway because they are trying to gain something.

These are not the characteristics of someone who cares about you and are a sign of emotional immaturity . If you’re in a relationship with someone who guilt trips you, it may be worth considering if their level of emotional maturity is really what you’re looking for.

3. Set healthy boundaries with people who guilt trip you

To healthily approach a guilt trip, express your honest feelings to the other person about the situation. Let them know that what they’re doing is making you uncomfortable.

Assure them that you care about them and that you are always willing to help if they are in need, but that if they use manipulative tactics to influence your behavior, there will be consequences. 

We’re raised in a society where saying ‘no’ is deemed rude and leads to discomfort and awkwardness, but this way of thinking is extremely unhelpful and even damaging.

You have every right to say ‘no’. You don’t owe anyone your time or energy, so if someone tries to convince you otherwise, it’s time to put healthy boundaries in place.

Don’t fall for the guilt

You owe it to yourself to live your life free from emotional turmoil that negative emotions like guilt can bring. While we do value relationships with others, it is also important to maintain healthy interactions with other people for our overall well being.

Spend time with people who appreciate and value you as a person. Remember, you don’t have to feel guilty for doing what’s best for you.

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Cambridge Dictionary

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Meaning of guilt trip in English

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  • be/weigh on your conscience idiom
  • breastbeating
  • doom and gloom
  • feel bad idiom
  • melancholia
  • prick someone's conscience idiom
  • regretfully
  • wretchedness

guilt trip | American Dictionary

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Carla Corelli

The Psychology Behind Guilt Trips – Meaning and Implications

Imagine a psychological maneuver, so cunningly deployed, that it entangles you in a web of remorse and regret. This, in essence, encapsulates the concept and meaning of ‘guilt trips.’

A potent tool of emotional manipulation, guilt trips leverage feelings of culpability and self-reproach to steer behavior to suit the manipulator’s desires.

guilt trips

Guilt-Trips – Understanding the Meaning of the Term

In the realm of psychological manipulation , few tactics are as potent and pervasive as guilt trips.

This subtle form of emotional blackmail is employed with a singular objective – to induce feelings of guilt or remorse in a person, compelling them to act in a manner that serves the manipulator’s interests.

Guilt trips operate on the principle of exploiting an individual’s sense of responsibility or moral obligation .

By making them feel as if they have wronged, or failed to fulfill an expectation, the manipulator can steer their actions and decisions.

Regrettably, this manipulative tactic is not an anomaly, but rather a common occurrence that permeates even our closest relationships.

Friends, family members, and romantic partners may resort to guilt tripping , capitalizing on the emotional bonds to exert influence.

Guilt trips are in fact a form of intimidation tactic, leveraging the perception that the victim doesn’t care enough, thereby inducing guilt.

Thus guilt trips are not just about manipulation, but also about power dynamics and control.

the meaning of guilt trips

The Main Characteristics of Guilt Trips

Guilt-tripping is a manipulative tactic that leverages feelings of guilt or shame to control someone’s behavior.

Recognizing guilt trips when they occur is a crucial step towards safeguarding oneself from their harmful effects.

Here are the main characteristics of guilt trips:

Leveraging pressure is a key component of guilt trips. Typically, the manipulator attempts to force someone into compliance against their own will or better judgment.

The pressure exerted is not physical but psychological, and it’s often cloaked in layers of emotional manipulation, scare tactics, and claims of moral high ground.

The manipulator carefully exploits the target’s vulnerabilities, using them as points of leverage to sway the individual towards their desired course of action.

This could involve playing on their insecurities, their fear of conflict, or their innate desire to please others.

In essence, the manipulator turns the target’s emotions against them, transforming their feelings into chains that bind them to the manipulator’s will.

guilt trips meaning

Avoidance is another key characteristic of guilt trips. Those who employ this tactic often do so to evade direct confrontation relating to their unreasonable demands.

This strategy involves casting themselves in the role of the wronged party, while the actual victim is painted as the perpetrator.

This clever deflection allows the manipulator to maintain an illusion of innocence and moral superiority, even as they continue to control and influence the other person’s behavior.

In this way, avoidance becomes a tool of deceit, enabling the manipulator to continue their controlling behavior while evading the consequences typically associated with such actions.


Unrealistic Expectations

Manipulators often make demands relating to behavior, performance, or emotional responses that exceed what can reasonably be asked of someone.

The target ends up caught in an emotional web that creates a no-win situation for the target, as meeting these expectations often means betraying their own self, while failing to meet them results in guilt and shame.

This strategy serves to enhance the manipulator’s control, keeping the target in a perpetual state of striving, guilt, and self-doubt.

It also reinforces the manipulator’s position of power, as they alone dictate the rules and judge the outcomes.



When trying to guilt someone into doing something, a manipulator will frequently present themselves as victims.

By portraying themselves as the aggrieved party, they seek to elicit pity, sympathy, and understanding from their target.

This calculated display of vulnerability serves as an effective smokescreen, diverting attention away from their manipulative tactics and casting them in a seemingly innocent and helpless light.

After all, it’s challenging to identify someone as a manipulator when they appear to be the one who’s suffering.

In this way, self-victimization becomes a powerful tool in the guilt tripper’s arsenal, enabling them to manipulate effectively while maintaining an image of vulnerability and innocence.



Manipulators who use guilt-tripping to dictate the actions and decisions of others, are usually extremely entitled.

Their entitlement manifests as a blatant disregard for the feelings, comfort, or autonomy of their victims.

The manipulator will dismiss or minimize the target’s discomfort or unwillingness to comply, viewing these reactions as inconsequential compared to their own desires.

blame-shifting and guilt-tripping

Shame as a Weapon in Guilt Trips

Shame is another potent tool commonly used in guilt trips.

The manipulator strategically employs shaming tactics with the aim of inducing feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness in their victim.

They may criticize, belittle, or mock the target for failing to meet their demands or for disappointing them.

The purpose of such tactics is to erode the target’s self-esteem and confidence, making them more susceptible to manipulation.

As the victim grapples with feelings of shame, they become increasingly entangled in the manipulator’s web, often striving harder to meet the manipulator’s demands in an attempt to escape these negative emotions.

This dynamic can lead to a vicious cycle of guilt and shame, where the victim constantly feels at fault and strives to make amends, further solidifying the manipulator’s control.

It underscores the damaging psychological impact of guilt trips, revealing them as not merely manipulative tactics, but forms of emotional abuse.

guilt trips

The Impact of Being Guilt-Tripped

The impact and meaning of guilt trips as a form of manipulation can be profound, affecting both psychological and physical health.

Psychological Effects: Self-Doubt and Depression

Being the constant target of guilt-tripping can have severe psychological ramifications.

When faced with a continuous barrage of manipulation and blame, victims may start questioning their actions, decisions, and even their worth.

This constant state of self-doubt can be emotionally draining, leading to feelings of hopelessness or depression.

Over time, this emotional turmoil can significantly weaken the victim’s self-esteem.

They may start believing they are at fault or inadequate, internalizing the negative messages conveyed by the manipulator.

This diminished self-esteem can affect all aspects of life, from personal relationships to professional performance, creating a vicious cycle of self-doubt and depression.

the impact and meaning of guilt trips

Physical Impacts: The Consequences of Chronic Stress

Beyond the psychological damage, guilt trips can also lead to physical harm.

The chronic stress resulting from enduring regular emotional manipulation can have serious consequences on physical health.

Chronic stress puts the body in a state of continuous fight-or-flight response, which leads to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

Over time, this can put a strain on the heart, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Moreover, chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to infections and diseases.

It can also lead to headaches and other physical discomforts.

In some cases, the stress can manifest as somatic symptoms , where emotional distress is expressed through physical ailments like stomachaches or back pain.

Furthermore, chronic stress has been linked to mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

The constant state of worry and tension can disrupt sleep patterns, affect appetite, and lead to feelings of exhaustion, further exacerbating these conditions.


Shielding Ourselves from Guilt Trip Tactics

In the face of guilt tripping tactics, which are a form of emotional abuse, it is crucial to take proactive steps to protect ourselves.

This involves cultivating awareness, establishing boundaries , practicing self-care, and building robust support systems.

Awareness: Recognizing Manipulative Behaviour

The first step to protecting ourselves from guilt trip tactics is to develop an understanding that such behaviour exists in our lives.

We need to familiarize ourselves with the signs of manipulation, such as guilt-inducing comments, shaming tactics, or attempts at controlling our actions through emotional coercion .

By becoming more aware of these patterns, we can recognize when they occur and be better prepared to address them.

It’s important not only to identify these behaviours in others but also to introspectively examine our own reactions and feelings when faced with potential manipulation.

awareness of manipulation tactics

Establishing Boundaries: Assertiveness and Communication

Once we’ve identified manipulative patterns, we need to establish healthy mechanisms for dealing with them.

This often involves being assertive, speaking up for ourselves, and setting boundaries firmly yet compassionately.

Clearly communicating our needs and limits to the manipulator is crucial.

If the guilt tripping persists, it might be necessary to create distance or even sever ties, prioritizing our mental and emotional well-being above maintaining a toxic relationship .

an enabler has weak boundaries

Self-Care: Nurturing Joy and Wellness

Self-care plays a pivotal role in protecting ourselves from the detrimental effects of guilt tripping.

This involves consciously taking time out to engage in activities that bring us joy and comfort, thereby reducing stress and enhancing our overall mental health.

Getting plenty of rest, maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in physical exercise, and pursuing hobbies or interests are all vital components of self-care.

Equally crucial is distancing ourselves from potentially harmful environments where guilt tripping is prevalent.


Support Systems: Harnessing the Power of Community

Finally, surrounding ourselves with supportive family members or close friends who understand our situation can be invaluable.

Their empathy and encouragement can provide a much-needed emotional buffer during challenging times.

A strong support system not only offers comfort and reassurance but can also provide perspective, helping us to see manipulative behaviours for what they are.

This can be particularly beneficial during prolonged episodes of manipulation, as it helps maintain our mental health and resilience

friends - support system

Final Thoughts on the Meaning and Implications of Guilt Trips

Guilt-tripping is a devious form of manipulation that seeks to exploit another person’s feelings of guilt or shame to achieve the manipulator’s objectives.

This tactic often involves the manipulator portraying themselves as a victim to elicit sympathy, all while fostering an unhealthy sense of entitlement as they attempt to control others through shaming tactics.

Individuals who resort to such tactics typically aim to manipulate the emotions of others, seeking to bend their will to meet their own needs or desires.

It’s a power play that hinges on the imbalance of emotional control between the manipulator and the manipulated.

When confronted with a situation where someone is attempting to guilt you into complying with their wishes, it’s crucial to recognize the manipulative strategies at play.

Assert your position, communicate your feelings forthrightly yet empathetically, and don’t be afraid to say no. Remember, it’s your right to make decisions based on your comfort and well-being, not out of coerced guilt or shame.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions About The Meaning of Guilt Trips

A guilt trip is a manipulative tactic used by someone to make another person feel guilty or responsible for something, often in order to get them to do something they may not want to do or to gain control over a situation.

Guilt trips typically involve using emotional pressure, subtle manipulation, or passive-aggressive behavior to make someone feel guilty. They may involve highlighting past favors, emphasizing sacrifices made, or suggesting that the person’s actions have caused harm or disappointment.

Guilt trips can have a significant emotional impact on individuals. They may lead to feelings of guilt, self-doubt, anxiety, and a sense of obligation to meet the manipulator’s demands. Over time, repeated guilt trips can erode self-esteem and create a cycle of emotional manipulation.

Responding to a guilt trip involves setting boundaries, recognizing manipulation tactics, and asserting your own needs and desires. Communicate assertively, express your feelings without defensiveness, and consider seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist to help navigate the situation.

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Carla Corelli, a writer, advocate, and survivor of narcissistic abuse, draws from her own upbringing with a narcissistic father to shed light on psychological trauma. Fueled by her personal journey, she pursued a degree in psychology and has dedicated herself to shedding light on the complexities of narcissistic abuse. With over fifteen years of experience in writing and advocating for survivors, Carla is deeply committed to providing support, education, and empowerment to those who have endured similar trauma. Through her articles, Carla aims to offer a compassionate space for healing and growth, while advocating for greater awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse. More info about Carla Our editorial policy

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guilt trip noun

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What does the noun guilt trip mean?

There is one meaning in OED's entry for the noun guilt trip . See ‘Meaning & use’ for definition, usage, and quotation evidence.

How common is the noun guilt trip ?

How is the noun guilt trip pronounced, british english, u.s. english, where does the noun guilt trip come from.

Earliest known use

The earliest known use of the noun guilt trip is in the 1970s.

OED's earliest evidence for guilt trip is from 1972, in the writing of J. Rossner.

guilt trip is formed within English, by compounding.

Etymons: guilt n. , trip n. 1

Nearby entries

  • guilter, n. a1300–82
  • guiltful, adj. 1655–1791
  • guiltfully, adv. c1480
  • guiltily, adv. 1597–
  • guiltiness, n. c1480–
  • guilting, adj. Old English–1382
  • guiltist, n. 1693
  • guiltless, adj. c1175–
  • guiltlessly, adv. 1548–
  • guiltlessness, n. 1571–
  • guilt trip, n. 1972–
  • guilt-trip, v. 1977–
  • guiltwite, n. Old English–1706
  • guilty, adj. Old English–
  • guilty knowledge, n. 1800–
  • guiltyship, n. 1557
  • guily, adj. c1430–1530
  • guimauve, n. 1812–
  • guimbard, n. 1830–
  • guimpe, n. 1688–
  • guindall, n. 1628

Meaning & use

I want to make it clear that nobody's sending me on any guilt trip over my money.
You start laying guilt trips on me and I don't need it, okay?
Mum, don't lay a guilt trip on us.
Ever the master of the guilt-trip , he finally said, ‘And this is how you kids repay me?’
Everyone in my family has a tendency toward manipulative behavior, but it's going beyond that. I can't begin to describe the guilt trip each one separately is laying on me!
  • guilt 1567– An unpleasant feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation; a guilty feeling.
  • guilt trip 1972– An episode of severe, often excessive or unjustified self-reproach, esp. one deliberately provoked by another person; a state of mind in which a…
  • self-condemnation 1591– The action of blaming oneself for something.
  • self-accusing 1602– The action or an act of accusing oneself.
  • self-reproving 1608– The action or an act of reproving oneself; (a) self-reproof.
  • self-accusation 1616– The action of accusing oneself; an accusation made against oneself.
  • self-reproof a1631– Reproof or censure of oneself; (severe) self-reproach. Also (and in earliest use): an instance of this; a reproving thought or utterance about…
  • self-reflection 1656–1844 A critical or reproachful thought about oneself. Cf. reflection , n. II.9. Obsolete .
  • self-reproach 1683– The action or fact of reproaching or blaming oneself; reproach directed towards oneself. Also (and in earliest use): an instance of this; a…
  • self-reproachment 1802– The action or fact of reproaching or blaming oneself; self-reproach.
  • self-reproval 1823– Reproval or censure of oneself; an instance of this; = self-reproof , n.
  • self-reproachingness 1850–


  • ð th ee
  • ɬ rhingy ll

Some consonants can take the function of the vowel in unstressed syllables. Where necessary, a syllabic marker diacritic is used, hence <petal> /ˈpɛtl/ but <petally> /ˈpɛtl̩i/.

  • a trap, bath
  • ɑː start, palm, bath
  • ɔː thought, force
  • ᵻ (/ɪ/-/ə/)
  • ᵿ (/ʊ/-/ə/)

Other symbols

  • The symbol ˈ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with primary stress.
  • The symbol ˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with secondary stress.
  • Round brackets ( ) in a transcription indicate that the symbol within the brackets is optional.

View the pronunciation model here .

* /d/ also represents a 'tapped' /t/ as in <bitter>

Some consonants can take the function of the vowel in unstressed syllables. Where necessary, a syllabic marker diacritic is used, hence <petal> /ˈpɛd(ə)l/ but <petally> /ˈpɛdl̩i/.

  • i fleece, happ y
  • æ trap, bath
  • ɑ lot, palm, cloth, thought
  • ɔ cloth, thought
  • ɔr north, force
  • ə strut, comm a
  • ər nurse, lett er
  • ɛ(ə)r square
  • æ̃ sal on

Simple Text Respell

Simple text respell breaks words into syllables, separated by a hyphen. The syllable which carries the primary stress is written in capital letters. This key covers both British and U.S. English Simple Text Respell.

b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w and z have their standard English values

  • arr carry (British only)
  • a(ng) gratin
  • o lot (British only)
  • orr sorry (British only)
  • o(ng) salon

guilt trip typically occurs about 0.07 times per million words in modern written English.

guilt trip is in frequency band 3, which contains words occurring between 0.01 and 0.1 times per million words in modern written English. More about OED's frequency bands

Frequency of guilt trip, n. , 1970–2010

* Occurrences per million words in written English

Historical frequency series are derived from Google Books Ngrams (version 2), a data set based on the Google Books corpus of several million books printed in English between 1500 and 2010.

The overall frequency for a given word is calculated by summing frequencies for the main form of the word, any plural or inflected forms, and any major spelling variations.

For sets of homographs (distinct entries that share the same word-form, e.g. mole , n.¹, mole , n.², mole , n.³, etc.), we have estimated the frequency of each homograph entry as a fraction of the total Ngrams frequency for the word-form. This may result in inaccuracies.

Smoothing has been applied to series for lower-frequency words, using a moving-average algorithm. This reduces short-term fluctuations, which may be produced by variability in the content of the Google Books corpus.

Compounds & derived words

  • guilt-trip , v. 1977– transitive. To instil or attempt to instil feelings of guilt or remorse in (a person), often in order to induce him or her into a particular course…

Entry history for guilt trip, n.

guilt trip, n. was first published in September 2001.

guilt trip, n. was last modified in July 2023.

oed.com is a living text, updated every three months. Modifications may include:

  • further revisions to definitions, pronunciation, etymology, headwords, variant spellings, quotations, and dates;
  • new senses, phrases, and quotations.

Revisions and additions of this kind were last incorporated into guilt trip, n. in July 2023.

Please submit your feedback for guilt trip, n.

Please include your email address if you are happy to be contacted about your feedback. OUP will not use this email address for any other purpose.

Citation details

Factsheet for guilt trip, n., browse entry.

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Guilt Trip Meaning: Unpacking Emotional Manipulation

Have you ever been in a situation where someone made you feel wrong about something you shouldn’t have done? That is the actual meaning of a guilt trip. It’s an exemplary move in emotional manipulation. Veering off in a strange direction leads you straight into feeling answerable for another person’s feelings. Understanding the guilt trip meaning   can help you recognize and navigate these situations more effectively. 

Guilt trips are tied in with questioning your decisions and stacking you up with a feeling of responsibility. They can indeed play with your emotional navigation system. Thus, we should unload this emotional rollercoaster and figure out its effect. We can learn to navigate without getting sidetracked by recognizing the signs.

Let us delve into the signs, types, and effects of emotional manipulation alongside coping techniques. Knowing how guilt trips operate gives us the strength to stick to our opinions and refuse to let the emotional baggage of others’ guilt.

guilt tripper

Signs of a Guilt Trip

A guilt trip can happen both intentionally and unintentionally, and it’s essential to recognize that there’s a possibility we have guilt-tripped others in the past as well. Identifying guilt-tripping behavior may not always be straightforward, as it can manifest in subtle ways that are difficult to detect.

However, there are some key signs to be aware of, which include:-

  • Making remarks that imply you haven’t worked as hard as they have.
  • Raising previous oversights or blunders that you’ve made.
  • Reminding you of favors they have done for you in the past.
  • Showing outrage yet denying any issues when confronted.
  •  Giving you the silent treatment or refusing to communicate.
  •  Showing dissatisfaction through body language, tone of voice, or facial expressions
  • Suggesting that you owe them something
  • Engaging in passive-aggressive behavior
  • Making sarcastic remarks about your efforts or progress

It’s crucial to remember that these patterns of indirect communication can occur in any interpersonal interaction, but they are most common in intimate emotional relationships.

Guilt trips and gaslighting are two different phenomena, even though they have certain similarities.

It’s essential to be aware of these elements in our relationships and to take appropriate action if there is a frequent or toxic conversation about them, emphasizing the importance of understanding the guilt trip meaning for effective communication.

Gaslighting vs. Guilt trips

Both play with emotions, but they operate in slightly different ways. Is guilt-tripping a form of gaslighting ? Guilt trip meaning depicts when  you feel responsible for another person’s sentiments or actions, kind of like an emotional leverage move.

On the other hand, gaslighting screws with your impression of the natural world, making you question your considerations and recollections. It’s like a psychological game where the other individual attempts to make you question your sanity. Although in different ways, both are rough.

Types of Guilt Tripping

Guilt trips come in a variety of forms, each designed to evoke a specific response or accomplish a specific goal. Recognizing these tactics aids in navigating guilt-trip meaning and responding adeptly to them.

Moral education

While addressing guilt trips, developing a comprehension of genuine moral choices is significant. Empowering self-reflection and compassion enables people to explore activities aligned with their values. This includes knowing the difference between credible moral choices and those impacted by emotional coercion, discouraging the role of a guilt-tripper.

By doing so, a sense of trustworthiness and moral integrity is fostered, promoting a more authentic and principled approach to ethical decision-making.


Guilt trips frequently act as an instrument for manipulation, constraining people into actions in opposition to their desires. Perceiving this dynamic includes figuring out emotional coercion, the significance of setting boundaries , and cultivating decisiveness.

People have the freedom to make genuine choices that align with their values without any influence.

Conflict Avoidance

Some might fall back on guilt trips to evade head-on confrontation, utilizing emotional manipulation to accomplish their desires without tending to the core issue. Promoting assertiveness, open communication, and conflict resolution skills are all necessary for recognizing this pattern.

Encouraging direct dialogue fosters healthy resolution, preventing the use of guilt as a substitute for genuine confrontation.

Elicit Sympathy

Guilt-tripping can manipulate others by portraying the guilt-inducing individual as a victim, aiming to elicit sympathy. Recognizing this tactic involves promoting empathy while encouraging individuals to assess situations critically.

This ensures that genuine compassion isn’t exploited, fostering a balanced understanding of emotional dynamics and personal responsibility.

guilt trip vs gaslighting

Impact of Guilt Trips

Invoking guilt as a motivation for behavior change can have a variety of effects. Regardless of whether it is used purposefully, it blocks open communication and relational bonds. The quick repercussions of this kind of hidden mental impact incorporate hindering consequences for connections.

Research demonstrates that guilt trips, or guilt-tripping examples, can strain intimate connections. People who are hurt by their partner’s criticism tend to use their distress to feel guilty and want to be reassured. Consequently, instigating guilt may achieve the desired outcome but at the expense of impaired trust and feelings of manipulation.

Moreover, guilt trips can encourage getting through hatred within relationships—the inconvenience of aversive responsibility and manipulation frequently prompts hatred. While a separate example may not significantly influence a relationship, repeated guilt trips can breed bitterness. Consistent use of guilt as a tool for coercion may diminish intimacy, diminish emotional closeness, and sow seeds of resentment.

Besides, research proposes that a guilt-influenced methodology may backfire. While low-level responsibility can prompt action, excessive guilt often leads to “reactance.” This psychological phenomenon compels individuals to act in opposition to the desired behavior, ultimately undermining the intended outcome.

Additionally, excessive guilt is linked to various mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Subjects of guilt trips may experience heightened negative emotions and symptoms, potentially contributing to the development of a persistent guilt complex. Over time, guilt can lead to feelings of shame, influencing self-perception and fostering social withdrawal.

guilt tripping examples

How to Cope With Guilt Tripping?

Coping with guilt-tripping requires a mix of confidence, emotional regulation, and clear communication. The following are a few strategies to oversee and overcome the impacts of guilt trips:

  • Recognize the signs: Be aware of the strategies used to instill responsibility.
  • Stay calm: Try not to allow feelings to direct your reaction.
  • Reflect on Your Actions: Think about whether the message that makes you feel guilty is valid.
  • Communicate with Power: Communicate your feelings and thoughts clearly and calmly.
  • Set boundaries: Clarify that you won’t be controlled.
  • Practice self-care: Engage in activities that boost your mood and confidence.
  • Seek support: Talk to friends or family about what you’re experiencing.
  • Focus on the present: Don’t let past guilt dictate your current actions.
  • Challenge Unrealistic Expectations: Understand that you can’t please everyone.
  • Seek Professional Help : If guilt trips are affecting your mental health , consider consulting an expert.

If you experience guilt-tripping in your relationship, consult your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. Right treatment, such as psychotherapy or medications, helps manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Treatments work towards identifying and changing the negative thought processes and cognitive distortions that fuel guilt. Your therapist’s assistance will help you recognize the signs of a guilt trip. They can recommend strategies to manage emotional manipulation.

1. Is crying a form of guilt-tripping?

Nonverbal communication methods like crying loudly, going speechless, staying disconnected, or maintaining distance can often be considered as guilt tripping examples . However, crying is not always a form of guilt-tripping.

2. What is the psychology behind guilt trips?

Guilt trips are psychological abuse. It is often rooted in a desire for attention or reassurance from a manipulative individual. They try to make another person feel guilty if they feel bad about their actions.

3. Is guilt-tripping a red flag?

Yes, guilt-tripping is a red flag. Guilt trips are a manipulative tactic of the dominate partner in a relationship. These people aim to gain power and control over the emotionally weaker partner. A healthy relationship grows on feelings of mutual understanding and respect, not blame and guilt.

4. Is guilt-tripping the same as expressing emotions?

No, guilt trip meaning varies from expressing emotions. It intends to make other people feel bad about themselves. It can be in the form of criticism, playing the victim, or offering a cold shoulder.

being guilt trip meaning

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7 Ways to Get Out of Guilt Trips

Guilt trips come with a price that both parties should want to stop paying..

Posted May 16, 2013 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

  • Coping With Guilt
  • Find a therapist near me
  • Guilt trips frequently induce not just strong feelings of guilt but equally strong feelings of resentment toward the manipulator.
  • The most common theme of familial guilt trips is one of interpersonal neglect.
  • The best way to limit the damage guilt trips cause is to set limits with the guilt inducer and ask them to change their habits.

Alliance Images/Shutterstock

Guilt trips are a form of verbal or nonverbal communication in which a guilt inducer tries to induce guilty feelings in a target, in an effort to control their behavior. As such, guilt trips are a clear form of psychological manipulation and coercion.

However, we rarely think of guilt trips in such harsh terms. Instead, we see them as things some mothers say to get their kids to have another bowl of soup (“I slaved over a stove for three hours for you to have only one matzo ball?”) or something some fathers do to get their children to conform (“Fine, don’t come to your niece's confirmation. I guess your family and faith aren’t important to you anymore.”).

Why Guilt Trips Often Succeed

Guilt trips might be the bread and butter of many families' communications, but they are rarely as benign as we think. While they often "succeed," in that the recipient indeed changes their behavior as a result, these "successes" always come with a price —one few guilt inducers consider: Guilt trips frequently induce not just strong feelings of guilt but equally strong feelings of resentment toward the manipulator.

What allows guilt trips to succeed despite the resentment they cause is the nature of the relationships that usually exists between the two parties. Guilt trips occur most often in close family relationships (or close friendships) because if the target didn’t have strong feelings of caring and affection for the guilt inducer, their resentment and anger at having their feelings manipulated would likely override their guilty feelings and cause them to resist the manipulation.

How Guilt Trips Poison Our Closest Relationships

In studies, people who induced guilt trips were asked to list the potential consequences of giving guilt trips, and only 2 percent mentioned resentment as a likely outcome. In other words, people who use guilt trips are usually entirely focused on getting the result they want and entirely blind to the damage their methods can cause.

Mild as the poisonous effects of most guilt trips are, over the long term, their toxicity can build and cause significant strains and emotional distance. Ironically, the most common theme of familial guilt trips is one of interpersonal neglect, which means the long-term impact of guilt trips is likely to induce the polar opposite result most guilt trippers want.

7 Ways to Set Limits With Guilt Trippers

The best way to limit the damage guilt trips cause to our relationships is to set limits with the guilt inducer and ask them to change their habits. Here’s how:

  • Tell the person that you do understand how important it is for them that you do the thing they’re trying to guilt you into doing.
  • Explain that their using a guilt trip to make you conform to their wishes makes you feel resentful, even if you do end up complying.
  • Tell them you're concerned that accumulating these kinds of resentments can make you feel more distant from them and that is not something you or they wish.
  • Ask them to instead express their wishes directly, to own the request themselves instead of trying to activate your conscience , and to respect your decisions when you make them (e.g., “I would love it if you had another bowl of soup. No? No problem, here’s the brisket,” or, “It would mean a lot to me if you came to your niece’s confirmation but I’ll understand if your schedule doesn’t permit it.”).
  • Explain that you will often do what they ask if they ask more directly. Admit that you might not always conform to their wishes but point out the payoff—that when you do choose to respond positively, you would do so authentically and wholeheartedly, that you would feel good about doing so, and that you would even get more out of it.
  • Be prepared to have reminder discussions and to call them on future guilt trips when they happen (and they will). Remember, it will take time for them to change such an engrained communication habit.
  • Be kind and patient throughout this process. Doing so will motivate them to make more of an effort to change than if you come at them with anger and resentment, legitimate though your feelings may be.

Copyright 2013 Guy Winch

Guy Winch Ph.D.

Guy Winch, Ph.D. , is a licensed psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts.

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being guilt trip meaning

Hunter Biden found guilty in gun trial. What it means and what’s next.

President Biden’s son Hunter has been found guilty of federal gun violations after a trial in Wilmington, Del., that lasted just over a week. The trial focused on the younger Biden’s long struggle with drug addiction and drew testimony from several current and former members of the first family. Here are answers to key questions about the trial.

What was Hunter Biden found guilty of?

Hunter Biden was found guilty of three felony charges related to a gun he purchased in 2018. He was accused of making two false statements in filling out the paperwork to purchase the weapon. He claimed to not be addicted to or using illegal drugs, the indictment says, “when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious.” And then he certified he was telling the truth.

Count three of the indictment charges Biden with unlawfully possessing that gun, a Colt revolver, for 11 days following the purchase. That charge is based on a federal law making it illegal to possess a weapon while a person is using illegal drugs.

What happens next, and will he go to jail?

Next up in this case is Hunter Biden’s sentencing. The maximum sentence for the most serious crime in the indictment is 10 years in prison. Under federal sentencing guidelines, however, Biden, who has no prior felonies and has acknowledged being addicted to drugs around the time of the gun purchase, would probably face far less.

Will President Biden pardon Hunter?

President Biden recently said he would not pardon his son if he was convicted in his gun trial.

Can Hunter Biden appeal?

Yes, he can appeal the verdict. In a statement after the verdict was reached, President Biden said he “will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.”

What about Hunter Biden’s other trial?

Biden was charged in Los Angeles last year with failing to file and pay at least $1.4 million in federal taxes from 2016 through 2019, tax evasion and filing false tax returns. Three of the charges are felonies; six are misdemeanors. That case is set for trial in September.

While the gun case and the tax case are separate, they stem from the same troubled period in Biden’s life, share some of the same evidence and were once more closely linked. Last summer, Biden reached a tentative agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty in Delaware to two misdemeanor tax-related charges and admit to the facts of a gun charge. But that plea deal fell apart after U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika questioned some of its terms.

How does the verdict impact President Biden’s campaign?

The verdict will affect President Biden’s personal psyche perhaps most of all, with him worrying him about his son’s well-being and — since he has said he would not pardon Hunter — the prospect that his son could spend time in prison.

There are some potential campaign benefits. As Donald Trump and his allies continue to claim the Justice Department is targeting him for political reasons, Democrats now have additional ammunition with which to argue that the department acts independently of politics — so much so that it charged the president’s son with a felony.

At the same time, the verdict gives Republicans a chance to try to offset some of the arguments about Trump and his own legal woes, although Democrats also point out that Trump is the one running for president, while Hunter Biden is a private citizen.

Hunter Biden's guilty verdict upends a top Trump talking point

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump's argument about the "weaponization" of the justice system just ran smack into a Delaware jury's conviction of President Joe Biden's son Hunter.

The result, according to some Republicans, is a major blow to one of Trump's favorite talking points — and a boost to Biden's case that he respects the rule of law.

“Hunter Biden’s conviction definitely weakens the argument,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor who backs Trump and thinks he should be focused on the economy rather than court cases. “To me, the justice system is working.”

The younger Biden, 54, was found guilty Tuesday on three counts related to his illegal purchase of a handgun when he was using narcotics. The elder Biden was a major proponent of the so-called Brady Bill, which made it a crime for addicts to buy guns, and it was a special prosecutor working under his Justice Department who prosecuted his son.

Last month, Trump was convicted by a Manhattan jury on 34 counts related to falsifying business records to cover up hush-money payments to a porn-film actress in order to help his 2016 campaign. He faces charges in federal court over his retention of classified documents. And in separate cases in Georgia and at the federal level, he has been indicted on charges related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He has routinely accused Biden — without evidence — of directing a multi-jurisdictional legal campaign to take him off the political battlefield through criminal trials.

“This is all done by Biden and his people,” Trump said in a statement the day after he was convicted in New York. “This is done by Washington. No one has ever seen anything like this.”

His allies on Capitol Hill have called on the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, to testify on July 12 — the day after Trump's sentencing — before a House Judiciary subcommittee on the weaponization of government.

But some Republicans say that it will be hard to convince voters that Biden has turned the justice system into a weapon when his own son has now been struck.

Hunter Biden holds his wife and mother's hands as they walk out of the courthouse

“It, at a minimum, slows the momentum and the clear-cut argument that the Trump campaign previously had about Biden’s weaponization of the justice system,” said one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid incurring the wrath of Trump's campaign.

“It’s less of a bumper-sticker than it was before,” the strategist added, concluding that it will be difficult for Trump to make a believable case that Biden put his finger on the scale to target Trump but chose not to save his own son.

That dynamic appeared to create a confusing complication for Republicans, who splintered in their responses to the Hunter Biden verdict.

Kash Patel, a former Defense Department official and a national security adviser to Trump, said that Hunter Biden's trial was just but Trump's was unjust.

"Hunter Biden's guilty verdict is a rare example of constitutional justice, one not where individuals receive biased treatment based on their last name," Patel said. "The jury was able to consider the prosecution and defense evidence in full, in accordance with due process — a right that was single-handedly bastardized against President Trump by the judge, jury and prosecutors in New York."

Patel concluded that "these trials expose the inequities in our legal system based on its weaponization, where political theater supersedes the Constitution" and "Biden's conviction demonstrates a fleeting moment of justice for all."

But Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt called Tuesday's outcome "nothing more than a distraction" from what she said are the "real crimes" committed by Biden and his family. Hunter Biden is still awaiting trial on federal tax charges.

Trump and his allies allege that the president has illegally benefited from Hunter Biden's overseas business dealings. Despite conducting a sprawling investigation into those claims, House Republicans have yet to produce compelling evidence that they are true. One of the witnesses Republicans relied on to advance the probe has since been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI about Joe and Hunter Biden.

Still, Stephen Miller, a top Trump White House official who still advises the former president, stuck to the script Tuesday.

"DOJ is running election interference for Joe Biden— that’s why DOJ did NOT charge Hunter with being an unregistered foreign agent (FARA) or any crime connected with foreign corruption. Why? Because all the evidence would lead back to JOE. DOJ is Joe’s election protection racket," he wrote on X .

But his next post suggested that the jury's judgment would benefit the president — to Trump's detriment — as he accused the Justice Department of running a counterintelligence operation against the public.

"The gun charges are a giant misdirection," Miller wrote . "An easy op for DOJ to sell to a pliant media that is all too willing to be duped. Don’t be gaslit. This is all about protecting Joe Biden and only Joe Biden."

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of the House Republican leadership who is often mentioned as a possible Trump pick for the vice presidential slot on his ticket, portrayed the verdict as less of a distraction and more of a turning point.

"Today is the first step in delivering accountability for the Biden crime family," Stefanik said. "We must and we will continue as House Republicans to investigate the Biden crime family for the corrupt peddling schemes that generated over $18 million in foreign payments to the Biden client family members."

Her view echoed that of Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesperson for the Trump-aligned political action committee MAGA Inc., who said that the legal pursuit of Hunter Biden would lead back "to one man: Joe '10% for the Big Guy' Biden."

Other Republicans quickly took positions that are more in line with gun-rights advocates in Trump's base, some of whom have long viewed the Brady Bill and its prohibition on drug users buying firearms as an infringement on the Second Amendment.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a top Trump ally in Congress, effectively yawned in a post on X .

"The Hunter Biden gun conviction is kinda dumb tbh," he wrote.

Between the Republicans who voiced their doubts about the continued effectiveness of Trump's weaponization-of-justice argument and those who played down the verdict or counterintuitively portrayed Hunter Biden's conviction as a sign of Joe Biden's alleged corruption, the consensus among Republicans seemed to be that the Delaware jury did Trump no real political favor in finding his political rival's son guilty as charged.

"I think this won’t matter a ton, but it undercuts the argument of a two-tiered system of justice,” said one Trump ally who made the case that the former president would be better off letting that line of attack wither. “The more that argument exists and is pushed, the worse it is for Trump. It’s too close to 'threats to democracy' and drives that issue — the only issue where Biden enjoys a lead.”

being guilt trip meaning

Jonathan Allen is a senior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.

being guilt trip meaning

Allan Smith is a political reporter for NBC News.

Katherine Doyle is a White House reporter for NBC News.

How Trump’s guilty verdict will impact the 2024 presidential election

Trump may lose some support, but the drop could be temporary.

Scandals have swirled around former President Donald Trump since his first presidential campaign in 2016. But as of Thursday — having been found guilty on all counts in his New York hush-money case — he is now officially a convicted felon. Could that fact cut through all the other headlines and be a game-changer for the 2024 election?

At first glance, there's some evidence from polls that this conviction will meaningfully erode Trump's support. An April survey from CNN/SSRS found that, while 76 percent of Trump supporters said they would support Trump regardless, 24 percent said they "might reconsider" their support for him if he was convicted. And a May poll from Emerson College found that 25 percent of voters said a guilty verdict in New York would make them less likely to vote for Trump.

A few pollsters have also asked two versions of the standard "who will you vote for?" question in recent weeks : one straightforward one, and one that asked respondents who they would vote for if Trump was convicted in the New York case. On average, Trump went from leading by 1 percentage point in these polls without considering the conviction to trailing by 6 points with it.

But Democrats would be wise to not get too excited about these numbers. Take another look at the wording of the CNN/SSRS poll: Twenty-four percent of Trump supporters said they "might reconsider" their vote. That's not the same as "will definitely change" their vote! In light of this conviction, many Trump supporters might simply have a crisis of confidence about their vote without outright switching to President Joe Biden.

That's basically what another poll from ABC News/Ipsos found. Like CNN/SSRS, they asked Trump supporters what they would do if Trump was convicted in the New York case, but they provided options for both "reconsider" and "no longer support." Sixteen percent said they would reconsider supporting Trump, but only 4 percent said they would no longer support him. (Similar to CNN/SSRS, 80 percent said they would continue to support him.)

Likewise, you should always be careful with polls like Emerson's that ask Americans whether something makes them more or less likely to vote a certain way. Respondents often don't take these questions literally ; instead, they use them as a proxy for whether they approve or disapprove of the thing being asked about.

Indeed, over three-quarters of those who told Emerson a conviction would make them "less likely" to vote for Trump had told the pollster on a different question that they were already voting for Biden. By contrast, only 11 percent of Trump voters said a guilty verdict would make them less likely to vote for him — so the potential impact on his actual support is much smaller than it initially appears.

Other polls also support the theory that this conviction won't cause mass defections to Biden. Those horse-race polls I cited above? They don't actually show many Trump voters switching their vote to Biden. Instead, most of the support Trump loses goes into the undecided column or to an unnamed, hypothetical "someone else":

On average, Trump loses 6 points of support after a conviction is taken into account — but Biden gains only 1 point. "Someone else" or undecided gains 5 points. That's consistent with the idea that this conviction will make some Trump supporters squeamish about the idea of pulling the lever for him, so they will stop identifying as Trump supporters for a while — but most of them won't go so far as to vote for Biden.

And that, in turn, could indicate that this drop in Trump's support will be short-lived. Sure, Trump supporters who abandon him after this conviction could conceivably abstain from voting or vote for a third-party candidate. But the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so there's also a good chance that they will eventually get over their discomfort and return to Trump's side, especially considering there are still five months left until Election Day — plenty of time for Trump to spin a narrative that helps voters overcome any hangups about voting for a convicted felon.

We don't need to search far for a precedent for this. In October 2016, Trump's campaign was blindsided by the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, on which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. Polls at the time showed that the tape made some Republicans uncomfortable about supporting Trump , and his national support in 538's polling average at the time fell by about 1 point. But Trump's support quickly recovered: Within three weeks of the tape's release, he was polling better than he was before it.

That said, even if most Trump defectors only switch to undecided and eventually return to the fold, that doesn't mean the conviction will have zero effect on the race. That average 1-point gain for Biden isn't nothing — in a close race (which 2024 is shaping up to be), it could mean the difference between winning and losing. But it's also important not to overstate the conviction's impact. If the hush-money trial ends up determining the presidential race, it will likely be because the campaign was a game of inches anyway.

Irena Li contributed research.

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What was Trump found guilty of? See the 34 business records the jury decided he falsified

being guilt trip meaning

Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records after prosecutors successfully convinced a jury he disguised hush money reimbursement as legal expenses. He is the first former president to be convicted of a crime.

Each count is tied to a different business record that prosecutors demonstrated Trump is responsible for changing to conceal or commit another crime .

Those records include 11 checks paid to former lawyer Michael Cohen , 11 invoices from Michael Cohen and 12 entries in Trump's ledgers.

The jury found that Trump authorized a plan to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 hush money payment issued to Stormy Daniels and spread the payments across 12 months disguised as legal expenses.

Live updates: Former President Donald Trump found guilty on all counts in hush money case

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

Breakdown of 34 counts of falsifying business records

Here are the 34 business records Trump was found guilty of falsifying, as described in Judge Juan Merchan 's jury instructions :

  • Count 1: Michael Cohen's invoice dated Feb. 14, 2017
  • Count 2: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust dated Feb. 14, 2017
  • Count 3: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust dated Feb. 14, 2017
  • Count 4: A Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust Account check and check stub dated Feb. 14, 2017
  • Count 5: Michael Cohen's invoice dated March 16, 2017
  • Count 6: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust dated March 17, 2017
  • Count 7: A Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust Account check and check stub dated March 17, 2017
  • Count 8: Michael Cohen's invoice dated April 13, 2017
  • Count 9: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated June 19, 2017
  • Count 10: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub dated June 19, 2017
  • Count 11: Michael Cohen's invoice dated May 22, 2017
  • Count 12: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated May 22, 2017
  • Count 13: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub May 23, 2017
  • Count 14: Michael Cohen's invoice dated June 16, 2017
  • Count 15: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated June 19, 2017
  • Count 16: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub dated June 19, 2017
  • Count 17: Michael Cohen's invoice dated July 11, 2017
  • Count 18: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated July 11, 2017
  • Count 19: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub dated July 11, 2017
  • Count 20: Michael Cohen's invoice dated Aug. 1, 2017
  • Count 21: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated Aug. 1, 2017
  • Count 22: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub dated Aug. 1, 2017
  • Count 23: Michael Cohen's invoice dated Sept. 11, 2017
  • Count 24: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated Sept. 11, 2017
  • Count 25: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub dated Sept. 12, 2017
  • Count 26: Michael Cohen's invoice dated Oct. 18, 2017
  • Count 27: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated Oct. 18, 2017
  • Count 28: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub dated Oct. 18, 2017
  • Count 29: Michael Cohen's invoice dated Nov. 20, 2017
  • Count 30: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated Nov. 20, 2017
  • Count 31: A Donald J. Trump account check and check stub dated Nov. 21, 2017
  • Count 32: Michael Cohen's invoice dated Dec. 1, 2017
  • Count 33: Entry in the Detail General Ledger for Donald J. Trump dated Dec. 1, 2017
  • Count 34: A check and check stub dated Dec. 5 2017

Jurors saw copies of these records entered as evidence. Evidence from the entire trial is available on the New York Courts website .

Contributing: Aysha Bagchi


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