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Self-Blame: What It Is and How to Break Free

Self-Blame: What It Is and How to Break Free

Those that have dealt with trauma before know how sinister self-blame can be. When there is no rational explanation as to why a bad thing has happened, it’s only natural that a person looks for a reason why. If they cannot come up with a reason why, more often than not, someone will blame themself. 

It is very hard for people to accept that sometimes, bad things just happen. Tragic accidents can happen at any time and any place. It can be a very scary thought for many people, so most people will begin to believe that they have more control than they do. This ultimately sets someone up for failure, as when an inevitable bad patch of life comes along, they can’t help but find fault in themselves for it.

What Is Self-Blame?

Self-blame is when someone irrationally blames themselves for a traumatic event that has occurred. For example, victims of abuse will often not understand why they are being abused. They feel as though they must be doing something wrong. Why else would someone they are supposed to trust hurt them? If only they hadn’t made them angry, or upset them, then they would have no reason to hurt them. It is easy to condition someone, especially young children, to take the blame for everything in abusive households.

Self-blame is toxic for several reasons. For one, it removes the responsibility from those that deserve it. A person who abuses someone else is responsible for the abuse that they cause, not the victim of their abuse. Losing a loved one to a terrible accident is just that, an accident. However, it is much easier to assign blame to oneself, than accept that accidents are sudden and uncontrollable. 

Secondly, it poisons the person from within. A person who self-blames may feel as though they don’t deserve love or help. The process of recovery cannot begin until a person admits that they are not to blame for what they have gone through. For this reason, it is very hard for those trapped in this mindset to live happy and normal lives and require the help of mental health professionals.

How to Recognize Self-Blaming Behavior

Self-blaming behavior can take many forms. Sometimes it can be obvious to others in how a person speaks about themselves. Often, people stay silent and berate themselves internally. If you or someone you love notices or do any of these behaviors, you may have a toxic self-blame problem.

  • Claiming responsibility for someone’s abusive actions. (I made him mad, it’s my fault he hit me.)
  • Believing that your existence somehow causes misery and pain. (When I am around, people get sad because of me.)
  • Blaming yourself for the accidental death of a loved one. (I wasn’t fast enough to push them away from the car, it’s my fault they died.)
  • The belief that you have ‘bad karma’ or somehow influence events beyond your control. (Mom said I was bad and that’s why she didn’t get her work promotion.)

In general, if you blame yourself for things you have no direct control over, you have a problem with toxic self-blaming. Self-blame can also be a symptom of specific anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those that struggle with depression can also struggle with self-blame, especially when it seems that there is no valid reason to feel depressed. 

How to Break Free From Self-Blame

The most important thing to learn is that it is not your fault.

Sometimes it can take years of therapy to understand that whatever happened to you was not your fault. You are responsible solely for your actions and choices. Someone is never responsible for the actions of another person. A person is never responsible for accidents and tragedies beyond their control. Learning that sometimes there is no reason for why something happened is difficult. It is especially hard for those who lose loved ones to traumatic events. 

A mental health professional is vital in helping those that struggle with self-blame. Therapists will often use psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help guide a patient to their self-realization. By talking it out, many patients will begin to understand why that mentality was so toxic. Having a good therapist will give someone the confidence and reassurance they need to ditch their toxic way of thinking. With a professional’s help, they can also learn healthy ways to cope with negative feelings.

Many times, a person learning how to stop blaming themselves benefit from having a good support network. A support network goes a long way in teaching someone to care about themselves. What is also helpful is to be gently reminded that a negative event was not their fault and that they are okay.

It can be a hard and long road to recovery, but recovery is very much possible. All it takes is to reach out for help, and you can learn that life doesn’t need to be filled with fear and sadness. 

Those that have struggled with past trauma and abuse know how hard it is to accept that these events happened. Often, these people are taught to accept responsibility for the actions of others and, as a result, form a long-lasting toxic mindset. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we are here to help you and those you love break free of this toxicity. By reaching out for help, you have taken the first step in taking back your life and happiness. If you or someone you love is blaming themselves for their trauma and abuse, call (949) 647-4090 today to speak with one of our professionals. We are here to help.


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