I was wondering which choice below sounds correct in AmE when you are suffering from a deep feeling of guilt or remorse because of something wrong you have done or forgotten to do etc:

a. I have a guilt trip.
b. I'm going through a guilt trip.
c. I have a guilt complex.
d. I have a guilty conscience.

To me, the most common choices are 'a' and 'c' and have no idea whether the other two are as common as 'a' & 'c' are.

Please kindly enlighten me.

  • do you mean to two option b ?
    – James K
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 22:49
  • I'm sorry James. I fixed it.
    – A-friend
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 1:39

2 Answers 2


I would say that d. is the closest to what you're trying to say.

Here's what your suggestions mean to me as a speaker of American English:

I have a guilt trip

This is an awkward usage. A guilt trip is something somebody else gives you and not something you 'have'. A person might say, 'Oh it's okay if you don't come over to visit. I'll just stay home alone with nothing to do.' They're trying to make you feel guilty that you're not coming to keep them company. They're giving you a guilt trip. You don't have to accept the guilt, but if you do you'd say, 'I feel guilty about not going to visit.' You wouldn't say that you have a guilt trip.

I'm going through a guilt trip

This might mean that somebody's trying to make you feel guilty and you understand what they're doing. You don't necessarily agree with it but you can't figure out how not to feel guilty either. I don't think this is a very common thing to say.

I have a guilt complex

The word 'complex' in this sentence makes it sound like a clinical condition. A psychologist might diagnose you with a 'guilt complex' if you live with a feeling of general guilt or guilt about something that you can't resolve.

I have a guilty conscience.

In this case you feel guilty without anybody having to tell you that you're guilty. You know you did something wrong and you accept that you have a reason to feel guilty about it.


The only one of these that sounds right to me is "I have a guilty conscience." That is a very common expression. In real life, though, I would usually just say "I feel guilty" or "I feel bad about " whatever.

I've never heard the phrase "guilt complex" before.

"Guilt trip" refers to when someone else makes you feel guilty, often undeservedly, but not always. For example:

"My mom is sending me on a guilt trip because I can't come home for Christmas."

"Guilt trip" can also be used informally as a verb:

"My mom is guilt tripping me into coming home."

Meaning my Mom is convincing me to come home by making me feel guilty.

  • That's right, guilt complex [buzzer].
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 17:18

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