Psychologist Explains: Why You Feel Like a Burden and How to Manage It

Did you ever hold back from looking for support because you did not want to burden someone with your problems? This is a more common struggle than you would expect. The feeling that you might be a burden may prevent you from building real connections with others, cloud your judgment, make it hard to manage your emotions, and even hinder you from seeking the help you deserve. Knowing how and why you consider yourself a burden can be a powerful first step. Uncovering the root of this feeling will enable you to challenge it and build better relationships with the people in your life.

What does being a burden mean?

Feeling like a burden is a heavy weight to carry around. It is a mix of shame and guilt, which can lead you to believe that your needs, worries, and problems are bothering others. You may feel hesitant to seek help or support, worried that you will come off as too needy or irritating. This can result in you feeling isolated and lonely and developing a distorted view of yourself. It can also be very stressful and leave you with negative thoughts, making it harder to connect with people you care about. It’s a cycle that can be emotionally draining and which can disconnect you from those you love the most.

Causes of feeling like a burden

Here are some of the reasons that a person might have the feeling that they are a burden to others.

Overly critical parent(s)

Living with extremely critical parents can deeply influence someone’s self-image and the way they interact with others. Continuous criticism and humiliation from parents may cause deep emotional wounds that undermine self-esteem.

At the same time, a child burdened with too many responsibilities at a young age ends up feeling overwhelmed and unsupported in their developmental journey. Parental expectations weigh heavily, instilling a belief that a person's worth depends on how well they can fulfill these expectations. This toxic dynamic shapes how they perceive themselves, and some people will have this persistent feeling of being a burden to others well into adulthood.

Mental illness

Mental illness influences how an individual sees themselves and their relationships with other people, and this can manifest in depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. People who struggle with these types of disorders will often suffer from incessant negative self-talk along with the added burden of intrusive thoughts. These negative thoughts will tell them that nobody would want to hear their problems. They may develop a kind of hopelessness because they perceive themselves as an impediment to other people's happiness.

Anxiety adds to the feelings of incompetence and self-doubt, while borderline personality disorder heightens the fear of being left and abandoned. All these internal struggles will generate a deep feeling of guilt, which stops them from reaching out to establish real connections with others.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem often stems from past experiences in childhood or the unattainable standards set by the society in which we live. This breeds a feeling of worthlessness and inadequacy. Research shows that people with low self-esteem find it difficult to place a real value on themselves. They often feel like they're not good enough and are undeserving of love and support. Unfortunately, this distorted self-image makes the feelings of guilt intensify and get worse, leaving the person feeling that if they express their own needs, it will annoy or disturb people.

Relationship dynamics

The dynamics of toxic relationships, such as codependency or emotional abuse, deepen the feeling that one is a burden. Continuous rescue or criticism from a partner can chip away at self-esteem, reinforcing the idea that one is burdensome. People may internalize this treatment and develop the belief that they do not deserve to be cared for. Over time, these harmful interactions reinforce the belief, making it very difficult to ask for help or set boundaries in relationships.

Stress

Stress can magnify these feelings of being a burden, either from work, relationships, or changes in life. Self-doubt and anxiety are fueled by constant, excessive demands and responsibilities. People might feel guilty for trying to get help while others are suffering, exacerbating the perceived belief that their problems are insignificant or burdensome.

Chronic illness or disability

To live with a chronic disease or a disability is usually a very hard and complicated process. It is a natural tendency to seek support from others at times, but it can also result in a sense of dependence and guilt. The worry that you might be a burden can make you downplay your needs and hesitate to reach out for support, even when you urgently need it. These repetitive thoughts of fear and self-doubt could make you feel worthless and reinforce the idea that you are a burden.

Impact of feeling like a burden

The feeling of being a burden on people can have a damaging impact on various aspects of your life.

Here's a breakdown of some key consequences:

  • When you have a lot of negative emotions, such as shame and guilt, they can overwhelm you and make it hard for you to manage emotions in a healthy way. It may be hard to find words to express your feelings or handle ​emotional outbursts appropriately.
  • If you have the inherent belief that you are a nuisance and a drain on people, you might end up isolating yourself. When you stop reaching out for support, it invariably leads to loneliness and disconnection.
  • The anxiety of being a burden can make it difficult to be open and honest with the people in your life that you care for. It may lead you to hesitate in voicing your needs or struggles. Over time, when you are constantly seeking reassurance, it will put a strain on relationships.
  • If you shy away from connecting with others because you are afraid that you might be a burden on them, this may prevent you from receiving the support system you need for survival.

Breaking free from feeling like a burden

Here are some effective strategies you can use to help you deal with this issue:

  • Offer yourself the empathy and kindness you'd give to a struggling friend. Challenge your negative self-talk and concentrate on your strengths. Remember that everybody requires help at some point.
  • It is okay to say 'no' and put your needs first. Healthy boundaries will strengthen relationships rather than weaken them. Instead of suffering from guilt as a result of being assertive, learn how to articulate your needs in clear and decisive terms.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation as well as deep breathing techniques. These relaxation methods can aid in coping with stress and negative thoughts that provoke feelings of being a burden and will also improve your overall sense of well-being.
  • Boost your self-esteem by recognizing and questioning your negative self-beliefs. Concentrate on your successes, whether they are big or small. Take part in activities that make you feel good about yourself and celebrate your strengths.
  • Set realistic expectations, and don’t strive for perfection. We all make mistakes and have limitations. Set achievable targets for yourself and others and celebrate any progress, not just the things that work out perfectly.
  • Spend time with people who appreciate you for who you are, and who enrich and inspire you. Invest your time in relationships with people that make you feel supported and understood.

When to seek professional help

Recognizing when you need help to maintain your mental fitness is very important for your overall health. Persistent symptoms, such as ongoing feelings of sadness, anxiety, or irritability that interfere with your everyday functioning, may indicate the need for professional help. Furthermore, if you find that you are not able to cope with stress, manage your emotions, or deal with life's challenges, therapy may provide you with valuable and effective tools and strategies to improve your resilience and coping skills.

It is also very important to seek help if you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, as a good therapist will help explore these distressing feelings and develop a healthy coping mechanisms.

With regards to the type of psychotherapy that will work for you, it depends on your specific needs and preferences. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and interpersonal therapy are all research-backed techniques used in successfully treating different mental health issues. Combined with a competent therapist, you can ascertain which technique is most suitable for your specific circumstances and goals.

Helping loved ones overcome feelings of burden

Supporting someone who feels burdened requires empathy, patience, and understanding. Begin by listening attentively to their worries and concerns and refrain from any expression of judgment. When you do this, it will free them up to express their deepest emotions and might even facilitate a release of pent-up emotions. Reassure them of your care and support and that you will be there for them no matter what happens.

Encourage them to go and see a professional if necessary and tell them that it is okay to ask for help and they are not alone in their struggles. Provide practical support, for example, by assisting them in locating resources or by joining their therapy appointments if they are comfortable with that. Finally, reassure them that they are valued and loved and that they can count on you at all times.

Feeling like you are a burden can be a very heavy weight to bear and will ultimately impact both your mental health and interpersonal relationships in a negative way. Recognizing the signs and consulting specialists at the right time can help people alleviate these symptoms and regain a sense of empowerment. Do not forget you are worthy of love, support, and compassion in your healing and self-discovery process.

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