Over-Apologising with An Anxiety Disorder -- I'm Not Sorry

November 18, 2015 Julia Banim

Anxiety disorders can cause you to apologize profusely (and often) for things that don't require an apology. You may want to break that habit. Read this.

Sometimes I have to say I'm not sorry because I over-apologize thanks to my anxiety disorder. Apologising is a positive thing when done sincerely and is an act that can wield great power. In fact, it can often be an extremely brave thing to do indeed. To admit that you are somehow in the wrong is a vital part of human communication and is a skill that many stubborn people would do well to learn (I Was Wrong And I Am Sorry). However, for those of us with anxiety we can find ourselves saying sorry way too much and often unnecessarily. Sometimes I over-apologize because of my anxiety disorder.

How My Anxiety Disorder Fills Me with Feelings of Guilt

It is a stereotype that we Brits apologise a lot. However, even in my polite island nation, I am seen to be more than just a little over apologetic, sometimes to the point of unintentionally irritating the person that I am so desperately trying not to offend (for which I will then try to apologise profusely).

Sorry has become something of a nervous go-to word for me. I tack it on to the end of most sentences. I will say it automatically when it is my turn to speak up in a conversation. If I think that I have spoken for too long then I will apologise in sheer panic. If I feel that I have given a short, inadequate answer then I will mumble a distressed apology to my shoes. Once a car bumped into me as the owner reversed clumsily from their driveway, knocking me clean of my feet. My first response was to splutter “sorry, sorry, I’m so very sorry” before limping away politely.

How suffering from anxiety can mean that you over apologise

I often wonder where it all stems from -- this excessive need to apologise for so many anxiety sufferers. Of course, we are all different but for me it’s the gnawing feeling of being somehow in the way -- a loose part, a spare tyre and a nuisance (Anxiety And Self Doubt).

I have the feeling that the space that my body and my voice and my life takes up somehow requires an apology, an explanation. Over the years I have learnt to process a hefty excess of guilt from everything from my unfortunate plainness to the way in which I often stammer, helplessly, often incoherently, over my words. I can be light hearted, even flippant regarding my overly apologetic ways.

However, I know in the way that so many of us who suffer from mental illnesses know that this seemingly semi-amusing quirk is merely a few steps behind a much darker way of thinking -- the feeling that I am so very sorry for my existence at all., that it would be better if clean, uncomplicated air filled the space where my awkward, ungainly body twitches and flinches and shuffles along. I know from past experience that this is an extremely dangerous train of thought to follow and would advise anybody who can relate to consider seeking help.

How Apologising Less Can Help with Your Anxiety Disorder

I am now making a conscious decision not to over-apologize because of my anxiety disorder. This is a whole lot more difficult than it first sounds. After all, it isn’t just a matter of catching the word before it comes tumbling out of your mouth. If it was as simple as that, then I’d probably just walk around with a cork in my pocket during my more anxious times.

The emotions and anxieties that push the word out are much more complicated. I would suggest thinking critically about what the word actually means before you say it and to make sure to assess the situation to see if it is needed. Not only will others appreciate your genuine, heartfelt apologies on a greater level; you will also begin to understand and address the triggers that can fill you with unnecessary guilt.

Tips for Those Who Over-Apologise Because of Anxiety

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APA Reference
Banim, J. (2015, November 18). Over-Apologising with An Anxiety Disorder -- I'm Not Sorry, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Julia Banim

August, 14 2020 at 10:55 am

About three years ago to the day I left a mentally abusive relationship. Even before I ended leaving I would find myself saying “I’m sorry.” It could be a small insignificant thing like putting away the dishes right when they were done. It became a way for me to avoid conflict. Now my current girlfriend understands why I do it. However we could just have a normal conversation about the clouds and I still find myself saying “I’m sorry” or “I’m sorry I should let you talk” while she tells me “it’s okay” or that “there is nothing to be sorry about” I know deep down after dealing with the mentally abusive ex I know my current girlfriend is right but I always think it’s better to say something than nothing at all out loud.

September, 9 2018 at 11:41 pm

I love you people... it for some reason makes me feel like crying that im not alone in this,... i cant tell you how many times friends and family and strangers, even teachers have told me to stop apologising and i will either say sorry, feeling anxious that i have upset them by apologising, or by saying 'im sorry i cant help it,' but usually feeling like crying with anxiety on the inside that i keep causing problems and fearing that i keep making people mad at me... this usually goes with me fearing that i am a bad person and that i keep causing people to be upset with me (which includes any mild irritation)... i would like to make this stop though, because i am tired of being constantly anxious... it is like being forced to run when you dont want to, and if you stop even for a moment, there is nothing but tiredness left.. and so you rest (go to sleep) and then get back up to start running again..
I hope and wish that every single one of you (including those reading the page for help) can find a way to reduce or completely remove the strong anxiety that we all have here. I love you all and thank you for this blog. *hugs*

September, 10 2017 at 2:52 am

I know exactly how you feel. I would just like to know why I have the anxiety and depression. I figure genetics cause my whole family had some kind of mental illness. However, unlike somebof my so called friends, I would never say anything to someone who stammers or apologizes.

August, 26 2017 at 9:52 am

Hi, I'm reading over this article like I have done with many others. I have a problem with apologizing and I have a problem with my anxiety getting the best of me. I feel as if I let it make all of my decisions for me yet when I look back on my past I am the only person who made those and it makes my anxiety worse. I didn't tell anyone about it until recently and after telling someone it made me feel so much better! But now I am trying to work on my panick attacks and such with my gf but it doesn't seem to be doing to good. The more I seem to tell her about what stresses my anxiety the more she doesn't believe me and the more she thinks that I can just stop the feeling. The more we try to talk the more anxious I get and I end up having a panick attack and I hate myself for it. It feels like a never ending cycle of becoming anxious and not being able to control my thoughts so I'm almost to the point of giving up. The more I talk about it the worse I feel.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 26 2017 at 9:55 am

I am really trying to look forward but I don't know how to work on my anxiety with my relationship. I understand how difficult it could be for someone to understand if they don't feel the same way but being depressed and wanting to cry all the time like I have felt almost since I was in 7th grade is becoming to much for me.

July, 16 2017 at 4:12 pm

Gosh. Tbh lately I've ha a kinda recurrent theme in some of my dreams where I've had "I'm sorry" and "I'm so sorry" tattooed all over me. no real reason just a random cameo in some of me dreams lately. I used to be the kind of person to say things like "Sorry is such a meaningless word" yet now I say it, or at least think it probably 100 times a day. Earlier today I showed a friend a drawing I made that wasn't that great because it was unfinished and yet i beat myself up over it for like an hour, feeling guilty as if I accidentally put them in the hospital or something. Just because it was unfinished! It's really insane what anxiety can do to someone. It's more of a disease than a disorder if you ask me.

November, 24 2015 at 6:52 pm

I can completely relate to this article!!! II used to apologize ("I'm sorry") after speaking more times than I even spoke! I remember people telling me to stop apologizing or asking me why I always did so, in which I'd reply: "I'm sorry"!) I've broken that habit, although I'm unsure how I did so, exactly. Maybe it was replaced with this anger and anxiety that feels overwhelming at times, but as you (Julia) said: For that and so much more- I am NOT sorry!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Julia Banim
November, 26 2015 at 10:39 am

Hi there 5150angel. Thank you for so much sharing your experience. I do the exact same thing... I always end up apologising for apologising which can end up confusing both me and the other person! I'm so pleased that you have managed to break out of the habit of over apologising.. is genuinely incredibly inspiring for those of us who still need to break free! You are absolutely right... you should never feel sorry and should always feel proud of who you are! :) all the best and no apologies, Julia x

November, 19 2015 at 9:55 pm

My daughter is recovering from depression and anxiety and apologizes all the time. I think she worries people are or will be angry with her. We're working on it.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Julia Banim
December, 1 2015 at 12:04 pm

Hi Gail. Many thanks for your comment. I am sorry to hear about your daughters troubles and hope that as time goes on she will worry less. It certainly will help that she has a supportive, understanding parent who is helping her work through these issues. Best wishes, Julia x

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