Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life?

As a very empathic person (a VEP :) ), I have spent a lot of energy over the last few years learning how to manage my empathy and establishing better energetic boundaries with those around me. 

I have noticed that many other people, especially clairsentient, sensitive, intuitive and lightworker types often have similar problems with their empathy and energetic boundaries.  I decided it might be a good idea to do a series of articles on my own experiences with empathy: how I realized mine was a problem and how I learned to turn my empathy off, as some people haven’t even realized that their empathy is a problem.  They just know they have weird tendencies to feel bad around other people.

So, this is the first article in this series and it talks about the signs of overactive empathy and I relate many of my own experiences.  The second article will tell you how you can turn empathy off.

First of all, let’s define empathy, and then I’ll tell you how you can find out whether your empathy is running you.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to temporarily step out of your experience and step into another person’s experience, and perceive it as they do, whether it’s an emotional, mental, physical, intellectual or spiritual experience.

Empathy is a gift most people have, to varying degrees.  But if you have the gift of empathy, you NEED to know how to turn it on and off.  Ideally, you want to be able to use it at will and then turn it off when necessary.  Some people with empathy naturally know how to do that.  Others don’t.

This is what I see the energy field and energetic boundaries of a person with their empathy turned off as looking like:

 

This is what it looks like when your empathy is activated:

You become a porous being.  If you were a bowl (so to speak!) two minutes ago, now that your empathy has been triggered, you’re a human colander.  You have openings in your energy body where your energy goes out to others (so you can put yourself in the shoes of another person.)  And also what happens is that energy goes into you – so you soak up what’s going on around you; from other people, places and occurrences. 

When you are a skilled empath (when you can turn empathy on and off at will), it is a wonderful thing, and truly a gift because empathy allows us to see things clearly from the perspective of other people so it makes for good relationships.  Empathy arouses compassion in us.  It allows us to connect with and care about others.  If we can feel and relate to what other people are going through, then we are more motivated to offer our help.  So, empaths tend to be giving, caring people.  Empathy is also kind of cool because it also allows us to move past the veil of separation and experience oneness; what it is like to be another person.  It’s a psychic gift, one that I use in readings often and one that you can use as well if you are empathic.

But if you’re someone who doesn’t yet know how to turn your empathy off, your empathy will be triggered by something and you will usually forget to turn it off, you may not even be aware that it’s ‘on’.  Maybe you’re walking around with your empathy on all the time.  That’s when it affects your quality of life. 

The disadvantages of having empathy when you don’t know how to turn it off:

This is a spectrum – it ranges from being a nuisance to actually being quite debilitating – such as  when you take on other people’s physical and emotional pain and you’re crippled temporarily by it while you process it and try to work out what the heck is going on.

If you can relate to any of the below, you have some work to do on getting your empathy under control.  If you can’t, then you probably don’t need this article!

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Overactive empathy in relationships: Have you ever had a relationship where you feel what someone is going through so much, when it’s something they’re struggling with, and you really want to help them?  

That’s all good and well, but what if you want to help them so much, you start taking on their ‘stuff’ and their problems?  What if your boundaries become blurry and you take on responsibilities that aren’t yours?  What if you stop allowing them the responsibility and the opportunity to create change and want to create it for them, directly or indirectly?

Overactive empathy is linked to co-dependence and poor boundaries in general and healers have a hard time with this because they’re so often empathic.

Overactive empathy in the social setting: When your empathy is triggered in a social setting, you are so focused on the people around you.  You may be subtly reading them intuitively, you’re listening and noticing intently – it’s like you’re diving into their energy.  If everyone else in the room is in colour, you’re in shades of grey because you’re not centred in yourself; you’re lost in everyone else’s energy. If your empathy is turned on in a social situation, it means you enjoy the experience less because it can be rather draining, sometimes overwhelming and a bit of a strain.

This used to happen to me a lot.  I’ve been told that when I meet people for the first time, I can come off as a bit intense and it’s because all my energy is going out to people – I’m meeting them not just as a person but as an energetic being.  Is this appropriate?  In a reading, yes.  In a social setting, no.  And I’ve gotten a lot better at getting that under control and being a normal person in social interactions :)

Overactive emotional empathy: Have you ever been completely floored by someone else’s emotional pain?  This has happened to me several times.  When I was living in London, the brother of an acquaintance had committed suicide.  When this person came to my flat, I didn’t know how to shake off their pain after they had left, even though I didn’t know him very well and theoretically his pain should not have affected me so much.

When I was supporting a bereaved relative of mine several years ago, I had the most extreme experience of taking on someone else’s pain.   

I was not bereaved.  But when I began supporting and helping my bereaved relative, I found myself completely overtaken with grief.  At first I didn’t know what was happening.  I just assumed I felt bad for my relative.  But for about a month I was completely out of action.  I cried all day, I felt pain like I had never felt before in my life.  The funny thing was that when their pain began to lift, so did mine. 

Several months later, an intuitive who sees auras told me I was carrying a terrible empathic emotional burden on my shoulders and it wasn’t mine; she told me to let it go.

This kind of emotional empathy is totally needless and inappropriate.  It didn’t help anyone for me to be overwhelmed with pain (quite the opposite), but I didn’t even know what was happening and why I was in such pain.  So I didn’t know it was my empathy out of control.

Overactive empathy in certain places: This is when you enter buildings and walk past certain places and take on the energetic frequencies within that place.  I did some interpreting once in Spain.  I had to go to the police station and interpret for some people who were being accused of some crime.  The energy in the police station felt like desperation, sadness, apathy and cruelty and many other nasty things.

Afterwards, energetically I felt like I’d been beaten up and I felt out of sorts for a few days.  Again, that would not have affected me if I had known how to turn off my empathy.

Physical empathy: Do you feel the aches and pains of other people?  Physical empaths can get horrible headaches, and they may feel like hypochondriacs.  What is often happening is that they are like sponges, taking on the physical pain of others.

These are just of the most common types of empathy. There are many more types, including intellectual empathy, empathy with animals and plants.

If you identified with any of the above, to a smaller or greater degree, then you will want to read my next article on ‘How to turn off Empathy’ (posted in the next few days) in which I will share the three things you need to know in order to turn off your empathy. 

Please leave a comment if you have something to share about your experiences with empathy.

Read the next article in this series, ‘How to Turn off Overactive Empathy’.
 

 

Your information will not be shared.

69 Responses to “Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life?”

  1. Kate says:

    oh Anna, youre speaking to me sista!!!! haha. Cant wait for your next article. You know the darndest thing? i have Rose Rosetrees book and i even have it on sale on Trademe, im going to keep it now lol. Im terribly crippled by empathy. God help me in a mall. When my kids have first days at anything I feel their nerves. Sometimes when out driving I feel like I can sense everyones anxiety on the roads. Its an area Ive never been able to overcome. Thanks for your insights.

  2. Kate says:

    speaking of which, synchronicity here, her new book is coming out in sept, i got her newsletter tonight lol

  3. David says:

    Oh, maybe this is why I am so sensitive to places with lots of people and especially buildings! I totally get your police station experience, and I can get really sucked in by other people’s energies, to the point of identifying with their values and losing myself in the process. And I’ve always had a hard time putting up reasonable borders.

    Never did think about being able to switch it on or off at will. I feel a little bit reluctant to turning it off though, feels like it would make me cold and insensitive somehow, ignoring what’s around me. But it sure makes a lot of sense though and I look forward to the next article!

    Anyway, great read, thank you!

  4. Michael says:

    Most excellent article, Anna. I believe that years ago without realizing it I developed my own defenses – was terribly sensitive until my late 20’s, then began to sometimes consciously turn it off, then it became automatic and I assumed the mode of not caring just to avoid the pain. At this point the normal switch position is “off” and I can remain detached unless I need the information for some reason. The Blueprinter thing…always on the periphery of nastiness and trying to keep one’s hands from getting too dirty.

    Anyhow, I think the moral of the story is that if one is sensitive and not aware, one can build such a thick shell as to not feel anything. Probably not a good way to be.

  5. David says:

    @MIchael: You’re making a good point! It is indeed very easy to coat yourself with that thick blanket of numbness as a way of dealing with pain.

    As for me, it’s combination of both I think – not putting up appropriate borders to keep my own energy in, as I already mentioned, and at the same time numbing myself to deal with the pain. Resulting in a whole lot of confusion mixed with apathy – certainly not recommended!

    I think awareness is key – seeing all these processes in play, understanding where they come from, and learning how to put some distance to them.

  6. Anna says:

    Hi Kate :) Thanks for your comments – glad this resonated with you!! I sometimes get nervous when driving as well, not sure if that’s because of my empathy though.

  7. Anna says:

    Hi, David! Glad you liked this article. I will talk about avoiding being cold and insensitive in the next article (i.e. balancing turning off empathy with being compassionate).

  8. Anna says:

    Michael – that’s a really good point. I think that empathic people do come up with strategies to deal with their empathy, like numbing themselves, as you mention. My self-protective mechanism was being somewhat withdrawn and aloof.

  9. Rebecca says:

    OMG! Thank you for this article. So this is what’s been happening to me — too much empathy. I’ve also been too identified with my career as a writer that I’m feeling burned out and want to walk away from it. I think it’s time to trust my head over my heart. Talk about being out of balance and off center.

  10. donna says:

    i’m begging for help. i just figured out i may be a physical empath. After researching for a book on my female relatives with strange(powers-gifts?) whatever. Since childhood i have always been sick with strange serious illnesses with absolutely no family history. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few. Bad things tend to gravatate to me, when someone in a store an aisle over would cough, i would feel it. The obvious small things like that stopped when i started on anti-depressants. But the big bad things remain. I’m trying to live a normal happy life, but these huge things get in my way and ruin any hopes. i became a Catholic to have a reason not to commit suicide. Pain is always there. will this book help? i am in constant debt with medical bills and can’t buy this if it will not help. Thank you!

  11. Craig says:

    Hi Anna,

    I really liked the article as I feel that you have outlined a critical error in the judgment. The first time I became aware of this, I started looking for it in the real world, and lo and behold, it is everywhere.

    I have a question though. Is there a difference between “Overactive Empathy” as you have described it, and “Sympathy?” They seem to be one in the same.

    Thanks,
    Craig

  12. David says:

    @Craig:

    There seems to be no clear line between sympathy and empathy. People seem to differ in their understanding and use of the words. Some say empathy is the feeling of others’ feelings, while sympathy is not the feeling but the understanding of others’ feelings.

    In that use of the words, a highly sympathetic person can understand what another person is feeling, but still be stone cold devoid of any feeling. The extreme case of this would be the sociopath killer who understands his/hers victims and therefor is highly skilled in manipulating them, but can feel nothing for them at all.

    For the overactive empath, there is also the key difference from having the skills to separate your own feelings from those of others, to that of not being able to do so and therefor taking on others’ feelings as your own.

    The difference you are thinking of might be of the latter – overactive empathy is the more uncontrolled taking on of others’ feelings, while sympathy is doing it with clear understanding that it isn’t your feelings, thereby freeing you from identifying with the feelings.

    Myself I want to think of sympathy in these latter terms – empathy is the ability and sympathy is the willingness and the act of using that ability to understand and connect to other people.

  13. Anna says:

    Hi Donna, I’m not sure if the book will help to be honest. This sounds like more than overactive empathy. I mean, empaths don’t tend to take on other people’s diseases, just other people’s symptoms.

  14. Anna says:

    Hi Craig, I tend to agree with what David wrote above. Sympathy seems almost like a pity that can be distanced from feelings, whereas overactive empathy is uncontrolled and a total identification with someone else’s feelings.

  15. Craig says:

    David/Anna,

    Thanks for the clarification. I understand now :)

  16. joanne sonn says:

    HI Anna i dont know what it is im going through ,but would love some advice. i have had the same thing happening to me (about 7 times).i get terrible intense feeling of pain upset..just before someone dies, i seem to be experiencing there feelings shortly before death. i dont knw its happening at the time but after i go through the emotions and calm down .maybe a few days later i find out who it is and wots happend. its almost like im a puppet for their emotions. its really upsetting my life and making me seem like a nut job lol. i dont know if my job has anything todo with it but i do beauty therapy ,and have a good physical empathy anyway. has this got a name? have you or anybody heard of this before? how do i deal with it? i mean the last time it happend i smash the bedroom up in a complete rage and it took 3 friends to restrain me ,(they have never ever seen me like it before) a few days later another childhood friend came to me and told me her dad died of cancer and was punching wall ect and when we talking i was displaying all his emotions at excactly the same time. like i said not the first time. please help jo x

  17. I really got so much out of reading your article just then, and it has answered some pretty confusing experiential mysteries for me. I can relate totally to the experience of EXTREME pain, which was beyond what I could even concieve of being able to handle as a human being…and not knowing where it came from? I tend to shut myself off from the world as an introverted person, and feel more recharged and “safe” in my bedroom, which can cause other people to make all sorts of wrong assumptions about me. I have also experienced taking on the physical pain of a friend who I gave a massage to one evening before I went out with my boyfriend at the time…and my whole night was ruined by feeling her pain in the same place on my body that she felt her pain…it was a wierd transference and I would love to know ho wto get a grip on this empathy business, as it has been seriously messing my life up for a long time now…glad I stumbled across Steve Pavlina’s website and found you…thanks

  18. Anna says:

    Hi Philippa – so glad this article was helpful to you! Anna

  19. charmity says:

    wow. ms. anna that helped me out a ton. i didnt know that it was actually called overactive empathy. ive been living with my grandparents who are overweight fanatic christians. and for about two or three weeks straight i had just been crying and so upset and so frustrated and annoyed for no reason. and i felt like i was going crazy. i knew for a while now that i was empathic but i didnt kno that i was literally taking on my grandparents problems and stresses. awesome article! im going to read the next two :D

  20. MANNY DELMAR says:

    What about when you not only feel 100% empathy but you also can see through. How to avoid the impact of knowing the bad energy or experiences, of others to affect you? I cannot stop to attack bad energies and transform them. How to prevent it?

    I think I have everything you described as a gifted person, but I also can see images, like very fast pictures or slower.

    I am afraid many people would not understand it, rejection… I hide myself except to those I trust and witness my gifts, they have to cope with it if they love me.

    It feels bigger than me, is like a huge Super Nova rotating inside, like the whole earth going through me. I even feel meteorites approaching earth, or floods, earthquakes. I also have information it is not mine, plenty of it, past, future, present, science, medicine, art, politics,etc… How to stop it to live a normal life with a proper empathy feeling? Is this normal what I have?

    I can speak, write, and read seven languages as well, ( another divine gift, or that is perhaps cause I am also studied music for many years, now is a hobby).
    Some people said I could be an extraordinary painter not an economist instead. I am 38 years old, also looking 27, 30? Weird.

    I keep it down, said under radar but after reading you… I decided to show myself because it feels strange sometimes.

    Recently I met my untie after many years without having contact with her, she brought me an article that made her remember my childhood, it was from a Indigo Russian boy very known. She forced me to read it. Thereafter, I almost cried for he tells all I was saying when I was a kid. My untie down to ground person told me I am an early type of Indigo????? Energy here is another story???

    I hope sharing this can help you to study deeper about Empathy feelings.

    All I have is intuitive or given, never study or read about these subjects in general, I am average and natural. All I can say is that I Know…and I found your web looking for explanations, answers.

    By the way, I moved into Spain like you did once, I am living by the mountains of Montserrat (Barcelona). It is so beautiful! Something here.

    Thank you for listening and your excellent work.
    Take care. ANNA
    .

  21. Anna says:

    Hi Charmity, glad it helped…living with people who have strong negative emotions is never easy for an empath! But you can turn it off. Good luck.

  22. Diana Neff says:

    You know, it’s kinda hard to identify things of this sort in oneself if one’s always been a certain way. We don’t really know that it isn’t the norm and that everyone doesn’t feel what we are feeling or at least in the same magnitude.

    As a child, I always wondered if other people thought food tasted the same as I did and if colors looked the same to them as to me. Probably yes. Does everyone have an empathic side? Probably yes. It’s up to each of us to decide if it is overwhelming or not.

    Parents need to use this gift to their utmost in raising their children.

    I can’t wait to read your next article on how to turn off Overactive Empathy. I guess we don’t need lessons on how to turn it back on!
    .-= Diana Neff´s last blog ..One Down! =-.

  23. Lana says:

    Ever since I can remember, I have always had trouble being in public places. When I was very little, my mother would take me places with her and I would always have feelings like guilt and sadness. I also felt sympathy towards certain people that I would pass by, and I never understood why. I still have the same problem to this day.
    Also, I have had trouble keeping certain jobs in the past because of this. I worked at a grocery store for a couple of weeks not too long ago. The first day I worked there, I was very excited to start working and I was excited to meet new people. However, not too long after I started working on that fist day, I started feeling very depressed, lonely, and feeling like I was about to burst into tears. Several times during the day I had to go on break because I knew that I was going to start crying, and I could not let costumers see that since I was at the front counter. This happened to me randomly every single day I worked, and I would go home and sob for hours. I had trouble getting rid of those feelings and I thought that there was something seriously wrong with me and planned on going to see a therapist. After about a week, I thought that maybe those feelings had something to do with being in that grocery store, but I had no idea why. I ended up quitting right away, and not too long after I stopped having those feelings.
    This happens to me very often and it makes me feel miserable. I am usually a very happy person, and I can never understand why I get those feelings. This could be the answer, and I am glad that I stumbled across this article.

  24. Jacqs says:

    I am actually looking for answers… I mean, I started with finding the second part of this series, but I thought it WOULD be best to start at the beginning… And it’s true, I have found myself, if I’m feeling down (because of the people I”m around, or my own problems) I’ll try and find a social setting that I can… basically feed off of the energy from.

    My problem though, the reason that I really felt I HAD to seek out some kind of answers… is that my empathy reaches out with people in other issues. It’s happened twice thus far that a guy has had a crush on me, so when I get around him I feel his… want, his love, and it’s like a mirror, we just bounce off each other and… I end up in a relationship that shouldn’t have happened in the first place, or in a position I never wanted myself in. I wonder, are there others that have this (it wasn’t mentioned in this article so… but maybe it just wasn’t mentioned here..)

    I can’t wait to read on and see if it helps to de-activate… I need it so badly.

  25. Anjali says:

    Thank you for your article. I feel I have always been an empath. Even as a child I felt I was different and felt overwhelmed around people and still do. The difference is now I understand a lot better as to what it is that I am sensing and feeling. I feel emotional and physical empathy.
    Lately I feel as if I am processing my husbands physical pains. It has happened various times… as he feels the pain in his body, soon, maybe in a day or two, it is transferred to my body in exactly the same location. It then disappears in his body and it is as if I am processing his traumas and a healing is taking place in him. The process in me lasts from anything from a few minutes to half a day or two and then its gone.
    Now this is an example of someone close who I communicate with. I am wondering if I feel other peoples pain too and don’t even know that because one may not communicate our symptoms.
    Could you throw some light on this.I would greatly appreciate your comments.
    Somehow I have always known that I am here to help and ease suffering. I can see myself in the healing therapy and I am studying homeopathy and mind body medicine.
    Thank you.

  26. Susan says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this. When I was a child, I could put myself in other people shoes, and was constantly playing mediator between the other girls in my class, when they had fights.

    I didn’t realize until very recently that I have the gift of clairsentience- with empathy being very strong. One thing that helped me to not take on others’ struggles, is realizing that we each have our own lessons to learn. We all have to learn how to make it through our own struggles. When I can see another person’s situation in this way- as their responsibility and their journey, I am able to step back emotionally, while still being supportive.

  27. Ana says:

    Couldn’t be more appropriate to read all this about Empathy, thank you so much. I would like to ask you if Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has anything to do with being an empath in some cases?

  28. Anna says:

    Hi Ana,

    I do think that empathy, if you don’t learn how to turn it off, can certainly add to a pre-existing case of chronic fatigue. But I do not think it would cause it.

  29. Craig says:

    @Ana,

    If you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, try drinking more distilled water. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of dehydration.

    Try it out and let us know what happens.

    Craig

  30. Neno says:

    This all sounds so familiair.
    Hmm, so it looks like I’m an HSP and empath as well?

    In short:
    I walk on the street and pass someone and actually sense the emotional and/or physical pain. I could start crying instantly.
    The HSP is causing some serious problems and I actually lost my job because of it! I seem to pickup everything around me (energy, emotions, sounds, vision/optical things, pain, etc). I even turn ill when I see fast changing images on the TV (nausea, headaches, dizziness, etc)

    Worst thing: I seem to be unable to stop any of this…
    @work I perform more or less pretty well, but when I get home I basically break down. I fall a sleep when watching TV. Waking up in the morning only makes things worse, because I’m even more tired than when I went to bed.

    Apart from that I constantly hear bells ringing, hissing noises and beeping noises. And yes I see flashes (some slow milky white (apparently angels nearbY) some are fast like a strobe).

    I’m confused and don’t know what to do best (and how) and I feel like it’s driving me completely crazy.

    Can you please help?

  31. Ashwin says:

    This message is for Ana. Yes Chronic Fatigue/Adrenal Fatigue can be the source of weak boundaries where you’re just feeling overwhelmed. This is particularly striking for me where there are a lot of people like malls. I don’t know why it happens but I’ve heard several people with Adrenal fatigue complain about this.

  32. Brooke says:

    I used to be really social and get pleasure out of going out and interacting with everyone’s energies….now I hate going anywhere with a lot of people, if I know it’s going to be a crowd, I avoid it. just the thought of going into a big crowded area drains my energy. i thought I was becoming agoraphobic, but lately strange things have been happening to me. I see energies/orbs at night in my room. actually I’ve always seen this, but never gave it much thought til now. I get anxiety out of nowhere, for no reason at all. when I finally decide to mention it, one of the people I’m around will confirm it. I also get deja vu and strange “coincidences” ALL THE TIME. this article really helped me, thank you.

  33. Brooke says:

    oh and I totally thought I was a hypochondriac, this makes much more sense, considering I live a pretty healthy lifestyle

  34. Brooke says:

    sorry I keep forgetting to mention things. this girl who claims to be able to see aura’s, read me one time, she was very accurate in what she said about me. but one thing I didn’t understand, she said my auro was a bunch of different colors, as if I picking up on a little bit of everyone elses, everyone else she read only had one or two colors in their aura. I’ve always felt different.

  35. Anita says:

    I wonder is it possible to pick up people’s emotions if you’re not around them physically. Like if you’ve developed a friendship online.
    Does anybody know?

  36. Lyn Burgess says:

    Oh, my word. I cant believe it! All this has happened to me and I ended up making myself very poorly. You ve just made me realise what I ve been doing wrong. I automatically take on other peoples problems. I have had some very painful experiences through this and not being able to sleep. Or,feeling totally ill at ease in the presence of some people. I tend to get so wrapped up in other people I forget about myself and ended up feeling very much worse for wear. I am slowly learning though and with your help I will improve immensely.

  37. kelethian says:

    Thats funny, because i had the same problem, but it was a matter of not having the ability open enough! It was kind of like looking at things through a cardboard tube vs. actually being able to see.

    Ive actually been trying to find a way to teach the art of psionic empathogenesis to others. Its possibly the greatest thing ive discovered.

    No, drugs are not involved, but people will think youre on them. I find that hilarious.

    Any questions or comments can be forwarded to kelethian@gmail.com or my FB.

  38. Katie says:

    a really fascinating read, I connected to almost all of this. the worst experience for me was a relationship with a violin teacher, she told me i wasn’t working hard enough and all of her emotions of disappointment came flooding into me and made me less willing to work because with each lesson the emotions got stronger as I didn’t progress fast enough. It got to a point where I refused to practice because all I felt were negative emotions with the music. It took some time to realize the negative emotions came from her and not me, and I am currently trying to learn how to block those emotions from her. So the articles on empathy you have are very fascinating because it explains a ton about me in how that works some. thanks. :)

  39. Kim Tamer says:

    ok ok ok. I am figuring stuff out of this article here.
    Thank you for such a useful blog!

    One comment: the empathy of over empathic people, I believe, is channelled through their own subjectivity…

    so the things we empathize too much about must be telling us something about our own individual self? or is empathy independent of my own self?

    talking about physical spaces where empathy fires up:
    also, I am an aspiring performer and dancer (not a pro, it doesn’t pay my bills, but passionate about it), and this overempathy business is really frustrating when I have to get down and do a battle (I practice dance styles that requires one to show their dance skills by battling someone else).

    I feel this over empathy most felt when I have to perform or battle lately is some sort of self-sabotage mecanism…

    I feel people’s broken dreams, loneliness, self hate, what they are hidding behind smoking marijuana, I know why their face looks grey and I feel their every fear, etc…and it just pins me down. I just lose all my dance: my friends tell me that I am: “not present”, that I am “internal”, “that they sense my dance but don’t see it”. But If I am home or with a friend or a dance peer on a one-to-one level, that I am not reading, I am fine.

    I feel like I have this mecanism going on most and affecting me the most when I challenge myself in a stressful situation, that could lead me to success in the arts. It is like I chiken leg, and all I can do is feel other’s pains.

    Just rambling here, my thoughts as they come.

    How can I build this shield?

    I am reading on Anna…I want to, and I am determined to being happy.

    what I am posting feels so personnal, and I hesitated before I post this one but what the heck…let’s go!

    thank you

  40. Krit says:

    I enjoyed the article I have been having a lot of problems lately though I am more interested in the animal empathy. I feel people to but not as strong.

    It has never been a problem until recently I saw a kitten mauled by a dog. My family just thought I was very upset but I can’t describe how I felt it was just pain. Pain all over. She wasn’t even my cat but I was on the ground screaming as if I had just seen my own child die.
    I am having a hard time shaking it.

  41. kw says:

    I hope I can get a response, First my roommate is calling me a witch because when he is physically feeling ill, I walk out and tell him before he can mention it, I also find myself feeling like Im having a heart attack when I am around my boss, who is going through some serious heart problems right now. Ive learned how to stay away from “toxic “people and stay close to those I know. But there is still a physical pain that No doctor can explain so they call it fibromyalgia. Ive talked to alot of different people but I feel they are leading me in the wrong direction. Nobody can feel this much pain all the time. Ive even changed jobs to stay away from negative people. When I wake up I feel great, I want to feel that the rest of the day. I also dont want to continue to wake by myself the rest of my life trying to avoid pain. Some guidance would be awesome.

  42. Tien says:

    I have recently been told by another healer that I am also an empath. For the longest time I just thought that I’m just a compassionate person and it’s my ‘duty’ to love the hurting. It especially got worst when I emerged myself into Christianity teaching, I’m not sure if the teaching itself encouraged this complete self sacrificial as a wonderful and good thing, or is the Bibile has been misinterpreted by the church fathers. Not to blame everything on Christianity, because I do believe that there are many good things about the teaching, but I feel that the church need to teach people more on how to exist in this world with love & compassion without feeling all the time, when you are drawing the line or do something nice for yourself. It got so bad to the point that I find men that have MAJOR emotional problems extremely attractive, why is that?

    I’m also very sensitive to other energy such as ghost and spiritual being, after I read your article AT LEAST I can turn that off now, and do not get freaked out every time I drive by a place or go into a home that is haunted.

    Do you have any books in mind that you think might be beneficial for me or other people that may grew up with Christianity or have explored like myself?

  43. Carolyn says:

    I find it difficult to deal with the empathic thing at times, especially when it takes me ny surprise. One of my strategies is to avoid watching the news because it is mostly bad and I hate being taken of guard by suddenly feeling someone else’s fear and terror. It can be a useful gift to have but most of the time I try to just shut it down and control my mind.

  44. cheile says:

    I pick up pains of arthris from my mother ever since I started reiki i try to put blue light around me and put it right out from you everywhere this helps also when having a shower imagine white light washing away anything you might have picked up.

  45. Lissa says:

    I could cry with a little relief in a way that I have found this link and ppl similar to me. I have been contemplating on seeing my gp for years and years now but I dare not because he may think I’m mad I’d what I’ve been thinking. Till I found this empath!!’ I have struggled for years and it’s just gotten worse I can’t handle bad news ppls sadness painful story’s I don’t even need to know them. I’ve been like this since a teenager but much worse now, I’m 39 . I have this urge of empathy for others that is controlling my life. I fear. I can’t watch the news I can’t read a paper or a magazine if the news in on I have panic attack feelings and panic to switch it off. If I hear sad news often of death and always in children I am heart broken I feel the pain I cry for months and months one minute I’m not thinking of the story then my mind starts thinking of it and I try do hard not to but my mind is in control I feel pain inside I go through the whole sad scene in my mind even though I don’t know the details . I am a mum and I would die for my children I panic about my
    Children when I hear others in trouble . I just want to hold them close and make the pain I feel go away. I want to put the wrongs in ppls life right I know I can’t buy I wish I could. It feels like the ppl on the sad news I am them or I know them sounds daft but it’s true. I can’t talk to anyone about this I’ve tried I feel
    Silly like I’m going mad I think
    Ppl will think I am. Despite this ppl everyone comes to me with their pain everyone , and I am a councillor and human sponge but even tho
    It leaves me shattered and hurt I can’t say no. I’ve even been on the brink
    Of break down but took
    Others problems. But i was born to care. It’s just the empathy the panic of bad news I can’t handle and I wish I knew how I
    Could stop this as I feel
    I can’t cope with the pain and sadness I feel for others. It’s happening now a major horrid death near by our home of five children I’m
    Trying to not see photos on tv or hear more than I already have its killing me I’ve cried for days had awful visions in my head and I hurt inside I’m
    Tiered of this now I want it to stop. I don’t know these ppl but I am struggling with their sad sad deaths. Shall I go gp or not?

  46. Anna says:

    Hi Lissa,

    I’d recommend seeing a psychotherapist, not a GP, to talk these issues over. If you need a recommendation let me know.

  47. Cin says:

    I’m not sure if what I experience is what you describe. But in my own words, it’s like watching someone or just knowing that something is wrong/different,although the person next to me will see the same thing I did but won’t be aware of it like I am or won’t feel what I’m feeling. It’s a deeper sense of understanding and feeling for others. Also sometimes you feel so obligated to help that person, it’s almost uncontrollable. And does it only happen towards living things? or Inanimate objects also? For e.g if you unintentionally slammed a door, and you feel sorry for closing it so hard. I’m not sure what they call that lol

  48. dean mcnamara says:

    thanks for all of this anna it has really helped me i cannot explain how happy i am thanks a lot anna

  49. Megan says:

    Hi I would first like to say that for a few weeks now(after my mom who is diagnosed with depression moved in) Ive been feeling constant tiredness in my head. Im generally a happy optimistic person and I believe it is because of this that I dont slip into a depressed state myself…thats not who Iam. Anyhow Ive also been experience head pressure and once in a while a sharp pain in my head. Ive had an interest in psychic abilities and read up quite a bit on the subject for nearly year. Can this be my spiritual side opening up to my moms energy or does it seem more like I should see a doctor?

  50. victoria says:

    Thank you. Reading you article was exactly what i needed to hear at the right time. I was lead to your site by my higher self. Glad to find this information and will be a regualr visitor from now on. thank you

  51. Anna says:

    Megan, it does not seem unusual that you would be experiencing tiredness after a change in your living situation. It could be overactive empathy or it might be something else entirely, depending on the type of relationship you have with your mother.

  52. Greta says:

    Thanks for this article Anna! I started getting very clear about my lack of energetic boundaries in graduate school when I did my internships as a dance therapist and counselor. I’ve actually thought a lot about bringing up this issue to dance/movement therapy professionals because we are actually taught to “take on” people’s energy in our bodies so we could understand it. This made me feel absolutely horrible as you can imagine, and I can’t imagine it was good for anyone else. We were working with very psychologically ill people often times with intense trauma. I experienced what they called “secondary trauma” from counseling a young Somalian refugee who had seen gruesome deaths. But I felt his energy as I walked into the room before he even spoke. I felt like I wanted to wrap him up and hold him the minute I saw him. The week afterwards I was almost frozen with grief and trauma. Since then I’ve moved away from clinical work and focused on psychic/energy work so I can set energetic boundaries. Hopefully I can return to helping people at some point… Thanks again, look forward to reading more.

  53. Rebekah says:

    I am so glad that I came across your site! I have wandered around for years wondering what was wrong with me! I am now 40yrs old and I tend to stay at home to myself,limiting the contact I have with the outside world. I have very few friends and the ones I do have have become accustom to my very secluded life. I even have trouble going places such as stores and homes due to the OVERWHELMING emotion I get when just going close to them. I have two children and we live with my father who is in his late 70’s. Needless to say…They DRAIN the life right out of me,haha! I had heard about empaths on a program I was watching and began to wonder if this could be what I am going through so I got on my laptop and put in “How to tell if your an empath” and thats how I found you. I was captured by your first paragraph! All my life I have become overwhelmed by either sadness,anger,frustration,guilt,fear,and countless other emotins I thought were out of the blue. I could be grocery shopping and in a great mood at that,when someone will walk next to me and I may start to feel as if I need to just cry(and sometimes do)for no apparent reason. I can walk into an old house for the first time and literally FEEL the LIFE of either the house or those who live or lived their!! I am just so excited to have come across your artical and will read about”TURNING IT OFF” haha! I will keep your site in my favorite list so I can check back an see what new things you have. Thank you so much for the information.
    Sincerly,
    Rebekah

  54. Lisa says:

    I honestly wish I was not a sensitive or empath most days. I know that’s an awful attitude to have but it really can be so much to be like this especially in a society I believe is all about not feeling things or people who are sensitive or weak..I’ve had people who don’t believe in this type of thing (and most days I don’t) that it’s not good how sensitive I am with everything and I can’t survive in the real world with how I am..gee,thanks. Basically toughen up. I try but can’t be that way. Somedays I wonder why a higher source or power would allow for people to be so in tune, so sensitive when it can at times feel like it’s the worst burden in the world to be that way. I’m going to try to use more of these techniques because most of the time I avoid all social interaction, gatherings, and stay by myself as often as I can.

  55. Shauna Smith says:

    I relate to so much of this.. I do not usually have physical pain but emotionally I can really feel peoples pain. People tend to tell me their life story at the drop of a hat and when there is any sadness in their lives I tear up and feel the emotional pain. It has always been a problem but I never realized what it was till recently. Once I went to a funeral of a woman I knew briefly, wasn’t close to her and didnt know her well. when I walked into the church with all the grieving people I completely fell apart, I couldnt stop the emotions and it felt like I was being attacked by others grief.

    That was when I realized how affected I am by others but never had any idea what it was or why. Now I am beginning to understand thanks partly to your articles, thank you for sharing this with us all.. I hope to learn to turn it off soon as it can really be exhausting.

    Thank you
    Shauna

  56. RS says:

    Thank you for this article. I work as an intuitive counselor, but most often do spontaneous readings. However, I am suffering physically from my readings. Your article has been very helpful, and I know that you are genuine because your article vibrates compassion and caring; my mood already feels lighter. After a reading, esp. a spontaneous one, I often go into isolation, as if I cannot leave the house and take on any other energy – I will even avoid the person I live with! I do need help, so I will pray and meditate for guidance. I have been sincerely asking the universe for a mentor for so long, but nothing materializes – or I am rejecting the guidance, I do not know. I am going to look for the follow up article now. Thank you for this guidance, it is an incredible help!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life? details exactly what empathy is and how it can create people who are both cold and distant – self-protection from being over-whelmed by other people’s emotions – and caring and connected. [...]

  2. [...] As I began to become more open spiritually I had an odd “side-effect” come over me.  Sometimes when I was around a group of people I would start to feel another emotion strongly that I KNEW was NOT my own. Those in the healing community know this as being an Empath.  I could go on about this because WOW when you feel this it is SO overwhelming. I have even seen studies that suggest some forms of autism are kids that are really empaths – they become so overwhelmed by feeling the emotions of everyone in the room that they do not know how to react and retreat into themselves – as I said – a whole OTHER post… Anyway..it does NOT FEEL GOOD and I felt a strong SENSE that this was NOT from this lifetime.  I knew I wanted it cleared as it was happening more frequently and it was causing me to not even want to be around big groups of people for the fear that I would pick up someone else’s emotions. As a medical intuitive I was used to acknowledging people’s pain as sensations in my own body but this was different – I was taking it on and did not know how to “let it go”. As an aside, if being an Empath IS an issue – I highly recommend Anna Conlan’s series which begins with, “Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life?“. [...]

  3. [...] Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life? details exactly what empathy is and how it can create people who are both cold and distant – self-protection from being over-whelmed by other people’s emotions – and caring and connected. [...]

  4. [...] allows you to put yourself in other peoples’ shoes more easily. However, if you’re an unskilled empath, you can be like a sponge, absorbing and feeling emotions which aren’t your own. Do you ever [...]

  5. [...] on the other hand, if you’re already a very psychic, sensitive and empathic person who needs more grounding, meat will give you that.  It forces you to desensitize yourself [...]

  6. [...] (If you want to find out more about the symptoms of overactive empathy, read this article: Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life?) [...]

  7. [...] are very empathic/intuitive and pick up negative ‘stuff’ from other people all the time (one more good [...]

  8. [...] Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life? [...]

  9. [...]  http://www.psychicbutsane.com/empathy/is-overactive-empathy-ruining-your-life This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← ALSO . . . good read. [...]

  10. [...] You talk about growing up mildly autistic and having a very difficult time being in the classroom.  When I read about your experiences I kept thinking about how empathic you were and the fact that you were picking up other people’s energies and it was too much.  I have heard that some believe forms of autism are actually a child being extremely empathic and not being able to cope because we are not taught those tools.  Do you have any words of wisdom to kids and parents of kids who are going through this?  Did you find anything that helped you cope with the overwhelming emotions of being in a classroom 8 hours a day? (ASIDE – for those who don’t know being an empath means you may FEEL other people’s emotions, physical sensations or mental experiences as if they are your own. For a wonderful article on empaths please visit my friend Anna Conlan of “Psychic But Sane‘s”post, “Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life?“.) [...]

  11. [...] Is Overactive Empathy Ruining Your Life? How to Turn off Overactive Empathy Three Quick Ways to Get Control of Overactive Empathy Learn who you are as well, so you will start setting up energetic barriers toward energies that are not great for your soul. __________________ Rediscover what unconditional love truly is. Negative rep me please. [...]

  12. [...] first thing that came to me is you are empathetic. Further information regarding empathy First thing first is you will have to set up some energetic boundaries. This means getting to [...]