The Benefits and Burden of Being an Empath

Self-ImprovementPsychology

  • Author Dr. Dawn Brown
  • Published May 4, 2022
  • Word count 1,618

In general, empathy is a very positive trait. We want to be understood by the people around us and receiving empathy lets us know we’re being listened to. Empathizing with another’s pain can bring comfort. It can make one a good, supportive friend.

However, this empathetic nature that many of us seek to possess does not always come easy. For the majority, empathy is something that has to be worked at. It can take some effort to be empathetic about situations that we view differently. We put in that effort to show empathy because we care about the other person, even though empathy itself can be difficult.

For empaths, however, experiencing empathy comes with no difficulty. They easily feel the emotions of others, which brings many benefits to their lives but which can also be a burden.

What Is an Empath?

Reading the emotions of others comes so intuitively to an empath that they do it without even meaning to. So highly attuned to the emotional energies around them, an empath doesn’t have to put any effort into being empathetic. Empathy is simply who they are.

Do You Know an Empath?

There’s no formal test to determine whether someone is an empath or not. It simply comes down to having this innate empathetic ability. This is why it can be difficult to determine whether someone you know is an empath- empathy isn’t easily quantified.

Although the determination must be made on subjective measures, empaths do exist within our social spheres. You may even be an empath yourself.

If you think you may be an empath, congratulations! There are a lot of great advantages to being an empath.

The Benefits of Being an Empath

Empaths possess an easily-accessible high level of empathy, which can be highly beneficial to those around them and even to themselves. This gives them access to greater emotional depth, a stronger sense of intuition, and the ability to offer more compassion and support to loved ones.

There are some drawbacks to life as an empath, but the benefits should certainly be celebrated.

Extremely Emotionally-Attuned

Emotions are often something to be celebrated. We can all remember a moment of powerful emotion sweeping us up and creating for us a lasting memory. Perhaps you can recall the nervous energy bouncing off you (and making you bounce a little too) after you did something you didn’t know you were capable of, the tears of joy that sprang out when you were reunited with a loved one you’d been missing for a long time, or the big smile that overtook you when an exciting gift took you by surprise.

These wonderful emotional responses don’t only come for experiences that we have ourselves though. Have you not jumped up with pride watching someone you care for find success? Do we not all cry at videos of soldiers reunited with their loved ones? Is there not happiness in someone else’s obvious joy?

Through empathy, the emotions of others can be our own. Empaths get to enjoy sharing others’ emotions much more often and even more deeply.

Intuitive Enough to Pick Up on the Smallest Details

It’s not just surface-level emotions that an empath can easily pick up on, though. Their empathic ability can make them more in tune to the smallest hints of a person’s true feelings and intentions.

Just as a certain tone of voice can key us off about anger in the air or the way one stands can imply interest, more subtle aspects of voice, body language, and facial expression can give an empath a great deal of information about the people with which they interact. So, while someone may try to hide their true feelings and put on a nice front, an empath can see past most deceptive guises.

Supportive Companion

The greatest positive of being an empath, however, lies in their ability to use their understanding of the emotions of others to provide support whenever it’s needed. Natural healers, empaths tend to fall into careers as therapists, or to simply be the one in a friend group to most often pick up the pieces, offer comfort, and supply the right advice. Empaths brighten the lives of those that know them. Having an empath in your immediate circle can add so much into your life, providing you with their healing energy and compassionate support.

For the empath, however, being the supportive companion can put a strain on their wellbeing and damper their enjoyment of life. Supporting others emotionally comes naturally to an empath. A strong sense of compassion often calls them to help whenever at all possible. But being the reliable one for every emotional crisis can also grow to be a burden as an empath.

The Burden of Being an Empath

One of the greatest struggles of being an empath is that you don’t just understand the emotions of others, but may actually share in bearing the burden of those emotions. When a friend is going through something particularly tough, the empath may feel obliged to offer support, but supporting the weight of such heavy emotions as anxiety, grief, and trauma can end up being too much on their shoulders.

Empaths are people vulnerable to their own precarious emotional changes, and taking on the emotions of others can sometimes be too great of a burden.

Dragged Down by the Emotions and Experiences of Others

Empaths can’t help feeling the emotions that are being felt around them. They connect to the emotional experiences of those around them without even meaning to, which can benefit them with insight and even the enjoyment of a shared positive feeling. When those near an empath are carrying a heavier load of more negative emotions, however, these may also be felt by the empath, and it is not such a pleasant experience.

It’s hard enough for any of us to contend with our own anger or sorrow, but an empath may have to process more of these emotions that aren’t even their own. It can easily become overwhelming to take on all of these difficult emotions all of the time.

Giving Away All Their Emotional Energy to Others

Yet many empaths will not hesitate to lend out a compassionate hand to any struggling with their emotions. It is also simply in their nature.

Unfortunately, when you are always the first to lend out a hand to someone in distress and can easily provide exactly what they need, you can quickly find this supportiveness pulling you too thin. Supporting others in this way demands a lot of one emotionally and there is only so much you can take on before needing a break. Empaths tend to take on too much and it ends up leaving no emotional energy for their own selves.

Giving more and more away, empaths often find themselves drained and depleted.

Always Drained and Depleted

Due to their natural tendency to empathize and lend a compassionate hand, empaths are often prone to “empathy fatigue.” This is when they are pushed to the limits of their abundant empathy and just can’t offer anything else to anyone. Yes, even for empaths, empathy can prove to be a limited resource. After giving so much of themselves, an empath may be left with nothing else to give, not even to their own selves.

This is a very dangerous point for anyone to reach. It is past the point of being overwhelmed, past the point where action should have been taken to protect the health of the empath.

How You Can Help the Empath in Your Life

Empaths have to find ways to ensure they are putting themselves first. If you are an empath, you must consider self-care. You can’t let your empathetic nature destroy your mental health. There are solutions to living as an empath while still protecting your own wellbeing.

Emphasize Saving Emotional Energy for One’s Self

Top priority to an empath’s mental wellbeing is saving some of their emotional energy for themself. While an empath may naturally want to help others, doing so may be detrimental to their mental health if it leads them to giving their whole self away.

This doesn’t mean that you, as an empath, can’t be supportive. It simply means that you must offer your empathy in ways that don’t sacrifice your health, keeping your limits in mind at all times.

Prioritize Better Boundaries

Putting your health first as an empath means respecting your limits. However difficult it may be, an empath’s mental health may depend on learning how to say “no,” on setting boundaries that they truly don’t allow to be crossed.

Saying “no” is not easy for many people, empaths included. It can feel terrible to let others down, especially when you can really feel the hurt that this causes for those you are turning down. Yet not respecting an empath’s limits by adhering to their boundaries hurts them. In the end, clear boundaries can help everyone to find a healthier balance.

Refuse to Sacrifice Health for Empathy

A healthier balance really doesn’t have to be achieved by ignoring the compassionate call that empathy brings you. It just requires that you refuse to sacrifice your health for this compassion.

Being an empath can make it more difficult for you to set the necessary boundaries that allow you to respect your own limits. Even empaths can achieve positive mental health, however, by recognizing that their feelings matter too. Prioritize yourself so that you can have the energy to go on and continue being there for the ones you care about.

Child, Adolescent, Adult and Sports Psychiatrist, Dr. Dawn Kamilah Brown (https://drdawnpsychmd.com/), is the Founder and CEO of Mental Healthletics™ a concierge practice and serves as the company’s Sports Psychiatrist. Dr. Dawn is also the Founder and CEO of the ADHD Wellness Center (https://adhdwellnesscenter.com/) and has two private practice locations in Texas, with a growing virtual presence.

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