Can You Have Too Much Empathy?

Believe it or not, the answer is “Yes”! But it really shouldn’t be too surprising, since people with high empathy are also highly sensitive, and since they feel everything so keenly, sometimes the negative emotions surrounding them can drag them into a depressive state.

A friend who reads this blog sent me this article, thinking it could possibly explain the depressive state I’ve been in. While I’m not sure that’s the reason I’ve been so down, it’s still an interesting article and should bring some clarity to HSPs and empaths who are feeling inexplicably depressed. If you are an HSP or an empath, think about whether you’ve been exposed to negative people or people who are going through bad experiences or suffering depression. You might have picked up on the emotions of others.

Empathy is a wonderful trait to have but having too much of it can hurt its bearer. At some point, you can even suffer from “empathy burnout,” which basically means you shut off your ability to feel empathy after you’ve been drained emotionally by giving too much of yourself to others. Empathy burnout is common in people in the helping professions, many who are naturally empathetic. After a few years, they may find themselves no longer able to empathize with the people they help, and even beginning to resent them. That’s why there’s so much attrition in these professions.

I think practicing mindfulness is a good skill, not only for people with C-PTSD and personality disorders, but also for empaths and HSPs who may have too much of a good thing!

Here is the article she sent me. It also explains the differences between empathy and sympathy.  (They are not the same thing!)  Sympathy is more detached and cognitive; even narcissists can feel sympathy, though they might have a limited capacity to feel emotional empathy.


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