15 Ways Over-Empathy Can Leave You Feeling Emotionally Wiped Out

Being empathetic is a good thing because it means you’re compassionate towards others and mindful of their feelings. But, if you’re too empathetic, this could cause some problems. You can’t handle or sort through everyone’s feelings all the time—it’s unrealistic and draining. Here are 15 ways over-empathy can leave you feeling completely wiped out.

1. You’re overwhelmed.

Other people’s emotions, especially their pain, can be overwhelming, causing you a lot of stress and anxiety. This can threaten to get in the way of your day and make you feel helpless. They’re just too much for you to take on all the time.

2. You feel numb.

You can only take so much before you shut down to protect yourself. If you’re feeling numb to everyone’s emotions, it could be that you’re not physically drained but emotionally drained. You simply don’t have the emotional capacity to show more care to others.

3. You’re struggling to sleep.

Restless man waking up early with headache after rough night

If you’re swarmed with other people’s dramas, this can make it difficult for you to clear your mind before bedtime. You might toss and turn, thinking about their issues and problems. You wake up feeling tired and it’s hard to get through your day.

4. You can’t concentrate on anything.

You’ve given so much of your mental and emotional energy to other people that you don’t have any for yourself. This could cause you to struggle to concentrate on your work and relationships. You just don’t have enough energy to get through the day.

5. You have zero energy.

Giving too much of your compassion to others could make you physically tired. You might feel like you’re walking around in a fog because of fatigue. Over time, repeated exposure to distressing situations depletes your emotional reserves, causing feelings of exhaustion and, worse, burnout.

6. You’re irritable.

When you’re around people, you become irritable and short-tempered. This is a natural response to giving too much of yourself to others. You might feel like you can’t handle one more request or one more person’s drama. Enough!

7. You self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

To help you cope (or get the energy you’re not getting from sleep), you might turn to alcohol or drugs. This might seem to help you in the short term, but it’ll just dump more problems into your life that you don’t need. Turning to substances can intensify your bad moods and negative emotions.

8. You can’t feel good about your own life.

If you never feel happy about your own life because you’re letting other people’s pain affect you too much, you could feel drained and perhaps even hopeless. You’re looking at everything from behind the lens of other people’s negative experiences and it’s making the world look bleak.

9. You’re becoming depressed.

sad guy

If you’re always suffering along with others, this can negatively affect your mood. Over time, being dumped with sadness could lead to you feeling depressed. This is especially the case if you don’t have healthy outlets for your negative emotions or you can’t distract yourself from other people’s emotions.

10. You’re burning out so you can’t help others.

You might feel like you’re burning out emotionally, which can cause you to experience what’s known as empathic distress. This is when you withdraw from others because you’re too stressed. By comparison, when you’re compassionate in a healthy way, you’ll have positive feelings towards other people and this makes you want to assist them.

11. You’re getting sick on the regular.

If you’re so wired to being empathetic, you might feel like your body’s taking on too much and it’s trying to tell you in the form of discomfort and pain. You might experience other symptoms, such as nausea, stomach aches, or headaches. These come from strong emotional and stressful reactions to situations.

12. You neglect your own problems.

Being too empathetic can cause you to take on everyone else’s problems in such an extreme way that you don’t have the time for your own issues. You might be doing this to distract yourself from what needs fixing in your life, but it can lead to more stress.

13. You’re becoming a human doormat.

You care about other people and want to help them. That’s good and all, but you might be extending yourself too much to bail them out of problems. Over time, this impulse could turn you into a human doormat, especially if the person tries to take advantage of your empathy.

14. You’re feeling responsible for others’ feelings.

If you’re always trying to help others and taking on their emotions, you might end up feeling responsible for their feelings. It’s a sign that you lack boundaries. You might think that you have to keep everyone around you happy and upbeat, but that’s not always possible.

15. You’re feeling anxious all the time.

Anxiety can crop up during bouts of over-empathy for various reasons. For example, you might feel anxious because you’re so drained, or you might get anxiety from your line of work. You’re probably on high alert when it comes to noticing people’s stress—even just spotting it, without engaging, can cause anxiety.

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Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.