While many people describe themselves as being empathetic, being an empath goes a step further. Having empathy typically means that your heart goes out to someone experiencing specific emotions; however, those who are empaths are highly sensitive people who absorb the feelings, energy, and stress of those around them. They feel other people’s emotions or physical symptoms and may be unable to filter it. Often misdiagnosed as a social anxiety disorder, empaths’ wiring can create neuronal hyperactivity, which is what causes them to absorb the energy of those around them.
There are some positive side effects of being an empath, such as the ability to form deeper connections with others and greater creativity, but it presents numerous challenges as well. Because empaths absorb the energy of those around them, they can be predisposed to higher rates of stress and become easily overwhelmed, exhausted, and overstimulated. The stress and anxiety they absorb from others can leave them predisposed to developing depression, anxiety, emotional burnout, and an increased risk for developing an addiction.
Traits of an Empath
Empaths are highly susceptible to developing addictions. Because they can become easily overwhelmed by absorbing other people’s energy, they may look for outlets through substances or behaviors. Binge eating, shopping sprees, and substance abuse are all behaviors that can lead to compulsive habits that eventually turn into addictions.
Being able to identify yourself as an empath can help you better understand your reactions to situations and prevent negative behaviors from developing. Some common traits of an empath include:
- Empaths are highly sensitive: Empaths are often told that they are too sensitive or that they need to “toughen up”. These types of people are great listeners, nurturers, and incredibly giving, but they can easily have their feelings hurt.
- They tend to absorb other people’s emotions: Empaths can absorb other people’s emotions, both good and bad. They tend to feel these emotions in extremes. When feeling anger or anxiety, they can easily feel exhausted or burned out. When surrounded by positivity, they can blossom and flourish.
- Empaths are usually introverted: Because of how they absorb other’s energy, big crowds can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with. Empaths tend to prefer smaller groups or one-on-one interactions. Even if they enjoy a social outing, they often limit the amount of time they spend in it to prevent feeling burned out.
- Alone time is critical: Empaths need alone time to recharge. Being around others can be draining making alone time important. It prevents an empath from feeling overwhelmed and gives them the space to clear their mind.
- Intimate relationships can be difficult: Empaths sometimes struggle in relationships because they fear they may lose their identity in it. They often require their relationships to discard traditional notions of how a relationship works and provide more space to avoid feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
- Empaths can be targets: Empaths sensitivity and energy can make them easy targets for more demanding personality types. Often referred to as “energy vampires”, their self-centered nature can cause them to drain an empath, making them feel empty or worthless. Energy vampires include those who are narcissistic or those who are typically involved in drama.
Coping Mechanisms for Empaths
Empaths can become easily overwhelmed with their surroundings and may seek an escape through the use of substances. Rather than allowing this to happen, it is important for an empath to develop methods of protecting their physical and mental health. This can be difficult at times because of an empath’s desire to help others, but it is in their best interest to avoid becoming incessantly overwhelmed.
Some ways an empath can protect themselves include:
- Set boundaries: It can be difficult to set boundaries when you feel obliged to help others through their pain, but it is important in order to protect your own well-being. If someone is draining you, it is important to limit your interactions and conversations with them. Learning to say “no” is vital. You are not required to have a reason why and “no” is a complete sentence. Protecting your energy before you are completely drained is vital in preventing feeling completely worn out.
- Create distance: If some people regularly make you feel drained, limiting your contact can help. Physical distance can help prevent feeling overwhelmed, but if you cannot do that, creating imagined distance can also help too. This may include visualizing separating yourself from a person’s negative emotions. This allows your mind to leave a toxic situation even if you are physically still present.
- Allow for alone time: Empaths need alone time to recharge. If you are constantly inundated with other people’s experiences, you may end up depleted and unable to recover. Spending time alone can help you reconnect with your inner self. It is important to reduce external influences and stimuli from other sources. Meditating, immersing yourself in water, or practicing breathing exercises can all help you realign yourself.
- Go into nature: Empaths benefit from spending time in nature. Being in a fresh, open, clean environment can help you physically and metaphorically feel as though you are shedding the weight of other people’s troubles from you. Experiencing these sensations in nature can help you recharge and find a sense of inner peace.
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