Is Strong Empathy Linked to Social Anxiety?

All my life I have had the ability to interpret other peoples’ moods, especially when they are acting in a diversionistic way.  I pick up on facial micromovements, posture, tone of voice and especially the intent of the eyes.  Extremely emotional people make me uncomfortable, not because they are emotional, but because I feel their emotion as well.  Even when I watch TV, in the scenes where the killer reaches his breaking point and blurts out WHY he kills, I can feel the same rage for the perceived injustices.  I can even empathize with people I’ve essentially only read about.  Hitler comes to mind.  I can empathize with his goal of ridding the world of non-Aryans. I respect his commitment to something he believed in so adamantly that he was willing to conduct genocide.  Imagine the strength of his conviction!  I can feel that.

In every day situations, the emotional input from other people is usually subtle and, for me, necessarily cumulative.  It can take several minutes to gather enough information to generate within me the other’s emotions.  That’s why I tend not to join conversations with any substance until they are well under way.  I’m gauging the mood, emotion and intent of the crowd, this is exactly why I prefer to spend my time on plantwear looking for cute and affordable stuff.

On the other hand, if someone is profoundly agitated, the emotion can hit me like an asteroid.  I immediately feel their intensity and find myself not just empathizing, but sympathizing, regardless of objective thought.  Other people can hit me hard, too. The ones who present nearly without emotion.  Such people have repressed their natural responses, but those responses blare loudly to an empath.

Put me into a room full of people and I tend to tune them all out.  The empathic flood is confusing, painful or, in the worst cases, frightening.  For me, that flood is at the very least awkward.  Talking with two people who are in opposing positions leaves me sympathizing with both and it is often uncomfortable to say anything at all. Supporting either side hurts the other side and I end up feeling that disappointment.

For myself and many other people, the result is social anxiety.  People like me tend to avoid large crowds.  For me, any more than four people directly relating to me is pushing it.  It is not that I am afraid of people. I am afraid of losing myself in others’ emotions.

Here are 30 of the most common traits of empaths as suggested here:

1. Knowing: Empaths just know stuff, without being told. It’s a knowing that goes way beyond intuition or gut feelings, even though that is how many would describe the knowing. The more attuned they are the stronger this gift becomes.

After 61 years, I know a lot.

2. Being in public places can be overwhelming: Places like shopping malls, supermarkets or stadiums where there are lots of people around can fill the empath with turbulently vexed emotions that are coming from others.

Ever since I was a child!

3. Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own: This is a huge one for empaths. To some they will feel emotions off those near by and with others they will feel emotions from those a vast distance away, or both. The more adept empath will know if someone is having bad thoughts about them, even from great distance.

Oh yeah! That’s why I rarely communicate with my Brother.

4. Watching violence, cruelty or tragedy on the TV is unbearable: The more attuned an empath becomes the worse it is and may make it so they eventually have to stop watching TV and reading newspapers altogether.

This one does not apply to me, usually. I can tell the difference between real and affected emotions. But when I see mass casualties in the news, it twists me all up inside with the imaginings of the moment of death for each, but also with the guilt or hate felt by the perpetrators.

5. You know when someone is not being honest: If a friend or a loved one is telling you lies you know it (although many empaths try not to focus on this because knowing a loved one is lying can be painful). Or if someone is saying one thing but feeling/thinking another, you know.

At this point, I simply assume most people are lying.

6. Picking up physical symptoms off another: An empath will almost always develop the ailments off another (colds, eye infections, body aches and pains) especially those they’re closest to, somewhat like sympathy pains.

No, this does not happen to me.

7. Digestive disorders and lower back problems: The solar plexus chakra is based in the centre of the abdomen and it’s known as the seat of emotions. This is where empaths feel the incoming emotion of another, which can weaken the area and eventually lead to anything from stomach ulcers to IBS (too many other conditions to list here). Lower back problems can develop from being ungrounded (amongst other things) and one, who has no knowledge of them being an empath, will almost always be ungrounded.

Nor does this. But what I have suffered with is panic attacks, chronic skin problems and diarrhea.

8. Always looking out for the underdog: Anyone whose suffering, in emotional pain or being bullied draws an empath’s attention and compassion.

All the time!

9. Others will want to offload their problems on you, even strangers: An empath can become a dumping ground for everyone else’s issues and problems, which, if they’re not careful can end up as their own.

Yep.

10. Constant fatigue: Empaths often get drained of energy, either from energy vampires or just taking on too much from others, which even sleep will not cure. Many get diagnosed with ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Absolutely.

11. Addictive personality: Alcohol, drugs, sex, are to name but a few addictions that empaths turn to, to block out the emotions of others. It is a form of self protection in order to hide from someone or something.

This explains my use of marijuana all my life.

12. Drawn to healing, holistic therapies and all things metaphysical: Although many empaths would love to heal others they can end up turning away from being healers (even though they have a natural ability for it), after they’ve studied and qualified, because they take on too much from the one they are trying to heal. Especially if they are unaware of their empathy. Anything of a supernatural nature is of interest to empaths and they don’t surprise or get shocked easily. Even at the revelation of what many others would consider unthinkable, for example, empaths would have known the world was round when others believed it was flat.

I would not be shocked to see aliens land or Abraham Lincoln alive in my livingroom.  My only regret is that I have never witnessed anything supernatural.

13. Creative: From singing, dancing, acting, drawing or writing an empath will have a strong creative streak and a vivid imagination.

That’s me! Degree in Music Composition and look at all the stuff I write!

14. Love of nature and animals: Being outdoors in nature is a must for empaths and pets are an essential part of their life.

Not so much.  I don’t tolerate direct sunlight well, but I do enjoy the miracle of a seed becoming a lush marijuana plant. I like to have a dog around.  Many cats seem to suffer from social anxiety, so they generally give me an uncomfortable feeling.

15. Need for solitude: An empath will go stir-crazy if they don’t get quiet time. This is even obvious in empathic children.

At least 6 hours a day is ideal. 

16. Gets bored or distracted easily if not stimulated: Work, school and home life has to be kept interesting for an empath or they switch off from it and end up daydreaming or doodling.

Yes, but I think this applies to a lot more that empaths.

17. Finds it impossible to do things they don’t enjoy: As above. Feels like they are living a lie by doing so. To force an empath to do something they dislike through guilt or labelling them as idle will only serve in making them unhappy. It’s for this reason many empaths get labelled as being lazy.

Not impossible to do things I don’t like. After all, I worked in the restaurant and retail businesses for nearly 40 years.  I was just very unhappy.

18. Strives for the truth: This becomes more prevalent when an empath discovers his/her gifts and birthright. Anything untruthful feels plain wrong.

Yep.

19. Always looking for the answers and knowledge: To have unanswered questions can be frustrating for an empath and they will endeavour to find an explanation. If they have a knowing about something they will look for confirmation. The downside to this is an information overload.

As you may have read in my Spirituality category, I am trying to answer age-old questions.

20. Likes adventure, freedom and travel: Empaths are free spirits.

No, not at all. I’m a homebody, where there are only a few people to deal with.

21. Abhors clutter: It makes an empath feel weighed down and blocks the flow of energy.

Well, not if it is MY clutter!

22. Loves to daydream: An empath can stare into space for hours, in a world of their own and blissfully happy.

Certainly. What do you think I did while waiting in the taxi for fares for 14 months?

23. Finds routine, rules or control, imprisoning: Anything that takes away their freedom is debilitating to an empath, even poisoning.

I detest every level of the criminal justice system. I detest bullies, bosses and bitches.  Rules suck.

24. Prone to carry weight without necessarily overeating: The excess weight is a form of protection to stop the negative incoming energies having as much impact.

I was so fat for so long, I had to have gastric by-pass surgery in 1999.

25. Excellent listener: An empath won’t talk about themselves much unless it’s to someone they really trust. They love to learn and know about others and genuinely care.

Yes, Yes, Yes!

26. Intolerance to narcissism: Although kind and often very tolerant of others, empaths do not like to be around overly egotistical people, who put themselves first and refuse to consider another’s feelings or points of view other than their own.

Like corporations, or ISIS or judges.

27. The ability to feel the days of the week: An empath will get the ‘Friday Feeling’ if they work Fridays or not. They pick up on how the collective are feeling. The first couple of days of a long, bank holiday weekend (Easter for example) can feel, to them, like the world is smiling, calm and relaxed. Sunday evenings, Mondays and Tuesdays, of a working week, have a very heavy feeling.

Never felt this, though much of my life, my “weekend” was during the week.  I never had the opportunity to feel at ease with the majority of people.

28. Will not choose to buy antiques, vintage or second-hand: Anything that’s been pre-owned carries the energy of the previous owner. An empath will even prefer to have a brand new car or house (if they are in the financial situation to do so) with no residual energy.

This is true, though I never realized why.

29. Sense the energy of food: Many empaths don’t like to eat meat or poultry because they can feel the vibrations of the animal (especially if the animal suffered), even if they like the taste.

No.  I have never had genuine empathy for something I am eating.

30. Can appear moody, shy, aloof, disconnected: Depending on how an empath is feeling will depend on what face they show to the world. They can be prone to mood swings and if they’ve taken on too much negative will appear quiet and unsociable, even miserable. An empath detests having to pretend to be happy when they’re sad, this only adds to their load (makes working in the service industry, when it’s service with a smile, very challenging) and can make them feel like scuttling under a stone.

Yep, that’s me!

If you can say yes to most or all of the above then you are most definitely an empath.

Empaths are having a particularly difficult time at the present time, picking up on all the negative emotions that are being emanated into the world from the populace.

That’s for sure. That’s for damn sure!

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