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OK, can we discuss this, please?

I was wondering what you all think are the most common causes of hyper empathy syndrome. What causes someone to have extra sensitive empathy, and what causes someone to have that interfere with their life so much that it becomes unbearable and a mental illness? 

It's not hard to read about some of the pain that empaths can experience, but I even read that some people with hyper empathy syndrome become detached, antagonistic and even psychotic. I was wondering what was behind that, and how, when you have super empathy, you can use it for good without going crazy.

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I find this highly fascinating so I've read up, but I'm no expert. 

I think hyper empathy syndrome can be caused by brain injuries, different brain chemistry in general, trauma, and some mental disorders like anxiety. Generally, these are the people who will describe themselves as having hyper empathy syndrome. I'll note that as far as different brain chemistry goes, quite a lot of people on the autism spectrum describe themselves as empaths. 

As for hope to cope with an overdose of empathy, learning techniques that guard you from the emotions of other people may be helpful in managing hyper empathy disorder. 

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I don't know about hyper empathy syndrome, but generally speaking, I think people can be:

  • Born more or less empathetic than others (ie: part of it is just our "wiring")
  • Changed by circumstances, like someone who's never experienced hardship before may be more empathetic after going through a difficult patch
  • Changed by physical things going on in their brain

I am sure you have heard of people whose personalities have changed after an accident, for example, or who are different after a bout of depression. 

What you say about psychosis and detachment sounds like something that doesn't have much to do with empathy. I'm confused there. 

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I always find it very difficult to know when to take time for myself and then I have the feeling I let people down. And I also feel, always, that I need to be empathic with people but sometimes it gets a bit much for me. And therefore I try to wiggle out of obligations or meeting people. And then I just tell them I am sorry I am really busy or I need some time for myself or I have already got other plans, even if it that is not true because I don't want to hurt anyone's feeling. I really suffer from the input if other people's emotions and I can't deal with it all the time. 

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What causes people to have more empathy than others? I guess some people are just made that way or it could be something in their childhood as well. I don't think I really believe in hyper empathy syndrome, but I do believe that some people are more empathetic than others and that you can suffer if you get too emotionally involved. I guess sometimes it's a good thing to take a little distance if such a situation occurs. Just stay away from other people for a while and then you can start afresh. Take some time for yourself. Everyone needs that. 

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Really? Hyper empathy syndrome is related to psychosis? 

I find that very difficult to comprehend. 

But I do realize it can be very difficult to deal with, as it can't be nice to be lumbered with negative or painful emotions all the time. You might get really fed up with it and wish you could block it all out. I thought that psychosis was a neurological imbalance, maybe even related to drugs or a chemical imbalance. You can't become psychotic from overexposure to other people or their emotions, or at least that is what I thought. 

But I haven't really looked into it so it is possible I am completely wrong. 

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So, I wanted to say that mine started with grief. I'm not sure if grief is the cause of my hyper empathy syndrome (if I've really got that) but it was definitely the trigger, that and this big family fall out that also happened when my gran was dying and that's still ongoing as we speak... Going deeper into that, it was as if old wounds were opened and now I'm a different person, a person who absorbs emotions. I don't know if that's common but I wanted to mention it as one possible cause of hyper empathy syndrome, in case someone recognises themselves in that..;

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I don't think nearly enough is known about hyper empathy syndrome to make conclusions about its causes yet. What I can say is that when you head over to Google Scholar, where you can find many peer reviewed studies, and search for "hyper empathy", two things of interest come up. Those are one case of hyper empathy syndrome after amygdalohippocampectomy (brain surgery, in this case for epilepsy, where part of the brain responsible for emotions was removed), and borderline personality disorder. 

I am sure there are other causes, but for now, these are the scientifically supported causes of hyper empathy syndrome.

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Thanks for the replies!

So, possible causes of hyper empathy syndrome: inherent nature, brain injury or surgery, borderline personality, grief, and anxiety and depression too I think. 

I'm wondering what it would actually be like to have hyper empathy syndrome. Like I said, I've been reading what people who think they have it say, and I can understand cognitively, but it's so hard to imagine what it would be like. A lot of people describe sharing the feelings of others, and not being able to escape them. Part of me is wondering whether those people are actually sharing the feelings of others, or whether they sometimes misinterpret what people are feeling. 

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I knew I had this from birth, well I got dropped on my head at 6 weeks old, so it could be this as my family are cold and emotionless, borderline Psychopaths.

My earliest memory is at 3 years old, my older brother threw a snail at me and I didn't catch it. I cried so hard for hours, even now it hurts to think about it. I talked to all animals, even if they were dangerous, we were friends. I found people harder to be around because I felt constantly punched with emotions. This has got worse.

I lost my dad at 7, raped at 12 and tried taking my own life at 14. When puberty hit, I cried hard every night, my heart hurt, I blamed it all on my dads death. At 16 I decided never to cry again, I needed to close off my empathy to survive but now I don't even feel attached properly to my own child. I desperately protect her but if she is with her dad I don't feel I miss her and sometimes even wish I was dead than be a disappointment to her.

Thankfully as an adult, my feelings of empathy, although lead to extreme behaviour, also means I can put myself in anyones shoes and will always kind in my heart, even if I can't feel love or trust.
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Sweetheart, I cant help but cry for what you have and are experiencing. I myself also cannot escape the emotions of others, feel them viserally and sometimes cant separate them from my own. I know what you mean about hyper empathy giving you a kind heart. It makes me an incredible caregiver, friend etc. but I can burn out quick, so alone time and time in nature are are a necessity to prevent shutting down. I wanted to reach out because you described severe trauma and I hope to encourage you to seek help in healing. My sister is a trauma therapist and has explained how these experiences can affect our sensory system and attachment and how a technique called EMDR, can help process and heal the trauma. Because it works with the body's reaction to trauma and not just the thoughts, I thought you may want to check it out. Wishing you light and love.
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My worst hyper empathy is with things that are helpless like animals and children. A package of sliced ham and my mind has me imagining I'm a hog on a CAFO Farm. I can't breathe for the smell and the ammonia in the air. I'm sure it's all they know but in my mind I'm helpless and hopeless and I know how horrible it is. I can't stop my mind from imagining all of it in detail as if it were me actually being there. I feel it mentally and physically. it's much worse when I'm seeing something right in front of me but thankfully this doesn't happen nearly as often as thoughts that are triggered by something else. I'm a bit of a scaredy cat and I hate confrontation so I like the fact that if I see something that needs my help I am forced to find a way to help it. But the things that I cannot help torture me over and over. is this hyper empathy or is this another psychosis?
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I have something like this. It causes problems for me in society most with animals, not, I think, because I empathize with animals more but because violence against them is so much more acceptable in our society and I come accross it all the time. I have never told anyone the extent of this but it causes a lot of psychological distress and I'm thinking of seeing help. Mainly, though, I think that trying to help those in pain is important because this is real, whether I am nuerotypical or not.
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