This is going to get personal. Kind replies only, please.
I've struggled with depression and anxiety since before I knew what they were called, and I've recently started realizing... well perhaps I always knew, but I came across some info that gave me an idea of what it might be. It might sound silly to some, but like I said, please be kind. I have always had super empathy. Like I remember crying for days over seeing a dead pigeon hit by a car as a kid. Whenever anyone is hurting, I just spiral into their hurt with them and sometimes even more than they are hurt themselves, perhaps. I think this could be the real cause of my depression and my anxiety, but I didn't know before I read about something called hyper empathy syndrome.
Long story short, I think this is what I might have. I wanted a take from someone else though, and hopefully actually a doctor because I know doctors sometimes answer questions on this site. But anyone else who thinks they're in the same boat is also welcome. I want to know what the signs and symptoms of hyper empathy syndrome are and what is involved in diagnosing hyper empathy syndrome. If I am diagnosed with this, is there treatment that will also help my depression and anxiety?
I recognize some of what you're saying. I kind of used to see myself as a sponge. As soon as it touches water, or in this case emotions, it soaks them right up and becomes heavy with a foreign weight, with something that wasn't originally part of it. Except sponges are continuously squeezed out and left to dry to start over again, and for me, I carry other people's feelings around much longer sometimes. I thought of myself as an empath, or someone with hyper empathy syndrome, too, but then I realized that I sometimes felt much more strongly than the people whose emotions I thought I was absorbing. At that point, it's not empathy anymore. It's something else. In my case, depression.
I would definitely encourage you to talk to a therapist and see about antidepressants as well if you aren't already on them. This has helped me a lot. I still get these feelings, but they are much more manageable.
Can I join in this discussion?
I've read about hyper empathy syndrome before, and I really thought of it as a scientific curiosity and something that hasn't even really been proven yet. I definitely know that some people feel more empathy than others and that they can feel empathy to the point where it becomes personally painful for them though. My mother is such a person.
Seeing hyper empathy syndrome discussed in the context of anxiety and depression makes a lot of sense, actually. Maybe your survival instincts are up more, you're hyper aware of your surroundings, and empathy comes with that?
If that is true, it would seem that treating the underlying cause might be the ticket.
Thanks for starting this discussion. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to someone who feels the same as I do even if they haven't figured all the answers out yet... we can at least empathise with each other. :) For me, all this really started recently, as my gran was dying. Her death, and before that her decline and dying process, really brought to light family... secrets, rivalries, arguments... that had been going on for decades in some cases. Some really ugly stuff came out and I was around a lot of family drama plus the grief surrounding losing my gran. It was like a switch was triggered and I'm now severely oversensitive to any kind of emotions coming from anyone. When someone feels something, I do too. I can pluck the atmosphere right out of the room. It's driving me crazy.
Thanks, I'm happy to hear from someone who knows what I am talking about too (OP here :)). I'm so sorry for your loss.
I'm already in therapy for my anxiety but I've never spoken about hyper empathy before because I wasn't aware that I was abnormal in that area or that there was even a word for this kind of thing. I am definitely going to do that during the next session though. I was thinking of printing up some articles I read, though there isn't a lot, and seeing what my therapist says. It's important for me to start addressing this now because it is interfering with my life.
Well, I sometimes think I'm impaired in that area — I feel empathy, believe me, but I sometimes have trouble knowing how to express it well, and I can be verbally awkward when it comes to feelings. You seem vulnerable in your post, and I just wanted to say that because I'm not meaning to be unkind.
Anyway, here goes. If you start out with the premise that some people are naturally hyper empathetic, which isn't a strange premise at all, and you then add anxiety and depression to the mix, it appears you actually end up with a "what's first, the chicken or the egg?" type question.
People carry a lot of pain. A lot of happiness too, but the pain stands out, doesn't it? If you're naturally prone to experiencing all that pain with all the people you encounter, it seems logical that your mental health would suffer as well. In the meantime, it's also quite logical that people who are suffering from anxiety are more attuned to their environments. They are worried and on guard, so they pay more attention to how other people might be feeling.
Do you see what I am getting at? Perhaps hyper empathy is a symptom of anxiety, but the reverse could just as easily be true.
I'm not a psychologist, but I'd be wanting to talk to one if I were you.
I did want to add something else, as well. Regardless of where your hyper empathy comes from, you may feel better if you take some steps to guard yourself.
- Learn about patterns of behavior abusive people, especially potential partners, use to draw on your overactive empathy to use you.
- Learn to meditate so you have a space in your mind that is only for you.
- Learn that feeling people's feelings doesn't necessarily mean that you can fix their problems, nor that you should always try.
- Learn to extend that empathy to yourself as well as to others. You matter too.
Exactly, that is what I need help with. Thanks for understanding. There is so much pain around and feeling it all is hard. Meditation appeals to me as something that could create an island of peace and quiet. I've never done meditation before, have you? Can you suggest some form of meditation perhaps?
About not fixing people's problems, I struggle with that too. I know that some people find it annoying sometimes, that I can be too involved, even when it isn't welcome, and I need to learn to deal with that better. The opposite also happens, that people suck onto me and drain me. My last relationship was not healthy but I was in it for longer than I should because I felt guilty about leaving him.
Hi, I am sorry you are going through this and this has been a part of your life for so long. Empathy DEFINITELY exists on a spectrum and I feel that the hyper empathy part of the spectrum isn't discussed nearly enough. Not enough empathy is clearly a problem for society, but too much? I think most people aren't aware that there's such a thing. Hyper empathy syndrome can't officially be diagnosed, but that doesn't mean it does not exist, and it can definitely be part of other mental health issues you struggle with. Don't be afraid to bring your hyper empathy up in therapy, just ask your therapist what they know about it and how you can cope. Good luck!
I am someone who has spent a great deal of my life questioning if I had hyperempathy sundrome and I really resonate with your wanting to deal with it before it affects your life. I spoke with a therapist about it and realized the effect it had already had on me through life. I was reactively dulling all feelings due to the crushing nature of feeling everyone's suffering and as a result was disassociated from my own emotions to the point of not feeling things myself when alone. This caused me a lot of stress as I was depressed and couldn't shake it until being around people who were happy and then was able to feel their happiness.
Now I'm still unsure if I really have hyperempathy syndrome or if I suffer from something in which I don't actually feel things at all but rather spend my time just reciprocating feelings at people out of practice and training over the years. This scared me because it made me question if the love I felt for my family and loved ones were just reciprocal or feeding back.
Having a lot of empathy is extremely difficult and no matter what find someone you can talk to about it. You can also check out the mind in the eye test which can be taken online and is basically one way to measure empathy.
Good luck OP!