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The Anxious Empath: Anxiety and Other People's Feelings

February 10, 2016 Whitney Hawkins

Are you an anxious empath? Learn why so many empaths are anxious and what to do about empathy, anxiety and internalizing other people's feelings. Read this.

Empaths are often anxious. Empathy is described as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. All humans have the ability to empathize in moments of tragedy, even if they have not experienced a similar situation. However, empathy is an innate trait that is more acutely developed in certain members of the population (Intense Anxiety And The Highly Sensitive Person). Empaths are individuals who are unconsciously affected by other people’s moods, desires, thoughts, and energies. They can, literally, feel the emotions of others in their bodies and attempt to carry these emotions on their shoulders without ever being asked. It's for this reason that there are often anxious empaths.

The Trouble with Being an Anxious Empath

It sounds good in theory; empaths are caring, understanding, and great listeners. But they are often focused outward on others’ feelings, rather than on themselves. As an empath, you may struggle to comprehend suffering in the world and dream about fixing all of the world’s problems.

Quite a large task, right?

Being this in tune with others seems like a gift, but empaths are saddled with the burden of their own emotions as well as that of those around them. They feel a pull towards fixing, meddling, and emotional understanding; a call that often cannot be ignored.

The Empath's Anxiety

Empaths are scientifically proven to be more susceptible to anxiety, social anxiety, and depression. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatry indicates that:

Individuals with social phobia (SP) show sensitivity and attentiveness to other people’s states of mind.

Meaning that individuals who suffer from social anxiety may also be extremely empathetic and susceptible to the feelings of others. This study concludes that:

. . . socially anxious individuals may demonstrate a unique social-cognitive abilities profile with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies and high accuracy in affective mental state attributions.

This hypersensitivity to emotions also causes empaths to become ill and suffer from stress, experience burnout in the workplace, and suffer from physical pain more often than others (Are You Too Sensitive? Try These Tips).

Life As an Empath

Are you an anxious empath? Learn why so many empaths are anxious and what to do about empathy, anxiety and internalizing other people's feelings. Read this.

Empaths are often described as sensitive. They cry during movies, commercials, weddings, and funerals; I know these feelings all too well. I have attended parties where someone isn’t having a good time or the hostess was feeling overwhelmed, these minute situations have inhibited me from enjoying myself until all crises have been remedied and everyone is enjoying themselves. Empaths are extremely in tune with everyone's emotions, but, sometimes, empathy becomes a burden too big for the anxious to carry. It is so important to learn how to adequately manage your feelings of empathy in order to prevent compassion fatigue and other symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Managing Your Anxiety and Empathy

1. Know Your Emotional Limits

Empaths are intuitive healers and people are often drawn to them for this reason. This makes setting functional boundaries so important. Learn the limits of your abilities; you cannot carry the world on your shoulders and that is okay.

2. Recognize New Feelings

Take note of the way different people make you feel -- this is meaningful. Are you nervous? Do you feel deep sadness? Learning how the feelings of others manifest in your body will allow you to better manage the multitude of emotions you may experience around other individuals (The Importance of Emotional Regulation in PTSD Recovery).

3. Find an Outlet

Empaths normally push their feelings aside in an attempt to help others. Emotions always find a way out in the body. Make it a point to develop a routine or habit that you enjoy and one that helps you express yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup (Why Self-Care is Important for Your Physical and Mental Health).

4. Use Grounding Techniques

Whenever emotions become too strong, look around the room to ground yourself. Find an object, not a person, to study and focus on. Being aware of its features can ground you in the moment and bring your outside of the intense feelings happening in your body (Top 21 Anxiety Grounding Techniques).

Make Empathy A Gift By Managing Anxiety

Being an extremely empathetic individual, especially an anxious empath, can often feel like a burden. You may feel as if your nerves are literally on fire when you walk into new situations or when you watch the news. Your anxiety may even trick you into thinking you have to fix the entire world (Anxiety Affects Our Perspective). This can cause symptoms like fatigue and digestive disorders, or the many other symptoms empaths face.

Find Whitney on Facebook, as DontTellMeToChill on Instagram, on Twitter, on Google+ and on her website.

APA Reference
Hawkins, W. (2016, February 10). The Anxious Empath: Anxiety and Other People's Feelings, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2016/02/the-anxious-empath



Author: Whitney Hawkins

Becky
says:
June, 11 2019 at 11:36 am
Oh my! Here we are more than 3 years later and this entry is hard-hitting for those of us who find it. I have bookmarked it! Thank you! I am currently going through a rough episode of tragedies among people who are close to me. As any close friend would do, I jumped into listening and caring mode with little effort. But it is the AFTERMATH that is killing me. I feel like I've been a ROCKET who successfully launched and shot up into the sky with great glory and effectiveness. And then -- POOF! The rocket has busted apart. It's broken up into pieces. And those pieces have plunged to the earth again and litter-of-my-life is strewn EVERYWHERE. It is SO STRANGE. And I take great comfort in assigning this attitude and aftermath as "pathological." Yes: I am an Empath. And there should be a 12-step-group for us, too. But the fascination is how I simply do NOT identify with those individuals who almost take on a martyr-like mojo as they "perform" the common and beloved traits of a good friend who is willing to share in your distress! Seriously? Profoundly? I am typically a quiet warrior who is only intense with the key individual who is suffering a cataclysmic loss, tragedy, disappointment; e.g., death, death of a marriage, loss of a job, et. al. So... I want to thank all of the commenters here...because whereas the article's terrific --- your comments are even better for me. As with any sort of confusion or suffering, it means IMMENSELY to me...knowing that I am not alone in grappling with this STRANGE condition of being an "Anxious Empath." I must learn to say NO. I must recall these feelings of hopelessness and sadness in the aftermath. I must cherish my good efforts to create and live a life that is sheltered, firm, strong. And come to terms that I simply cannot give away pieces of myself. I cannot be a "rocket" for someone. I must stay "grounded" here on earth. The dilemma: WHO will believe me; i.e., that I am an "Anxious Empath?" Thank you again, Everyone. (heart)
T
says:
June, 17 2019 at 5:57 pm
When I read your comment, I felt like I wrote it... down to how you put EMPHASIS on words and using “...”. Weird! :)

Anyway, I feel a lot like this, but it’s getting worse and worse. In some way, it distracts me from feeling sad about my own issues, even though I know others’ issues will become mine anyway. Cycles, man!

I came here to make myself feel better, in knowing others are also going through this. I’m not saying I love that someone is suffering because of this, but I feel less... crazy? This was the first comment I read, but I’m going down the line. Hearts, to you!


Amynonamous
says:
May, 19 2019 at 4:28 am
I have been reading comments after reading article and have to agree with some that this is a sickness in a way or even a disability it feels like a curse. When I was younger instead of playing sometimes I would watch the Sally Struthers shows for hungry children and cry and cry for hours wondering and worried about every single life on the planet (all at once it sometimes felt like) who is hungry or unloved or worse. I can tell what people are feeling on the other end of the spectrum the ones causing others pain even sometimes its like they know for a split second that I know and they do not like it. Being this way has made me forget about myself all throughout my life. I see that being this way makes me a narcissist magnet. I grew up being the daughter of a narcisstic mother that took advantage of this, eventually destroying my life by labeling me crazy after I left an abusive husband she even stole my 3 children and sided with my ex husband. Helped him get everything. I gave up on trying to understand how she could do such a thing to me as it was killing me. Now and in the recent past I cry for me. I gave myself that much. I have read articles on "star children" lately which seems to be relative to this as well as Sheumann's Resonance.....maybe. Thank you for your time writing this article and a place to vent. It is relieving.
Weed for Warriors Exchange
says:
February, 1 2019 at 5:41 pm
I am posting under the account of my Weed for Warriors Exchange (WWE) initiative, but I am a Desert Storm vet diagnosed with OCD, PTSD and secondary disorders for which I am now seeking an early retirement because the environment has become unbearable and toxic to me. I am in my 50's and managed this long, but don't feel I can continue, so I am hoping my VA rating and all other considerations will allow me to find a new environment for my health needs.

I am not ashamed to say that I began using CBD oil hoping that it would help relieve some of my symptoms and side effects (and I believe it helps) only to find it is just as illegal as Cannabis itself in my state- even though I purchased it OTC in that state. It is these things in life these days that are causing me extreme anxiety- that make me want to use Cannabis! Anyway, I need to vent here because I've just discovered this concept of Empath's.

I am not into "new age" kind of things, but I am into physics and, particularly, quantum theory. It is not a stretch for me to grasp that our consciousness lives in the same sea that connects us all- or that some of us might be more in tune with that than others. I sometimes think people question my sanity simply because I understand this to be true because it has been proven- but also because i can FEEL IT. And these past few years, it has been trying to kill me. Let me explain please, but this isn't going to be a short read...

As a child, they said I was self-destructive, hyperactive, manipulative, and was "an accident waiting to happen." When I entered high school, I started using Cannabis because I found it made me feel better and was the only way I felt I could cope. I was condemned for it and labeled a pothead, so I joined the military to escape the constant ridicule.

During Desert Storm in 1991 I was under intense pressure- but the kind I thrived under and I was performing at the top of my game and I think I can even say at an extraordinary level for my rank given the responsibility I was given. I even discovered a new capability that was later developed into a multi-billion dollar technology. So when my command started going out of their way to ruin my career, I sent my life into a slow downward spiral I have not recovered from yet. My entire perspective of the world changed- and so did I. I lost interest in everything after the war.

When I returned to home base before everyone else, that night I recall feeling extremely lonely, disappointed and lost. I went from being a fun-loving person to a loner other than a few close friends and family. I became very serious minded and all business with a huge chip on my shoulder I couldn't shake. I've been there ever since.

It took many years, but I started getting treatment over 10 years later for what I thought was PTSD and it was several more years before a diagnosis was made. My doctor and a therapist he referred me to believed that I had "some form of OCD" that caused me to lock on like a laser to issues related to my work that I felt had to be fixed because they didn't work- or could be done better. It drove everyone nuts- and still does. I can't stop fixing little things that most people are able to ignore (which I can't understand because it's things we repeatedly do all the time for no logical reason). Those things drive me absolutely crazy. For awhile I was able to bit my tongue like everyone else, but I couldn't help to keep asking everyone- WHY?

Sometimes, on rare occasions, there will be a breakthrough, and the powers will relent and change (which makes me very happy) but I feel the ANGER and HATE coming off of those who resisted it for my simply wanting to be more efficient. Gets me into trouble in every job and as a result I have held MULTIPLE CAREER-level positions in widely differing fields, because I have either been fired or had to look for something elsewhere because of it.

What led me here is a conversation that I had with my therapist who believes that I tend to view everything logically and have to be able to understand what I do and what is expected of me and ask questions when I don't; and challenge the answers I'm given when they don't pass the test in application. My therapist suggested that I "see" these weaknesses in others when they cannot support their view. I will continue to challenge them to the breaking point. They relent or I force them to show their true character. I expose their hidden agenda's- that I am also somehow able to perceive immediately- long before we ever reach the reveal.

For as hard as I have been working to control myself- I can't stop. I've seriously considered having an hemangioma removed from my tongue- just to keep me from being able to talk for awhile... The thoughts enter my mind so quickly they escape before my brain has time to process the thought before it's being verbalized. People used to politely say that I am "passionate."

I am not an evil person and do not seek to hurt others. At least not good people... But I do insist on living in a reasonable world where when there are things that don't work in some way and are wasting money, time and energy (they have no purpose in life)- they need attention. If someone comes along with a better way and can point out where the problems are and show a workable solution to them, that everyone should have an "Ah-Ha" moment, laugh about it a bit, make some adjustments or changes and move on- happier and more efficient for doing so. But not any longer. Chaos rules the day!

Now we live in a world where we do things simply because we are told. Nobody questions anything. We can sit and watch our businesses, money, time, everything- go right down the toilet and STILL nobody really seems to care any more because they KNOW THE FIGHT it takes to change anything these days. I call these situations out.

I've learned that in many (most?) of these encounters in my life, the reason turns out to be nothing more than ego, insecurity, or some other hidden agenda that compels *some* people (just as I am compelled to expose them) to resist allowing needed changes in our workplaces not out of ignorance- but by some twisted design that prevents good order, efficiency and productivity- the opposite of Chaos.
Unfortunately, all to often, these people are in positions of power and authority and other have to go through them to make these changes.

Most of the time in these situations, it will be brought to a manager or executives attention and, being the person of character and integrity that they are, they will see the problem and allow necessary changes to be made. But others will refuse, either covertly or overtly- they will block change. When this occurs, I find myself about to experience one of two outcomes:

1. They are simply being cautious and unsure that change is necessary. They need to see proof of it and they also want a workable solution. If these can be provided, the problem is solved. If they remain unconvinced for some reason, they communicate it and the reason has now been identified for why it was being done that way to begin with.
2. If they become defensive, arrogant, dismissive, condescending, or similar- now we're talking about someone who has a hidden agenda. Maybe they just don't want to be shown up? Maybe they are the ones who created a bad process? Maybe they just don't like you? Maybe they are in someone's pocket? It could be anything really. There doesn't need to be a reason at all. They just have been put into your universe to cause you misery in your life because they seem to enjoy it or seeing you have to bend to their will.

Now, I believe I am beginning to understand why I feel this way thanks to this and other articles I have found as a result of that conversation with my therapist. Then, while surfing in a forum for information on Cannabis for relief of symptoms and side effects of the PTSD and OCD (with secondary Anxiety and Panic disorders) i've finally been diagnosed with, but cause me a great deal of dizziness and other issues, Someone reached out to me and I heard the use of the word "Empath" for the first time. It's like this person had known me my entire life and read me like a book. Amazing. Now I know, but I am lost and overwhelmed. I feel like I am going to need the rest of the winter just to rest for enough energy to begin this new chapter of my life... It is very draining.

Thank you for allowing me to vent and explain the life I've been living and trying very hard to come to terms with.
Aniet
says:
December, 19 2018 at 1:46 pm
I was looking up on google why being empathetic hurts too much?...and came across this article. It best describes what happens in my mind. I don’t know how to make it better, but it really impacts my life. I cannot watch the news because of it. But I see/hear of news through other methods (Facebook, word of mouth...)
And it affects me for days, months and even years in some extreme cases. And now that I have a son, who is 3...it’s even worse because I can relate to some horrible stories. I actually suffered from post partum depression because of it. I was so scared of loosing my son it became an obsession. I would like to stop feeling this way..,idk if it’s normal. I’ve been scared of going to a doctor for fear of being diagnosed as crazy...lol.
But I also don’t want to be cold to people’s feelings. I love people and all should be loved and respected. But I do want relief from the pain and anxiety it causes.
Nicole
says:
November, 28 2018 at 11:24 am
Hello I need help. Since I turned 33 December 19th this shift in energy is ruining my life and has my sanity on edge. I have no answers as to what is going on after almost a year of extensive research and reaching out to any and everyone from Shamans to parapshycologists....I am physically affecting people/things around me just by being in the same room. People can FEEL my energy and when I get close the freeze up and get confused almost seem afraid and want to run from me... I can go into more detail if someone can please explain what is going on... I have fekt suicidal over this because no one wants to be around me
They run point stare mock and ridicule me in front of me... all because I make them feel cold and uncomfortabl. I have lost jobs and have been excluding myself.... please anyone help me get an understanding of what this is......I beg. (No this is not in my head) I wish it was....
Mayra
says:
December, 8 2018 at 7:46 pm
Hi Nicole, I hope that you are feeling better. I read what you wrote and I am sorry to hear that you have been through so many terrible things. I hope that you do not feel suicidal anymore. That is a horrible thing to feel and it is a lie. I do not know the answers to your situation, but I know that you are worth very much because you are alive, and every life is worth very much. Struggles are apart of life, and some struggle more than others, but they often gain more too in the long run. Please hang in there. If you want to share more you can.
Tomas
says:
August, 19 2018 at 4:49 pm
How can we stop this illness? Yes, it’s an illness. I get everything listed above and then some. I’m out on disability now because I get sick so bad I’m throwing up every morning, sugar levels rise, bp shoots up for no reason, fevers, cold sweats, hypertension, etc. I’ve seen my doctor. Labs were done, one day I’m 100% healthy, the next I’m diabetic with low levels of potassium and I forgot the other one. I’ve been to 4 specialists, even an oncologist and they can’t tell me squat. I’m done. I want out. How do I fix this? If you guys don’t know can you point me in the right direction?
Katelynn
says:
July, 30 2018 at 9:56 am
I believe both me and my daughter are empaths. Seeing her intense reactions to others feelings even if it's just a facial expression or it's hidden she can sense it all, but seeing all that makes me realize how sensitive I am. I'm riddled with anxiety constantly and depression. I don't know how to handle the emotions it's so overwhelming, I've always been called overly sensitive. Overly emotional.
Barbie
says:
July, 27 2018 at 10:39 am
This is an amazing article. I see many people saying they are either a therapist or psychologist. I've always had a calling to be psychologist, maybe because it's in my nature to understand and help people. I find that when a friend or family member speaks to me I'm often overwhelmed with emotion and an uncontrollable feeling to find a solution to their problem. I often lose myself trying to help others. The worse thing in life is for an empath is to cross paths with a narcissist. I became this unrecognizable person trying to help a narcissist in a hard place. As I get older, I'm learning I must help myself before I can help others. I struggle with relationships because It's hard for me to control my emotions. I get written off as being too sensitive at times. I cry during movies, I feel when others are sad, tense, stress, angry or even happy. People are always drawn to me and easily open up to me about the most personal topics. A lot of the time I find myself trying to get away from society. I almost need personal time to think and unwind the way i need to sleep and eat. Without it I won't survive. I've always known I was different but never knew how or why. This article explains it all too well. I have a better understanding of who I am now and my gift. Thanks for writing the article and thanks to everyone who shared, very much appreciated.
Orla
says:
July, 24 2018 at 9:39 pm
So happy to have stumbled across this article. I’m a psychotherapist in private practice & a giant empath, hence the private practice. I found working in the public system very crippling. I can’t cope with unkind persons. Today I’ve been contemplating going outside, but those in here who know, know where I’m coming from. Besides wearing headphones when walking my dogs, does anyone have some advice for me about avoiding people without being rude? I’m great at dishing out the suggestions, yet stuck with doing my own?. Happy mid week hump you all. So happy to have found you??
T
says:
June, 17 2019 at 6:36 pm
Man... I feel you! I didn’t realize I was an empath, until about 4 years ago. I asked myself recently, then out loud, “how can I use my empathy for work”. I wish I would have taken a different path in school... before I realized I was an empath; now, I’m SUPER focused on it and feel hopeless... I would go back to school, but the thought of having to be somewhere, around people terrifies me. I don’t want to meet new people because I KNOW that if any of them have issues, I will, too... if any of them die, I will be smothered with the same pain that I IMAGINE their loved ones are feeling... at the same time, neglecting my family because I’m so wrapped up in a problem that isn’t my own. Even though I recognize it and try to avoid certain things, I ultimately feel out of control. Who wants to live life this way? I don’t want to die, but I don’t want this feeling either. I feel like I have to avoid people, altogether... no store, walk dogs at night, walk as fast as I can in and out of anywhere, no eye contact, no meeting neighbors (that makes me cringe because, then, I feel obligated to them - I don’t want to always be giving my sugar away either)... it goes on. I recently tried a job and I was paranoid all the time... ALL THE TIME. A little contradictory to avoiding people, but on the flip-side, I would pass by people and if they looked sad or distressed, I would smile to make them feel better and think about them all day long... and every time I went to work... “I wonder if they’re better” (even though I didn’t even know if they had a problem) OR “it would be so sad if that happened” (“that” meaning the worst possible scenarios)...
I guess that, after rambling, I also want to know how to avoid people... without seeming like a jerk, who doesn’t have time for anyone. To not feel like I have to find something (sometimes, unconsciously) wrong with everyone and (even weirder), feeling like there are other people in the room, who are just like me, trying to figure out if something is wrong with me.
It would be good to find a way to manage this... as for now, I just want to stay inside, always. Hope you found your way. :)
Tiffany Ballard
says:
July, 17 2018 at 6:02 am
Just reading this article has my anxiety going! Ive been told i have depression since i was 12 , im 32 now but never had the anxiety part until the last 6years. Ive seen drs, tried different medicines with no luck. The meds always either made me so sick to my stomach i was in fetal position for atleast an hour or 2 a day or they put my nevous system in overdrive it was like i chugged a case of redbull... so ive learned to deal with exhaustion, muscle pain, and poor digestion as part of daily life. For the last 2 years ive started taking probiotics and St Johns wart along with other vitamins in hopes to never have to take another prescription drug again in my life. In the last 12 years, up until the last 2, ive all but begged Drs for relief from these symptoms. They all just do a blood test thats always and tell me "well your skin and nails look healthy" and "take these and come back in a month". One of my Dr told me a few times that i was "just too young with too responsibilities and no support from family or friends" (i was 24 and single with 3 small children and a 3rd shift, 80hr a week factory job lol) i didnt want to accept that answer so he was going to send me to be checked for fibromyalgia but i ended up quiting and losing my insurance because i felt continuing those hours i going never going to be free of the pain. That was in 2012. At the time i thought "well they must be right" but these last 6 years having more free time ive learned to listen to my body better and recognize when and where things get off track at. Ive always been very softhearted and empathetic or sympathetic... I didnt know the difference in the 2 until i started to notice how since staying home ive had less muscle pain but over the top anxiety and digestion issues. Quitting my job only made it impossible for me be able to visit with family members and be available to offer assistance when they were in need. I didnt worry as much that i couldnt stay afloat myself but that i had no means to help my family like i always would when needed. Then i started a facebook page like i said never would and just witnessing all the ugliness and hate and then actually being attacked for having compassion caused me a deep sadness like i have never felt before (it radiated thru my whole body straight from my chest). I became obsessed with figuring out how and why people are so nasty to eachother and was determined i was gonna find a way to "fix" it. Now im back to just worrying about how im gonna fix all my aunts and cousins and friends stress and pain while i cant even fix my own because im constantly around negativity and stress. Ive said for a year now that i need new people... happy, calm, easy-going people to chill me out so i can get back to my helpful self i used to be. Now all i do is constantly wonder who it is thats probably thinking i dont care about them or their feelings and, like me, wont reach out for help. I always have to please someone or i feel useless, i dont know if that fits an empath or not. But just reading atleast lets me know im not alone cause others just chuckle and think im silly when say i can feel the pain and sadness thats all around so deep it hurts my , literally. And at other times i will have pain in my left leg and joints that is the exact same as my husbands. He had an allergic reaction to meds and i broke out in hives as ?! If i go into a crowded place, even if it was planned, and get a headache and nauseous and aalwaysend up with that one person who is having a bad day. I used to never think twice about it and loved to be of assistance if needed to anyone. Now thats its getting so bad tho i have found myself avoiding people and planning to become a gypsy just to get away from society and let nature heal me. I dont know what else i can do i literally get mad at myself for being so absent here lately to people but im also to the point where i may combust if i hear anymore complaining and negativity. I hate to be like that tho. I want to spread cheer and happiness and hope and love and make everybody all better and i cant do it like this lol
Lori
says:
June, 29 2018 at 7:29 am
I'm so glad to have found this blog. I grew up in what I consider a rather well-balanced environment for my temperament. My parents were both quite stable yet complemented each other's personalities. Mom is very practical, quietly intuitive and compassionate in a down to earth way and Dad was struggling with being an emotional person like I am. I can only imagine what life would have been like since 'going out into the world'. I had NO IDEA just HOW 'sensitive' I was until meeting people who 'saw me through the lens of' the language I was trying to find to understand myself. I was not a complete wallflower but did have a peripheral role, so to speak. Wasn't until I fell in love with a shy guy and got put under the microscope of "people trying to help us" that I began to grasp just how intricate people's energies, attentions and interactions can get. I've spent much of my life studying psychology, psychobiology, spirituality, new age...whatever I could get my hands on to help explain to me 'what was wrong with me' as I'd always seen it. Turns out, whether it's scientifically explained as something with a heightened nervous system or in new age terms as something that sounds more disconnectedly 'magical' to some people, it IS something I genuinely experience but not something I can surgically remove from the rest of my 'normally human tangle of mental and emotional being'.

I would like to say to Lynda, that it's just in the past decade or so that I have had experiences like the ones she describes about narcissists and socios, only I am in a different situation as such people seem also to be "testing me on psychic abilities" and so use others to act on their behalf, making life convoluted, more than confusing and leaving me isolated and feeling heavily abused. I can also relate to the comment about friends.

To Zac, my first insights into my gift/curse came in high school when a guy I had a class with seemed to be able to change my mood for the day depending on his mood when we chatted walking down the hall to class. I could wake up on the totally wrong side of the bed and if he was in a good mood, I'd be bouncing through the rest of the day, if I woke up feeling great and he was in a sour mood I seemed to carry it with me the rest of the day. I didn't have a crush on him or anything like that, but he had a bit of a strong personality. Nothing wrong with that, I've decided over years of various experience that 'people's energy' seems to follow their unconscious tendencies about how they...I'm trying to find the right words here...well, let's try it this way...I grew up with people who generally held themselves as keeping their feelings and problems private, which is not the same as bottling up. My dad didn't and I often felt jangled by his freedom with his emotions. Gosh...I'm glad I read this cause I never really thought about my early life this way before...I guess what I'm saying, Zac, is try mentally deciding, not to deceive or hide who you are, but try thinking of yourself as contained around others...like you are a cupboard and people either have to choose to open the cupboard to 'get a look inside' or that you choose to do so to share with someone you decide to share with...see if that shift changes how people react to you. I stress that I don't mean to imply shutting down or shutting people out. It's kind of the difference between having a conversation with a strongly opinionated person who shares their opinion without expectation of being agreed with or someone who does expect to change the person they're talking to...as the person being talked to it's the difference between sitting and admiring a fountain and having someone point a fire hose at you then turning it on. I've wrestled with this for a long time. The hindus refer to open and closed chakras. I see chakras not as literals, but as symbolic of what I just explained, the choices of where we put our attention and whether or what we open our compassion for. When I 'went out into the world' I FELT someone who I think wanted to 'help' me energetically try to keep my 'chakras' PRIED OPEN all the time cause they thought 'open' was good and 'closed' was bad. it's not true. 'closed' is how we protect ourselves or we get overwhelmed. Sorry to ramble on so long...needed the outlet...thanks!
Lynda Ann
says:
June, 4 2018 at 8:08 am
The hardest part about being an empath is knowing when people are trying to deceive you. Especially when it is someone that you are close to. People will continue to lie until they are blue in the face because they don't understand that you JUST KNOW, and are not having a lucky guess about what's going on. The funny thing is, I have found that compulsive liars either don't want to be around me or just want to be around to challenge me for their own amusement , likely narcissists or socios . The other thing I notice is that when I interact with new people, they are either immediately drawn to me and want to tell me their life story or they are actually repulsed by me and act rudely in some way. So quite often I find that outwardly I become a little more detached and aloof when Im dealing with others and the have been told that I seem cold and unfeeling when that could not be further from the truth. It's a paradox. It has not been an easy life by any means and I often wish I had the ability to turn it off and on at will... I wish I had more friends like me.
Kim Hill
says:
June, 11 2018 at 2:26 pm
I second everything you said Lynda, now you know someone like you :-)... As I get older I understand myself more and more but it still doesn't make it easy. It is not an easy task to make friends as an empath. I learn more and more that making boundaries and not overloading myself is key to my happiness in relationships. Art, nature, exercise and meditation is my constant saviour. Good luck on your journey
Tiffany Ballard
says:
July, 17 2018 at 6:17 am
I need to practice all that too Kim! I used ro meditate and didnt stick with it. But i love to draw and color and paint and tye dye. And nature and exercising are always a must!!
And YES Linda.... I have also been very bored with the regular ole chit chat here lately?! What is that? I literally cannot hold on to a conversation if its not something deeper than the everyday talk lol
Linda B.
says:
July, 9 2018 at 4:29 pm
I completely relate. It frustrates me. I am having a hard time getting back to work. I don't seem to fit in anywhere. I notice that coworkers often close their eyes when speaking with me. It is like they're trying to hide their soul. Hard to find anyone to talk to about, well....anything. When you "feel" so much emotional energy, the mundane chit-chat that most people seem happy to share, bores me to death. But, I always make others feel great about themselves and I feel their emotions change for the better. I also feel that some people will treat me horribly because they know I am an easy target, not to my face but behind my back. I don't understand why. Other than they know I won't get into it with them. I have a hard time expressing myself due to "emotional energy overload". I am having a hard time right now. I was going into ER today for unbearable anxiety and depression but I found this page and I am so thankful to know I'm not alone....Thank You!
Katrina
says:
August, 6 2018 at 8:07 pm
I think it’s interesting that you use the phrase “cause they know i’m an easy target”. Because we literally show so much calm and reserve when dealing with “agitators”, when we have had enough we know we could say things that would be so harsh, that we have to be passive. The sight to see beyond the mask people wear is overwhelming at times.
Tiffany Ballard
says:
July, 17 2018 at 6:12 am
Everything you said is exactly 100% correct for me too! Just like you people openly and freely share their life story with me or just make eye contact but never even say "hi" or "how are ya" lol ive also been told i look sad all the time or in a bad mood when im walking or sitting alone with myself. But no never... I dont have a mean bone in my body... Full of sadness.. Yes.. What i take on from others even if they dont come to me to talk. I soooo wish i had more people like us near me too!! Lately ive been struggling to get the fit too so i feel like i bring people down iuptead of up and thats just no good.
Tiffany Ballard
says:
July, 17 2018 at 6:22 am
I dont think we can ever say it so that someone would actually believe us when we say we already know their mood and intent when they approach us and that yea... we most certainly know when you are being a lair lol
Kevin
says:
May, 8 2018 at 9:19 pm
Question, if my partner is an anxious empath. What steps should I take to make her feel better or comfortable . ?
Judy Asmar
says:
March, 23 2018 at 5:42 pm
Is there any link between being a anxious and pass and menstrual cycle? I’ve been trying to get a hold of my emotions and how much I take on the emotions of others around me/global problems and how they affect my perspective as I am one of the kinds of people who feel like I need to change and to help the entire world to the point where I get sick about it. When I’m close to getting my period, I have ruminating thoughts fantasizing about death-never about self harm-and I find myself fantasizing about death because I’m so exhausted and feel helpless in terms of helping the world/making an impact in social justice. I also get extremely frustrated/angry with anyone I see just living happily especially people who have a lot of money because I feel like they should be working to help the world or at least create jobs with the living wage for others, never mind helping the homeless sleeping on their doorstep‘s. This gets me so frustrated, exhausted, and emotional that I end up being reclusive and just writing in my journal alone once I’m off work. I studied social justice in college and have always wanted to have my career focused around helping people whether it be a nun, missionary, restorative justice working with inmates, working for human rights/social justice etc. And I always just thought this was my good will or religious upbringing but at this point because I’m getting physically sick and emotionally sick so often, I’m thinking that there’s actually an imbalance in my brain or something genetically wrong because of all the emotions I’m taking on. For example, today while reading a book to the baby I take care of, I realized halfway through the book that it was about a little girl who had her grandfather passed away and I immediately shut the book and just started crying and was not able to stop for a long time… These fits of crying due to an insane amount of empathy have happened since I was a little girl. I remember my family joking about me crying when I first saw a truck carrying all these logs by our house because they “murdered” so many trees.

My mom is extremely codependent and extremely empathetic so I’m thinking that this could also be genetically passed down to me. Any help or advice is extremely appreciated.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Heart on Sleeve
says:
August, 6 2018 at 5:36 am
Judy,
I feel the same exact way. It is so confusing to me that people can enjoy life in such a materialistic way while others are left to be homeless.
I have always felt like an outsider to life. I advocate for positive affirmations and love.
I will never forget this one time I saw this lady crying uncontrollably in her car while at a stoplight. I could feel her sadness so intensely, and I innately knew that I was stronger than her at that moment. I opened my heart and allowed her pain to come through me. I began sobbing and had to pull over.
Men are much harder to read than women. I have very few women friends because of this. The women I do keep as friends, I’ve had for 20+ years. I can see their heart. I can see the good in others, sometimes so much it blinds me to what is not good. But my empathy revolves around restoring growth and harmony. A flora I’ve been told.
So I am unable to watch the news or anything violent, scary or wicked. I have strict rules in my home regarding the use of words. You are only to speak of things that are good. No name calling, no jokes about violence. I believe when we speak we create, be careful with what you want to create- you will get it.
I have created so much with my words it had left me emotionally paralyzed to make choices at times.
And, yes, overwhelmed at all the worlds problems, wanting to help so badly, but I know that I know far to little to help.
My solace is in positive affirmations, prayer, kindness wherever I can.
My opportunities lie in my adherence to a schedule of any kind. Finding a partner that does not lie.
I understand about the trees....I have to physically stop myself from gardening other peoples yards. Walking through a friend’s home that has sickly or poorly potted plants is very difficult. I almost always end up giving unsolicited advice based on gut feelings.
People open up to me so often that I consider it to be normal.
Recently I suffered a concussion. It was so strange because my empathetic abilities were completely silenced. And my speech was affected. I could no longer see and feel what others were thinking. Words came out so much slower. People said that I sounded drunk, lol. This lasted for about 2 weeks.
During this time, I felt no guilt or anxiety for others....I felt lighter....more importantly, while I could not visualize what I considered normal, I began to visualize drama in the form of a tornado, and I could see it coming. This cognitively unfolded about a week after the concussion, but I saw the drama tornados about 3 days after.
I had profound realizations of who the energy dragons are in my life....and I was able to set boundaries and shut down the conversations. Life changing.
All my life I have been accused of creating drama. I now understand that I see and feel more than other people. I can no longer see the tornados of drama, but I know they are out there.....
So, I guess, everyone has their own journey through life. It is not always fair, but you get to choose if you let it hold you back or learn from the experience.
Believing you can do something is 50% of the task, the other 50% is just showing up to do it.
My challenge is, what do I want to do?
Zoe
says:
March, 15 2018 at 8:59 am
Sometimes it feels like empaths (including myself) are eager to compliment themselves in the form of stating a burden....It sounds mean, but this could relay some insight, that I have also struggled with. Sometimes you're not burdened with the knowledge of others' feelings, we are not mind-readers, as much as we are projecting internal anger or past hurt. You may be picking up an energy of theirs but it does not mean you know what the energy is coming from or that it's about you. Sometimes, its just a projection all-together! Like when I am at work, I thought my female bosses didn't like me and that I was sensing discomfort, upon introspection, I realized that I am terrified of female authority figures and that the discomfort was all my own!!! (Of course there will be discomfort from the other if you are uncomfortable around them too!)
<3

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jaime
says:
July, 29 2018 at 6:52 pm
It sounds like you are taking their behavior personally, and that their behavior is toxic. This is very common among empaths to get caught in this type of situation. It usually happens with highly narcissistic/untreated addicts. That is because those people are often so wrapped up in themselves and empaths can get hooked into this energy; it is so different and polar opposite of our own. For me, Empaths cannot comprehend or understand how people can be so self-absorbed or emotionally-unaware. Please don't beat yourself up for this. It is not your fault. There is also nothing you can do about it other than shielding, communicating your boundaries, or leaving the space. It is not normal for other people to be so self-absorbed/cutting/harsh with the people around them. It is toxic. In my situation, and I have gone through incredible learning on this for over 20 years, I communicate my boundaries and I do not stay in situations with unhealthy (untreated) individuals. That is what I had to do and now that I am not afraid anymore, I trust my intuition, and I am strong and courageous enough to know a toxic environment is not a good or healthy environment for me, I attract healthy people who are on a similar wavelength. I had to put in a lot of work first though and start saying no. Not in a nasty way, but in a kind, firm way. I needed to not only be compassionate with others but to be compassionate for myself. That was a huge turning point for me. Once I started to accept my empathy for the amazing gift it is - and it is a rare and special gift to me - I realized that I deserve to treat myself with the same love and respect and honor I'd given to so many people before me.
Ronda
says:
March, 2 2018 at 1:57 am
This is a really interesting article. I have a question. I believe I'm an anxious empath. I can pretty much turn it on and off as well. It doesn't really bother me for the most part. However, I can feel people's emotions just from a text message for example. Could just be regular words, no exclamation marks or punctuation to give off any emotions or no emojis. I can feel from just reading their words. Is that a usual thing for everyone else? Also, if someone tells me about someone else I could pick up that strangers emotion as well although I never met them. Is that also a usual thing? I'm just trying to understand everything more and I've surprised people by knowing things are wrong or even if their excited and even have the butterfly feeling. Anyone know anything more in depth about this? Anyone else can feel through a text and not have to be next to the person?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Melissa
says:
March, 13 2018 at 1:07 pm
Hi Ronda, yes, I experience a similar sorts of feelings. It drives me nuts because I sometimes sense things that the other person barely realizes is there emotionally. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can offer more depth as to what it's about other than a keen awareness.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Barbie
says:
July, 27 2018 at 12:05 pm
I can also, I'm not sure how that's even possible. My boyfriend lives in another state, I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was call him. Something I almost never do, I usually wait for him to call me first. I came to work feeling sad and confused. I had no idea why, he finally text me at 10 am hey. Through that text I knew he wasn't feeling himself and immediately I asked what's wrong, he said he had a lot on his mind and he'll talk to me about it later. I don't want to feel it, it just comes to me naturally. I want to understand why I can feel the way others feel.
Laura
says:
January, 18 2018 at 4:56 am
How is an anxious empath different from a codependent?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 24 2018 at 4:41 am
Hi Laura, that's a really good question. They're very closely intertwined.

Codependence is an agreement between people to stay locked in unconscious patterns. It can occur when one person's behavior is determined by another's, when one relies on the other to maintain destructive behavior, and when you sacrifice yourself for others. A codependent person has a pattern of relying on another to meet his/her emotional needs.

The author says that empaths "attempt to carry these emotions on their shoulders without ever being asked". This is indicative of an unconscious agreement, which is one aspect of codependence. But I'd say that the anxious empath's proclivity to carry the burden of another doesn't necessarily equate to a being codependent. That said, if the anxious empath has a proclivity to enter into relationships with narcissists and carry the burdens of the narcissist (to meet some unconscious need of his/her own), then perhaps the anxious empath could be codependent. In this way, the anxious empath and narcissist are locked in an unconscious, destructive pattern.

This is not a hard and fast explanation, but simply my take on these terms from the knowledge I have.
Jaime
says:
July, 29 2018 at 6:36 pm
I am an extreme empath and was in treatment for codependency (CoDA and Al Anon) for five years. It helped immensely. I recently heard the difference between being codependent and empathic is boundaries. I strongly agree and this is the best definition I have ever heard. I no longer meet the qualities of codependency but am I am more empathic than ever. The difference is, I have walked away from a number of people who couldn't or wouldn't respect my boundaries (all were narcissists). About 50% of the people I approached about my new boundaries once I built up my self-esteem and took time away to heal myself came around and treat me much differently today. They know now that I have certain needs in terms of space, privacy, environment, etc. that I need to be met in my environments and relationships in order for me to stay in them and they respect these boundaries. These people have gone through personal transformations of their own as a result of me transforming. It really has been the only way that I've been able to remain in these relationships or had the ability to go back. Otherwise, it wouldn't be equal or fair to me and I don't stay in that type of relationship any longer. I hope this helps someone! I am currently writing a book on Empaths and another on codependency.
Alex
says:
December, 10 2018 at 11:50 am
Jaime, that is welly put. That was me to a tee. I didn't realize how important boundaries actually were, because we spend such little time on thinking we need to establish boundaries with people we care about, as we would never intentionally take advantage of someone, and unfortunately, learning the hard way, many others do not think twice about doing that to us. By learning to say no, and setting boundaries in respect to how we allow people to treat us, and also knowing that a give and take in any relationship is a must, transformed my life tremendously. It saved me actually, because I may still be in the same unhealthy pattern of allowing negative and toxic relationships to appear in my life if I hadn't realized its ok to say no and put myself first if the same is not being reciprocated. Having my daughter literally saved my life, and woke me up to a lot of things I was doing and allowing as an empath. It also forced me to re-evaluate my life and some of the people I allowed in it, to my own detriment. I had to finally wake up, not only for my sake, but most importantly to my daughters, as now she was all that mattered and came before and above anyone and everything else.
Zac
says:
January, 10 2018 at 6:50 pm
So I have a question. I've been looking around for years and still cannot find an answer. WHAT AM I? Everything I read is an Empath takes or reads or feels others emotions. Etc. But I mean I kind of do this as well but I can turn that part off along with all of my emotions. But back to my real statement, when I walk into a room the people around me empaths or not(normal people) have their emotions changed by mine, moreover in empaths than others. And I cannot find anyone else having this problem is it's driving me nuts. Someone please help!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 18 2018 at 4:25 am
Hi Zac, this is an interesting question you're asking. If I understand what you're saying, you feel you can turn your own empathy on or off, but others are deeply affected by your energy/mood/emotions. Is that accurate? I'm curious as to how you know they are changed? Are people telling you this? Generally speaking, emotions can be "contagious". We have a network of "mirror neurons" in our brains. These mirror neurons signal what someone else is feeling based on facial expressions, body language, and reflexes. Not only do we attune to what is happening with another, but we sometimes feel the same emotions within ourselves. I think that you get that empaths are more inclined to what others feel. But your question is more about "what you are". I can't answer that. All I can say is that as an empath, some people have an energy that is just stronger in some way. If it's an energy that is intense and frenetic, I might feel tense. Likewise, I'm also aware and affected by energy that feels loving, warm, and grounding. Feel free to elaborate a bit more on your experience!
EJ
says:
May, 6 2018 at 5:07 am
I found that happens to me as well and often ever since I found a way to 'clear' the negative reserves of energy that I'm prone to pick up. But I cannot tell you how many times I've been told that 'I lift people's spirits up' or can visibly 'brighten up' someone else's mood which makes me so so happy! Zach, try to channel the good energy and project that as you mingle among the people; this could be a unique gift that some of us have!
tom
says:
June, 1 2018 at 8:14 am
i get this. zac is alpha. when i am around what i call alphas, i can feel the strong energy come from them. i can spot a war vet in seconds in a room. the have an energy no one else has. it is strong, almost intimidating. maybe others are feeling you because you "have a strong presence" i feel this, i thought i was paranoid, until i looked up and sure enougn, many eyes were on me. i have this presence also. sucks cause hate attention. attention creates more anxiety.
Teresa
says:
January, 6 2019 at 9:51 am
I have found I mirror peoples feelings,behaviors and emotions back to them.Some people do not like me or feel uncomfortable around me for this reason
Britaney Adams
says:
December, 1 2017 at 6:29 pm
I was told when I was 19 that I have social anxiety I've always had trouble with the fear of judgment I still struggle everyday with this how ever the more I learn about empathy I believe that my anxiety is based upon my own empathy for example my grandma's boyfriend has bad OCD and when ever he walks into the same room as me I get so anxious that I became unable to think of anything but why he's upset my husband and I will be having a great time and put of no where i have this deep feeling something is on his mind or his mood will change and I ask repeatedly if he's okay or what's wrong and me asking over and overtakes him upset but I can feel it and then when he tells me nothing's wrong it makes me feel worse because I know he's lying can I please get others opinion on if I have anxiety or if I maybe an empath

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Valerie Hagen
says:
December, 26 2017 at 9:01 am
Britney, I have discovered Dr. Judith Orloff to have answers and amazing info and resources on " empaths" . Her books and website have been invaluable to me in trying to understand the exact feelings and emotions you are experiencing! Good luck, and be kind to youself!
Sami A
says:
November, 23 2017 at 8:19 pm
I realate to all that its becoming more and more harder for me going in public cuz most of tje times i know what the other person is feeling i become meaner to the mean person its hard to control my emotions for me day by day a
Tanya
says:
November, 18 2017 at 8:53 am
One of the reasons empathy experience anxiety is because we can't talk about what we are perceiving to people around us. Most of the time we have to keep quiet about the sensations we feel because for the most part Empathy is not a social norm that is out in the open. We can feel like freaks while everyone is going on with their lives around us, not feeling and knowing the things we feel and know. It can be overwhelming and depressing to be surrounded by a population that seems to be half-awake while we are so sensitive. We have to choose very carefully who we can and can't reveal our truth to, which constrains us socially and expressively. I feel like I spend a lot of time concealing who I really am and that makes me feel very anxious a lot of the time.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Ivey
says:
January, 4 2018 at 5:08 am
Omg omg first I feel I should say sorry to you a million times because I feel I want to help you isn't that us? Omg im old. I've been like this almost all my life. I identify with you. It even made me cry. But a joyful cry. Because we do feel like we are alone on this. Nobody understands. We do feel like freaks most times. We cannot explain it half the time. We cannot reveal it to others because we'll be looked at, as dumb annoyances. It's awful sometimes. But you know, what's helped me throughout the years? Being a Latina, being raised in a tough neighbourhood. My mom. Who was always a tough, but good hearted person. Environmental Inflluences. My mom & Dads characteristic traits. Now, I want to find the answer to this, in a more deep and educational way. Good luck to you. I have millions of stories to tell about my empathy. LoL.
Marcia
says:
October, 6 2017 at 12:55 pm
I've only recently come to terms of me being an empath and know now this is why I feel the way I do a lot of the time. I first heard of empaths when my friend researched a lot of things on religion, spirituality etc. And claimed that she was all off that and I were nothing and did not know of the sort cut a long story short I found out after years that friend to be narcissistic. Since the age of 9 I was depressed and thought I was weird I did not like myself hated myself but still loved others. Put myself in horrible situations for the needs of others. I have a lifelong illness now I'm only 29 I've always felt like I'm being attack/tested. Although now I know I'm an empath and that's why I feel so deeply for others. How do I make it stop and learn to love myself and take care of myself?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 11 2017 at 8:38 am
Hi Marcia, I can certainly relate to your experience of putting others first and then feeling depressed. The one question I ask myself when I feel I'm being tested and when I'm feeling overwhelmed from feeling so deeply is: "What is there to learn here really?" I find that this question usually empowers me to recognize my own needs and what needs adjustment. Sometimes my answer is better self-care. Sometimes it's setting boundaries. Many different answers arise, but when we feel like we're being tested, often times we are. We're being tested to develop more compassion for ourselves or others, and to grow. Here's another article you might find useful: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2017/09/respect-yourself-how-to-communicate-with-confidence/
Marcia B
says:
November, 12 2017 at 12:47 pm
Wow! What a wonderful article! I have been grappling with getting caught in the loop when I don't express my emotion! Very cool insight!!
Rachael
says:
August, 31 2017 at 7:09 pm
This is an absolutely ruining my life and every relationship I have ever had I cannot go out in public I am constantly having anxiety I can't go shopping I can't be around crowds people. I break down my emotions are all over the place I feel everything way too much and I can't control it I feel like I'm sinking I feel sick to my stomach constantly I seek therapy and psychiatry for help but nothing has changed in the over 20-something years but I haven't been dealinh with this I don't consider it a blessing or a gift I feel as though I am condemned and cursed

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 1 2017 at 2:16 am
Rachael, I am so sorry you're struggling with this. There are certainly pros and cons to feeling everything so deeply. It sounds like you may be having a difficult time separating your feelings from those of the people around you. This can cause severe compassion fatigue (https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/stress/caregiver-stress-compassion-fatigue/) and lead to some of the experiences you describe above. I'm glad you're seeking professional help. Have you tried any of these grounding techniques? They may help, too. http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2010/09/top-21-anxiety-grounding-techniques/

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sabrina
says:
November, 11 2017 at 6:21 am
Rachel... Hi :) I'm curious if maybe you have a partner or person close to you that is draining you. You need to have a safe haven. An environment to yourself. A place that brings you peace and gives you the opportunity to refill your giving cup. If you are living on empty.. This may explain why you are viewing it as a curse.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Ivey
says:
January, 4 2018 at 5:19 am
Your not! Your not condemned! I thought all those thoughts and more! I actually thought I was schizophrenic. I went beyond the thought of it and went for Brain cognitive thinking tests! Yes I did! I went to social anxiety groups! I look back at that and say, what the hell was I thinking?!!!! I'm Catholic Christian, my God is Good all the times. All my life, but I didn't trust him enough I guess. I do now. But I, still struggle. I still feel other people's thoughts, emotions, feelings. I catch myself. But I don't know what to do, and it leaves me feeling, moody and unhappy. When in reality, im really a spunky funloving person! I tell you what I'm telling myself! Read into self-help books! Find someone who will listen to you. Good luck to us both! But most of all feel better about your existence!

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