The Anxious Empath: Anxiety and Other People's Feelings
Wednesday, February 10 2016 Whitney Hawkins
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
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
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.