Can empaths feel others pain? (A complete guide)

In this article, we will answer the question ‘Can empaths feel others pain?’. We will do that by defining empaths and signs/traits of an empath. This will follow up with a discussion on over-empathy and how empaths can stay balanced. 

Can empaths feel others’ pain?

Yes. Empaths can feel other people’s pain. They can feel both the emotional and physical pain of other people. Sometimes, empaths empathize more than required. This includes overidentification with other people’s feelings and their pain. So much so that they absorb their feelings and think of them as their own. Doing so can emotionally drain them and start to affect their functioning. It is important that empaths learn some self-management techniques in order to stay balanced and avoid toxic empathy. 

Empaths

An empath refers to an individual who is sensitive and able to feel the emotional pain of other people.  People consider them to be a subset of Highly sensitive people (HSP). They have a good awareness of another person’s thoughts and feelings. They can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand their perspective and worldview. It’s like empaths can hear the words and listen to the body language of other people including their tone of voice, posture, facial expressions, and even their silence. Such people are driven to help and heal others.  Usually,  they hold the other person’s feelings and help them process it together.

Signs and Traits of an Empath

An empath is a person who is aware of the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and energy of other people. They know what people need emotionally and can even feel their physical pain, their intentions, and their lived experiences. The following are a few signs to identify an empath:

  • They take other people’s emotions as their own. They feel and absorb their emotions.
  • Sometimes they experience overwhelming emotions of others when they are in public.
  • They can easily sense what others are feeling and the mood of the people in a room before they even know themselves.
  • Tragic or violent events depicted in the media can incapacitate an empath. This is because they live through the pain of others. 
  • They feel strongly for their pets, animals, and babies.
  • They can feel people’s physical illness as well as their emotions.
  • People often think that empaths are emotional as they can identify the feelings of people.
  • Such a person looks out for other people especially if they are going through emotional pain and difficulties. They try hard to extend their attention and compassion to such a person.
  • Being around a lot of people for a long can drain an empath. Because of this, they frequently need time alone to recharge after a lot of social stimulation and emotional overload.
  • Empaths are usually approached by a lot of people who bring with them their problems and emotional load since they know that an empath will help them process it together.
  • They have high intuition that helps them understand things based on instinct.
  • Usually, they are introverted in nature and prefer to work in small groups.
  • They are good listeners.
  • They share the pain of others.
  • They are givers rather than takers.
  • They make easy prey for narcissists, sociopaths, and Psychopaths.
  • They find nature calming.
  • They can detect people’s lies and negative motives quite easily. 
  • It is hard for them to see other people in pain and not help. 

Over-empathy: Absorbing the Pain of others

Sometimes, empaths can engage in toxic empathy. This includes absorbing other people’s feelings in the process of trying to empathize with their experience. Such overidentification can lead an empath to carry the emotional burden of other people while ignoring their own emotions and needs. Doing so can affect their daily functioning negatively. 

In addition to that, too much empathy can lead to the accumulation of the stress hormone, cortisol which makes the release of emotions difficult. In other words, getting overly invested in someone else’s feelings i.e toxic empathy can make an empath vulnerable to developing depression and feelings of hopelessness.

How to stay balanced as an Empath

An empath sometimes feels the pain of others too much which can affect them negatively. The following are a few ways they can employ to stay balanced. 

  • Establish Boundaries.

Empaths need to learn to separate their own problems and other people’s problems. Setting boundaries while providing others emotional support is essential for them to stay balanced.

  • Develop awareness of the body. Empaths need to learn the skills of being emotionally and physically aware of themself as well as of other people.
    This can be done by being mindful of their emotions and physical sensations while listening to another person. Identification of any body tension, observing feelings and reactions, and gradually letting them go are a few ways of doing that. Understanding that these feelings and physical sensations belong to someone else and are not theirs to carry is important.
  • Establish Reciprocal relationships:  Many times, people approach empaths in order to vent about their problems, seek guidance in processing their emotions, and solving them. It is important that an empath understands that relationships are not supposed to be one-sided. They need to have an outlet as well to channel their feelings and problems by talking to someone. In short, they should have reciprocal relations and learn to be able to be on the receiving end once in a while and not feel like a burden on others.
  • View empathy as a skill rather than a feeling. This can help empaths manage their emotions while skillfully empathizing with others. 
  • Develop an understanding that people have the ability to save themself. An empath can only support people at an emotional level. Whereas, covering for them, giving them the answer, and solving their problems will not heal them. The action needs to be taken by the person themself. It is not their responsibility to fix things for them.
  • Recognize your limits and learn to say No. This applies to an empath’s interactions with people who are over-dependent on them. They can start with a small step and gradually build it up. The important thing is to stop the spontaneous ‘yes’ approach to everything.
  • Learn to be compassionate An empath needs to recognize and validate their own suffering like they do with others. 
  • Set an inventory of relationships and learn to ration time with people who drain your energy.
  • Engage in Self-care: Empaths need to remember to take care of their own mental health first before helping others and taking on their burden. They can do that by regularly engaging in self-reflective practices like meditation, yoga, walking etc. They can even try relaxation exercises to reduce stress from daily life. 
  • Deal with one issue at a Time
    When dealing with people, cater to one emotional issue at a time to avoid from being overwhelmed. Set aside a time of the week or month where you can thoroughly discuss one issue, process it, and resolve it peacefully and effectively. Allow this the time and space it deserves instead of rushing through a lot of issues at once.
  • Get professional support from a therapist If the situation gets too overwhelming for an empath to handle, they can seek professional help. Therapy can act as an outlet and a therapeutic relationship can balance the give and take of empathy. Figure out a plan with your therapist to avoid overidentifying with the feelings of others. 

FAQs: Can empaths feel others pain?

How can empaths set boundaries?

An empath can set boundaries by learning to say no in a tactful and polite manner.

What does it mean to be emotionally drained?

Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn out and drained due to stress from daily personal and professional life. It can be a sign of burnout as well.

What are empaths?

An empath refers to an individual who is sensitive and able to feel the emotional pain of other people.  They have a good awareness of another person’s thoughts and feelings. They can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand their perspective and worldview. Such people are driven to help and heal others.  Usually,  they hold the other person’s feelings and help them process it together. 

What is toxic empathy?

Toxic Empathy is when a person overidentifies with another person’s emotions and feelings so much so that they start identifying them as their own. In other words, they absorb their emotions.

Why too much Empathy is bad?

Too much empathy can be bad as it can lead to the accumulation of the stress hormone cortisol. That makes the release of emotions difficult. In other words, getting overly invested in someone else’s feelings can make an empath vulnerable to developing depression and feelings of hopelessness.

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question ‘Can empaths feel others pain?’. We found that Empaths can feel other people’s pain. At times they can feel both the emotional and physical pain of other people. At times, empaths empathize more than required. This includes overidentification with other people’s feelings and their pain. So much so that they absorb their feelings and think of them as their own. Doing so can emotionally drain them and start to affect their functioning. It is important that empaths learn some self-management techniques in order to stay balanced and avoid toxic empathy. 

I hope you found this article interesting. If you have any queries or comments, please state them in the comment section 😊

Citations

https://www.mygbhp.com/blog/what-is-toxic-empathy/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201602/10-traits-empathic-people-share

https://kripalu.org/resources/i-feel-your-pain-empath-s-guide-staying-balanced

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.

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