Is Too Much Empathy A Bad Thing? ? What Can Happen?

As women, there are times when we nurture and nourish and protect. We see things from other people’s perspectives. We are referees between warring parties. We play devil’s advocate. But there are other times when we just can’t be done with it and we want to walk away.

Here’s an interesting fact. Empathy is boosted by the female hormone progesterone.

Women have loads of this hormone, increasing between ovulation and menstruation – when it rapidly falls away.

So, if you remember a time when you suddenly felt like telling everyone where to go, and felt very little empathy for them, it was probably around your period.

Having empathy is not only genetic, it’s both learned behaviour and neurological. And, it turns out, it’s also directly related to our hormones. Basically, it’s perfectly natural!

But Sometimes It Can Feel Like We Just Have Too Much Empathy – And We Want To Run Away!

Yes, we can find ourselves being overly empathic, highly sensitive, an empath (if you’re wondering if you are an empath, take a look here). And this can cause problems.

Empathy is important (more on that here) but too much of it can be detrimental to us.

Let’s explore that.

Overly empathic people, Empaths or Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are like sponges and absorb other people’s emotions, often physically feeling their pain, and joy as though it’s their own. 

This has a number of consequences.

If you’re an empath and have too much empathy you might:

  • Be unable to extract your feelings and beliefs from that of those around you. This might mean that you’re not able to understand why you feel the way you do.
  • Not know what you enjoy, like, want or need in life. Mostly because you’re so used to going along with whatever anyone else wants for fear of upsetting them. So, you never get to discover what you like.
  • Find it difficult to make your own decisions – see the last point!
  • Experience emotional, physical and psychological exhaustion. Constantly prioritising the needs and desires of others over your own and giving your time and energy to others it’s exhausting on all levels.
  • Find that you give all your time energy to certain people and neglect those closest to you. This can alienate you from the key people in your life and add to the feelings of not being supported. 
  • Feel that you’ve been taken in by someone, now or in the past. Perhaps someone who didn’t always have your best interests at heart. Toxic or one-sided relationships is a common consequence of having too much empathy.
  • Have experienced gaslighting. Empathy can make you vulnerable to individuals who might want to manipulate you, or who only care about their own perspective.
gaslighting
And There’s More! You might…
  • Feel like you’ve lost your sense of self. Pleasing others and putting them first all the time often results in your own identity slowly vanishing
  • Feel spiritually and energetically wrung out. Empaths often attract energy vampires who drain their (life force) energy leaving them with little for themselves.
  • Find yourself worrying about, or trying to solve other people’s problems – even if they’re not attempting to. Empaths take on other people’s problems and feel a responsibility for solving them. Often the other person doesn’t even make as much effort to solve their problem and the empath does, and carries on with their normal life unaware that the empath is running themselves (physically or psychologically) ragged on their behalf.
  • In the worse case scenarios too much empathy can mean that you stay in unhelpful, or even abusive relationships. (This is a far more complex issue with many other factors at play, but being overly empathic may play it’s part.)
  • Be starting to resent all the ‘taking’ that others do,
  • Wonder why it’s always you doing the ‘giving’,
  • And why other people don’t ask you if you’re ok, or offer to help…..

These last 3 might start to kick in around ‘that’ time of the month as progesterone decreases. They also happen because we run out of empathy capacity

We each have a certain capacity for empathy – some more than others.

Another shadow side of having too much empathy, especially where it is required consistently, for example in a care-giving role, is that our capacity for it can be diminished. This might mean someone lashes out physically or verbally in anger, frustration or resentment. Or they may walk away, especially if they have found it difficult to replenish their energy and look after their own needs.

Empaths Can Waste Their Energy

Highly empathic people spot and perhaps feel the emotions of others. But they may not interpret the situation correctly. They may create a story around the situation given their own experiences, values, or beliefs at that time. And often empaths think that the ‘gift’ empathy also gives them an intuitive or psychic insight in to others, so they know the situation. This isn’t (always) the case. It is therefore easy for an empath to get carried away around a specific narrative that may or may not even be true.

This wastes a lot of time and energy that the empath probably cannot spare!

In my next article I’ll be introducing ways that you can help yourself rein in your empathic tendencies and protect your energy.

In the meantime, if you’re struggling with feelings of empathic or emotional overwhelm, you can access my free download ‘The Empath’s Action Plan To Manage Overwhelm’ here.

Helen Leathers

Transformational Women's Coach, Trainer, Speaker & Author

Combining a spiritual outlook, a pragmatic approach, and a sense of humour I want to help you remember who YOU are and reveal YOUR path so you can step on to it empowered, energised, inspired and guided.

What are your thoughts or questions? Let me know below

2 Comments

  1. Lisa Richards

    Helen, thank you for sharing this article which resonated alot with me and realise that perhaps in an effort to connect with people I have absorbed too much and as you suggested wasted alot of time about people who don’t reciprocate or have other intentions/ agendas. Whilst I’ve always seen the positives of being an empath, this article was good at highlighting the downsides of that and I look forward to learning more about protection strategies shortly

    Reply
    • Helen

      Yes, we often seek connection, sometimes at any cost. And its so difficult to understand what’s normal ‘life’ stuff – feeling down or sad or having a deep sense of responsibility, and what’s the effects fo being overly empathic. Next blog on the way! thanks Lisa x

      Reply

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