Everything You Need To Know About Hyper-Empathy: What Is It?

Last updated by Lauren Hart

Sometimes you’re devastated by your best friend’s break-up, sometimes you’re euphoric about your sister’s pregnancy... Sometimes it feels like other people’s emotions are invading you, so much so that you feel like you’re experiencing what they’re going through like it’s your own life. Have you ever felt this way? Maybe you’re affected by hyper-empathy, a characteristic not dissimilar to hypersensitivity. But what exactly is it? How do you distinguish between the two? And above all, how do you know if you’re hyper-empathetic? Let me explain.

Everything You Need To Know About Hyper-Empathy: What Is It?
Contents: 

The definition of hyper-empathy: what is it?

When you’re hyper-empathetic, it means that your empathy is highly developed, much more than the average. It’s a quality that enables you to put yourself in someone else’s position by feeling their emotions: joy, sadness, annoyance, euphoria, disappointment, etc. Not everyone is empathetic, there are people who have no sensitivity for others. However, most people do have empathy, even if it’s filtered, in order to avoid being too preoccupied with other people’s feelings.

It is therefore easy to understand why people with hyper-empathy are overwhelmed by the moods of others! It’s a bit like a superpower, using telepathy as an example. Instead of other people’s thoughts being heard, it’s their feelings 🤯!

Why do I have too much empathy?

Feeling other people’s emotions often reflects great sensitivity and strong interpersonal skills. There may also be psychological causes, as people with hyper-empathy are frequently affected by disorders such as generalized anxiety or depression. However, we can’t say that this is the cause, as these illnesses can also be a consequence. Indeed, it’s exhausting to feel emotions external to yourself, sometimes it becomes unmanageable. Nevertheless, one thing’s for sure, there’s a hypersensitivity behind this hyper-empathy 🤔.

What’s the difference between hyper-empathy and hypersensitivity?

It’s true that it’s very hard to distinguish between hyper-empathy and hypersensitivity, as these terms are so similar. In order to understand, it’s important to have a quick look at what it means to be hypersensitive. It means having an exacerbated sensitivity to impressions, emotions, and intuitions. This often goes hand in hand with a very high sensory level: we find it hard to bear strong lights, smells, or noises, which can lead us to develop disorders such as misophonia.

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Even if we feel emotions intensely when we’re hypersensitive, it’s often our own ones and not those of others. So we can be hypersensitive, but not hyper-empathetic. On the other hand, if we’re hyper-empathetic, we have to be hypersensitive. It’s just that we have greatly developed our empathy and how we listen to others 👂.

How do you know if you’re hyper-empathetic?

Hyper-empathy is one of the strengths of hypersensitivity, but how do we know if it applies to us too? The psychoanalyst Anne Landry has identified several features to understand hyper-empathetic people:

  • 👉 They can’t stand injustice and inequalities,
  • 👉 They can be volatile and are subject to quick changes of emotions,
  • 👉 They can be very spontaneous and very impulsive because of the intensity of other people’s emotions,
  • 👉 They’re very attentive to others,
  • 👉 They can be extroverted and sociable, whereas hypersensitive people who aren’t hyper-empathetic will tend to be introverted.
  • 👉 They’re very generous and put others first

Test for hyper-empathy 🔎

The American psychiatrist Judith Orloff, the author of the book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People”, has developed a short test with 7 questions:

  • 🔲 Have you ever been told that you’re too emotional or sensitive?
  • 🔲 If one of your friends is suffering, do you feel it too?
  • 🔲 Do you feel negative emotions easily or often?
  • 🔲 Do crowds exhaust you? Do you often need to be alone?
  • 🔲 Do noises, smells, lights, or conversations that are too long often bother you?
  • 🔲 Do you sometimes eat to compensate for emotional stress?
  • 🔲 Are you afraid of relational proximity?
➜ If you’ve given more than 3 positive answers, there’s a good chance that you’re hyper-empathetic. Although it’s tempting to self-diagnose, it’s not a substitute for a real diagnosis with a therapist. It’s therefore worthwhile consulting a therapist to confirm an intuition about how you work.

How to treat hyper-empathy?

As mentioned before, hyper-empathy can be a heavy burden to carry, as the emotional load is so overwhelming. Some people, therefore, look for a way to “cure” their hyper-empathy, but it’s not something that can be treated like a disease. You need to work on yourself to be able to live with your hyper-empathy peacefully.

The first thing to do is to distance yourself from your emotions. Breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation can help to free you from the weight of your emotions. You also need to train yourself to chase away intrusive thoughts by identifying them and putting them to one side. These are all the little thoughts that can lead to worry and that very often start with “what if...?”. They can go straight into the trash 🚮! Finally, you need to focus on emotion to welcome it and experience it fully. Even sadness! This makes it easier to digest the feeling and to be able to move on more quickly.

⚠️ Hyper-empathy isn’t a mental disorder, but it can lead to one. If you feel that you’re developing anxiety and/or depression, it’s important to turn to a psychiatrist and talk about it.

Editor’s note: Turn it into a strength!

Hyper-empathy can be a beautiful quality, a strength, provided it’s well-managed, and you don’t get overwhelmed by other people’s emotions. Achieving this requires honest awareness and a lot of self-work. If this hyper-empathy is weighing you down or if you feel bad, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a psychologist in order to take stock of your situation and start this beautiful work on yourself which will allow you to feel happier and more in tune with yourself.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!

#BornToBeMe

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Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

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