5. Toxic behavior
Your toxic empathy often makes you extremely overprotective unnecessarily and blind towards the autonomy of the other individual.
6. Social anxiety
As you are highly sensitive, you feel overwhelmed in a social setting or when you’re around lots of people. Studies have found a relation between high empathy levels and social anxiety. Social gatherings make you feel emotionally drained and exhausted afterwards. You feel like you need some downtime to shake off all the emotions you have taken in from others.
Read also: 10 Signs You Have Above Average Empathy
7. Personal boundaries
You have poor personal boundaries. Hyper empathy prevents you from saying ‘no’ to others often at the cost of sidelining your one needs and desires.
8. Vulnerable to abuse
Being overly empathic, you allow others to mistreat or even abuse you as you feel bad for them. You justify their toxic behavior as you understand their mental & emotional states.
9. Pain sensitivity
You often emotionally overreact to images or videos of someone suffering or being in pain. Research shows that individuals who are empaths tend to be more sensitive towards pain and suffering than people with low levels of empathy.
10. Resentment and isolation
Toxic empathy affects your own life and prevents you from investing time on yourself. You often feel resentment, bitterness, anger and irritation due to frequent disappointment. This makes you prone to self-isolation.
You have a strong intuition and often follow your gut instinct to decipher what others are thinking or feeling. Studies have found that people with high levels of empathy tend to make decisions based on their intuition.
Although hyper empathy and codependency are not directly related, highly sensitive people tend to have codependent traits as they put others’ needs before their own. In romantic relationships you may be codependent and may fall for abusive, toxic narcissists.
Can compassion cause emotional fatigue?
The syndrome may be associated with emotional contagion and empathic concern. Emotional contagion is a phenomenon where emotions of others can infect us like a contagious disease and trigger similar mental, emotional and even physical experiences. Empathic concern refers to certain empathic and compassionate feelings that drive us to take action for the welfare of others, often at the cost of our own well-being. Such dangerous levels of empathy and compassion can make us suffer with the other person without having the ability to protect ourselves. When we excessively worry about another person and do not possess the ability to cope with the psychological impact, we experience hyper empathy, also identified as compassion fatigue. Researchers explain that “Compassion fatigue (CF) is stress resulting from exposure to a traumatized individual.”
The term ‘Compassion fatigue’ was coined by psychologist Charles Figley during the 1980s when he experienced emotional exhaustion while helping patients cope with trauma. He observed that this phenomenon causes a strong need to help the other person find relief, while being unable to feel relief yourself. It can also cause exhaustion, numbness, anxiety, emptiness and even cause burnout and depression in the long run. Although the concept is widely accepted in the field of psychology, it is not officially recognized as a diagnosis by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
The cost of caring
During his research, Dr. Figley found that hyper empathy or compassion fatigue is the price we pay for caring about others. According to psychology professor Kerry Schwanz, the experience involves an element of burnout that causes stress to gradually worsen as we use our empathy and compassion excessively and incessantly. As you constantly absorb the pain, suffering and stress of another person, it leads to empathy overload. Schwanz believes this can eventually cause a number of psychological problems, such as –
- Emotional exhaustion
- Low morale
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)