Empathy burnout is common when individuals spend so much of their emotional strength relating deeply to the problems and stress of others that they forget to care for themselves.
The symptoms of empathy fatigue are feeling overwhelmed or emotionally drained, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, physical exhaustion, apathy, irritability, and/or feeling emotionally disconnected or numb.
The key symptom of empath burnout, empath shutdown, and compassion fatigue is that you start to feel cynical or detached from the people and events around you. Your nervous system may be stuck in survival mode. These are the key signs: Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Empathy burnout can affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can leave a person feeling exhausted, almost like they're in a brain fog. If left unaddressed, regular and persistent empathy burnout may result in medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety, or depression.
Spiers tells us, “With depression, an empath may feel overwhelmed by the pain and suffering of others. This may lead them to withdraw from their usual routine as a means of self-protection, but by isolating themselves and breaking links with their families and friends, the depression can then be exacerbated.
With post-traumatic stress, your system can't fully return to its calmer state before the upset or even the initial incident. You are never quite at rest and remain aware of protecting yourself from further threats. Empaths are at risk of becoming hypervigilant which is draining for empaths.
Compared to someone who is highly sensitive (empathetic vs. empathic), an empath has a greater sensory awareness and feels extremely emotional about others, their surroundings, and the visual images or media they're exposed to. (You'll often hear empaths say even TV commercials can elicit spontaneous crying).
Time away from work, meaningful hobbies, exercise, and self-care may all help with compassion fatigue and burnout. Relax. Develop relaxation strategies such as meditation and cultivating mindfulness in the moment. Identify other resources that may help.
They may become easily overwhelmed by negative emotions or feel as though they are responsible for the emotional well-being of others. Additionally, because empaths are so in tune with the emotions of others, they may struggle to express their own feelings, leading to difficulty in forming close emotional connections.
"A challenge of being an empath is to practice boundaries between the physical and emotional experiences of others and yourself," Villegas says. "It can be easy for empaths to take on, and even physically experience, someone else's discomfort or exuberance."
Value regular alone time to decompress and meditate
Balance alone time with people time. Regularly take what I call “a golden hour” to decompress. Also get in the habit of having many mini breaks throughout the day. Tell your partner how vital this is for you because empaths need to think and process alone to regroup.
In fact, empathy is often a personality trait among people driven to help others. Sometimes, however, having the ability to understand what someone else is going through may be used for personal gain or as a manipulation tactic. This is what some people refer to as “dark empathy. “
Traits of an Empath
Because they can become easily overwhelmed by absorbing other people's energy, they may look for outlets through substances or behaviors. Binge eating, shopping sprees, and substance abuse are all behaviors that can lead to compulsive habits that eventually turn into addictions.
But empathy can have a dark side. Some people, known as dark empaths, understand the feelings of others but don't feel these feelings themselves. They might act like they care, but deep down, they don't feel sympathy for you or have a desire to help. They use their understanding of your feelings to manipulate you.
What Is the Empath Shutdown? It is when an empath or a highly sensitive person (HSP) emotionally withdraws from an intense situation that involves conflict, violence, or suffering. In essence, it's a self-preservation and coping mechanism that helps them deal with emotional overwhelm.
For example, someone with empathy burnout may feel exhausted because they aren't sleeping. This can cause them to feel distracted and disengaged during the day. It can also prompt them to feel unsatisfied with their job performance and to be short-tempered with their coworkers.
But they can learn to manage their empathy and the anxiety and depression it can bring so it doesn't debilitate them. The way for the Empath to manage this is to become completely aware of their own wounding, their own traumas, their own pain, and perceived setbacks, and care for themselves.
Empaths need to be around people who accept their beautifully in-tune nature instead of trying to change them. Those people see how giving, open, and caring empaths are. They recognize that empaths can be amazing friends, partners, and confidants, and they don't take that for granted.
The empath concept is controversial. Opinion is divided on whether empaths actually exist. There is also debate around some abilities associated with empaths. For instance, empaths are thought to have special skills in reading others, detecting lying, and healing.
Myth #1: Empaths do not get angry.
Although many empaths are typically good-natured and, thus, uncomfortable with their anger, it is an important emotion. In some situations, the heightened anger experienced by an empathic individual is data that something unfair is occurring in a relationship.
Introverted empaths love their alone time and the feeling of rejuvenation that comes from re-organizing their lives down to the finest details, meditating, reflecting on their direction in life, and doing creative activities that energize them because when they are alone, they are able to be honest with themselves ...
Empaths are usually introverts, and they require a certain amount of alone time in order to recharge. A study from 2011 suggests there may be a link between highly empathic individuals and social anxiety.
If this isn't understood, empaths can stay perpetually lonely; we want companionship, but, paradoxically, it doesn't feel safe. For emotional empaths to be at ease in a relationship, the traditional paradigm for coupling must be redefined.