Can you empathize too much?
You've probably heard about “EQ”, or “Emotional Quotiont” and how having a high EQ may be more important than having a high IQ. Being in touch with our emotions, and the emotions of others is good. It helps us to behave appropriately when we hurt others, and to avoid causing that pain in the first place.
Is it possible to be too empathetic though? At what point does empathy morph from a tool to help us get along with others better to a problem that needs to be treated?
It turns out that too much empathy is a real problem, and even has a name: hyper-empathy disorder.
How too much empathy can be bad
Have you ever known someone in a terrible relationship, who despite being treated like dirt, refuses to leave? Rather than being angry about truly awful behavior, they justify it, and seem ignorant of the truly terrible person abusing them.
This behavior is a classic sign of hyper-empathy, and it can be destructive toward the person who suffers from it. Not only are they more likely to be in a dangerous relationship, but they can also be affected in a variety of other ways. People who experience too much empathy can find themselves behind in work or studies because they spent too much time helping others, or end up helicopter parenting out of fear of what might happen to their kids.
Too much empathy isn't just part of a disorder, it can also come in the form of compassion fatigue—exhaustion from dealing with the emotions of others in your day to day work. People who experience compassion fatigue usually work in the medical field, including nurses, doctors, and vets.
What you can do
Too much empathy can be very difficult to deal with, but the solution is simple. Seek professional help. It's no longer shameful to take care of your mental health, and to get treated for painful mental conditions that could impact your health and daily life.
Even if you're just a little too sensitive, professional counciling can help you get more out of your life, and feel better about who you are in the world. It can be difficult to take the first step, but it can make all the difference.
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