Monday, March 7, 2011

Why Empaths Experience Emotional Fatigue

Why Empaths Experience Emotional Fatigue

Helen Akers

Empaths are considered to be those who possess the ability to feel the unspoken emotions of other people, often without conscious intent. Some empaths can also literally feel the symptoms of another person’s physical ailments as though they were their own. As a consequence, empaths can find themselves becoming emotionally overwhelmed and can begin to exhibit symptoms of depression, exhaustion, anxiety, and even chronic fatigue syndrome.

The Characteristics of an Empath

Empaths have a sixth sense when it comes to emotions and the hidden motivations that drive human behavior. Many, if not most, individuals tend to mask their true intentions and inner feelings around others. At times this masquerade can even extend to those that are considered to be close friends and family. Empaths have a keen sense of intuition – a sort of inner compass – that is able to subconsciously read what is really going on beneath another’s expressions.

While the trait of empathy continues to be researched by both the traditional scientific community, as well as by alternative medicine practitioners, the method in which the trait works has yet to be fully uncovered. In fact, many empaths themselves are unsure of how their ability to tune into others happens. Seemingly automatic, empaths often “know,” or at the very least “feel,” without being able to exactly put into complete words a description of the knowledge they have obtained. What does seem to be known is that the trait of empathy is genetic. It is a part of an individual’s DNA that can neither be erased nor abandoned, but something that an individual can become aware of and learn to work with, rather than against.

Emotional Fatigue, Exhaustion, and Signs of Stress

Being an empath opens the door to an enriching, and at times, colorful life experience. However, the tendency to automatically tune into the emotional needs and feelings of others has its flip side. An empath can absorb these energies from either a close proximity or a distance, from those that they physically encounter or from those that they only vicariously become aware of. As individuals with a strong pull towards helping others, empaths often find themselves saddled with negative emotions such as distress, helplessness, anger, despair, and the like.

The absorption of negative energy can result in the physical manifestation of symptoms that are related to exhaustion, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and a sense of emotional overwhelm. Not only does an empath have to process their own emotions, but the natural tendency to take on the emotions of others can leave them wondering which is which. Already sensitive to life’s demands and everyday outside sources of stimulation, empaths can find themselves feeling physically exhausted without explanation.

Physical fatigue results in extreme tiredness that can interfere with the performance of routine tasks. It is typically caused by such factors as inadequate amounts of sleep, underlying chronic health conditions, lack of exercise, obesity, environmental triggers, or medication side effects. Emotional fatigue can result in the same feelings of extreme tiredness that often manifests as a combination of a physical desire to do nothing but sleep and a sort of mental aggravation towards the idea of accomplishing anything task-oriented. Emotional fatigue can be triggered by anxiety, depression, an overextension of one’s self, major life changes or constant stressful environments, such as a toxic workplace.

The Connection between Empathy and Emotional Fatigue

Since empaths take in more than they can sometimes readily process, their threshold for too much stimulation is often lower than those who do not possess the trait. Before they have had the chance to sort out and determine which emotions are theirs and which are not, empaths may continue to be absorbing additional emotional information or experience outside sources of stimulation that can trigger an emotional outburst. Similar to that of a volcanic eruption, the absorbed emotions continue to build up internally until they can no longer simply remain in an unprocessed like state.

Whether or not an empath has developed a coping mechanism for release such as meditation, visualization, or a mild form of dissociation combined with deep breathing techniques, it is their nature to simply feel what others feel – negative or positive. They can even literally take on the physical symptoms of someone else’s illness, but receive no medical explanation for it. As a precaution, it is vital that empaths take the necessary time to privately decompress, process, and eventually release all the energy they have absorbed throughout the day. Learning to set physical and emotional boundaries, while also learning to accept that feelings of physical and mental fatigue are part of being an empath, can help them reestablish a sense of self-defined control and vitality.



  1. This is me! Wow, great article..thank you!! Very helpful.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I can empathize.