Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Empaths: Hypersensitivity, Anxiety, & Coping

Have you ever walked into a room full of people, and found yourself feeling as though you are suffocating? How about feeling overwhelmed when there is an emotional current running through a crowd you are among, like intense anger, immense sadness, or even joyous elation?

As Empaths and Highly Sensitive People (HSP), we tend to be hypersensitive to the emotions and emotional states of others. And when you compound this with a crowd of people, the feelings can become so intense that they can induce moments of high stress and anxiety within an Empath and/or HSP.

Let's look at the Empath traits list to help bring the point of this discussion into focus:

16 Common Empath Traits

1. Empaths are quiet achievers but expressive in area's of emotional connection. They find that talking about emotional issues is a great outlet that aids in understanding themselves and others.
2. Some empaths can be the opposite of what an empath 'should' be because they are overwhelmed or unable to handle emotion and what they feel in the world around them so they block their feelings.
3. They can be focused outward, toward what others feel, rather than themselves. This is a common trait to many people who have not gone through a process of self development.
4. They avoid disharmony caused by emotionally turbulent situations. This type of situation can easily create an uncomfortable feeling because an empath feels this emotion.
5. Empaths are emotionally sensitive to violence and general chaos.
6. Empaths are sensitive to loud noise and television. In particular, television programs that depict emotional drama like the news and police shows.
7. They struggle to comprehend acts of cruelty and crime that involves hurting others.
8. They struggle to comprehend suffering in the world and are often idealists who theorize about fixing the worlds problems.
9. Are often found working as volunteers, with people, animals or the environment.
10. They are expressive so they can often be found in areas of music or the arts.
11. They often have the ability to draw others to them. This includes children and animals as they have a warmth and compassion that is beyond normal You may find that strangers always talk to you if you are an empath.
12. They can be good listeners as they generally have an interest in other people.
13. Empaths can be moody or have large mood swings due to overwhelming thoughts, feelings and emotion.
14. They are likely to have had, other paranormal experiences in their life. This could be astral projection, psychic ability or a variety of other experiences.
15. Empaths are daydreamers that have difficulty keeping focused. This is common with people who deal more IN emotion and neglect other area's of their mind.
16. Like many people on a spiritual path Empaths frequently experience déjà vu and synchronicities. This is something that occurs to everyone however empaths are often more aware and therefore 'look out' for it.
Traits Of A Highly Sensitive Person

1. They feel (their own) emotions deeply.
2. They are sensitive to the emotions and emotional states of people around them.
3. They are easily hurt or upset.
4. They tend to avoid conflicts, arguments and other types of confrontations.
5. They tend to become agitated and/or flustered when surrounded by large groups of people or lots of activities.
6. They tend to need time to themselves each day.
7. They tend to be creative types who deeply appreciate art, nature and music.
8. They are prone to suffer from recurrent depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders.
9. They tend to be slower at recovering from intense stimuli, because they are sensitive to other people's suffering, noise, light, caffeine, pain, medications, temperature, and other stimuli.
10. They tend to be introverted and have rich,complex inner life, because they are able to concentrate and process information deeply.
When viewing these two lists of traits, there are some very obvious commonalities associated with high sensitivity and anxiety. Blocking emotions, avoidance of disharmony caused by emotionally turbulent situations, can be moody or have large mood swings due to overwhelming thoughts, feelings and emotion, tend to be slower at recovering from intense stimuli.....and so on. The list is filled with traits that are anxiety related due to the overwhelming nature of hypersensitive people (Empaths, HSPs).

I want to show you the symptoms for something called Social Anxiety Disorder, though this in no way diagnoses and/or points a finger at anyone. There are many levels of stress induced anxiety, and this is merely offered for informational purposes only. If you find you have questions and/or concerns, please consult a physician, therapist, psychologist, or counselor for help.
Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) ~ Quoted From The MayoClinic.com
  • Intense fear of being in situations in which you don't know people
  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
Here is a Social Anxiety Disorder Self Test, from the Anxiety Disorders Association Of America.

This is an anxiety disorder that can occur, even within an Empath, when they begin to feel the weight of the world closing in on them, particularly during social functions. Because, you see, being an Empath/HSP does not mean you are above or beyond such things. And because of the hypersensitivity, it can be hard to recognize in yourself. But beyond that, anyone with a hypersensitive personality is prone to anxiety, whether they have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (defined as: a blanket term covering several different forms of abnormal and pathological fear and anxiety)or not.

So let me ask you this? How many of you have had the urge, on more than one occasion, to lock yourself in your home and have no contact with other people....at all? How many of you have to move away from all social outlets, just to 'recharge your batteries'? How many of you have avoided certain personality types and social functions (because of personality types involved), due to feelings of being overwhelmed emotionally and/or emotionally drained?

These are valid and realistic questions for any Empaths and HSPs who, in particular, feels as though they are drowning in an emotional ocean of other people or feel overwhelmed by the emotional weight of those around them, let alone the world.

Now we come to the obvious question of how to cope with these issues, even if you do not have a particular Anxiety disorder, in a healthy fashion, instead of the usual coping devises we resort to when we are feeling anxious or stressed.

Now there are several tips I can offer in learning to cope and/or manage this issue. These range from general stress and/or anxiety to more pronounced forms like anxiety disorders.

  1. Recognize your emotional limits. Recognize the boundaries you have set for yourself. They are there, whether you recognize them or not. And if you feel yourself going beyond these limits, to a point of being overwhelmed, pull back and detach. Learning to detach, not completely emotionally dissociate, is a key coping skill for any Empath and/or HSP.
  2. Learn relaxation methods such as yoga, meditation, and visualization. They can come in handy, to relieve the buildup of stress and anxiety.
  3. Never feel ashamed to spend time alone, when you need it.
  4. Spending time with animals or a walk in nature, where there are no chaotic and complex emotional states flowing at you all at once, has the power to sooth.
  5. If there are certain personality types that overwhelm you, to which you can not avoid associating with because of family association, work relations, or social obligations, try to spend as little time with this person as you can. Small doses of this type of person are easier to cope with than long periods.
  6. Don't be afraid to consult a therapist, if you feel like you anxiety has reached a breaking point. Therapy and medication are not signs of weakness, they can enable coping, healing and growth.
  7. If you feel yourself completely pulling away from others, to the point of actually choosing to be alone for a majority of the time, take small steps to reintegrate yourself. Online resources are available to help support you and help you begin to cope with what is happening:

Information & Links

For more detailed traits lists of Empaths, try these sites:

Identifying As An Empath
What & Who Is An Empath?
Empath: Traits Of The Psychic Sponge
Traits Of An Empath
The Real Traits Of An Empath

For more information on Social Anxiety Disorder:

Social Anxiety Disorder
WebMD: Social Anxeity Disorder

Coping With Stress:

MayoClinic: Tips For Coping With Stress
Stress Management: How To Reduce, Prevent & Cope With Stress
Stress: How To Cope Better With Life's Challenges
CDC Tips For Coping With Stress
Factsheet: Coping With Stress Checklist

Coping With Anxiety:

Coping With Anxiety
Coping With Anxiety: Can Diet Make A Difference?
Coping Statements (Affirmations) For Anxiety
10 Tips (+1) For Coping With Stress & Anxiety
Articles About Understanding & Coping With Anxiety

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