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That one Hyper Empathetic Friend!

FeaturedVid Jun 08

Scientists use the word “hyper empathy” to describe a woman who had a portion of her brain removed to avoid epileptic fits and was later discovered to have higher than average empathy levels. Despite what some internet articles say, hyper empathy is not a mental health ‘syndrome’ or something a doctor or psychotherapist would diagnose you with. Emotional empathy and cognitive empathy are terms used by psychologists. We can mentally imagine what the other person is going through if we have cognitive empathy. Things get complicated when it comes to emotional empathy. It’s when we encourage ourselves to experience what another person is going through. And it’s here that we will enter the field of hyper empathy, or, as Stanford University’s Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education puts it, “empathic reactivity.”

So, how can you tell if you’re over-empathizing and experiencing ’empathic reactivity’? The following are some warning signs to keep an eye out for:

  • After spending time with others, you might find yourself exhausted and tired,
  • Unable to deny favors to others, not prioritizing yourself.
  • causing others to be unkind to you because you ‘feel sorry for them.’
  • emotional outbursts that aren’t proportionate (bawling at a photo of an animal being hurt, feeling rage when a mother chastises a child in public)
  • Physical responses to other people’s upset (feeling sick to your stomach, muscle tension),
  • inability to let go of your emotional reaction to another’s suffering but remaining stuck in it for hours, days, or even weeks, causing your own life to suffer.
  • You’re late for a meeting, you don’t go to the gym, and you can’t finish your dinner.

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