7 Struggles Empaths Face Every Day In Their Social Lives

7 Struggles Empaths Face Every Day In Their Social Lives

Carrying extra emotional weight is a challenge.

Most people, when asked to define the word “empath,” would say something about having the ability to take on the emotional and mental states of others. This is definitely a big part of the meaning, but as all empaths know, there’s much more to it than that.

Lately I have been coming across articles aimed at people who are often criticized for their emotionality and sensitivity, offering solace and support and encouraging them to view these traits as blessings. I’m very glad that there are people who see it this way and are trying to empower the more emotion- and intuition-driven people of the world.

Sadly, however, these comforting words don’t just magically change the reality that being an empath, and carrying extra emotional weight, is a challenge, a burden we usually wish we didn’t have to bear.

It tends to cause complications in different areas of our lives, and the area I want to discuss specifically in this article is social life:

1. They don’t do well in large groups.

Many empaths are people-lovers, but just cannot handle large group socialization. All the different energies can become overwhelming and just hard to take in all at once. Plus, in larger groups, there tends to be more potential for conflict and negativity, which empaths will sense immediately and respond to very strongly.

2. They can’t stand to hear people being gossiped about or spoken of badly.

It brings them a sense of personal disturbance and discomfort, and more often than not, it will dampen their mood, as they imagine themselves in the position of the person being talked about.

3. Conflict causes them distress regardless of whether or not they are directly involved.

Nope, it doesn’t matter if the empath isn’t a central figure in the conflict or if the negative feelings aren’t directed at them. In any social group—friends, roommates, organizations, teams, sororities/fraternities, etc—any sort of disruption of the usual peace and contentment will cause tension for empaths. In fact, it can be really upsetting.

4. They prefer to avoid confrontations.

If there is no direct issue between an empath and another person, said empath certainly isn’t going to risk doing anything that may create one. It can be tricky because there may be a legitimately bothersome problem going on, but figuring out how to deal with it can take such a big emotional toll.

5. They may come across as moody or distant.

Empaths sometimes don’t even realize that they are picking up negative vibes or feelings from other people or from the situation—they just feel the shift in their own mood. Other people may not sense any change at all, and so it will seem strange to them that the empath suddenly seems more withdrawn.

6. They care deeply about the problems of others…sometimes even more than their own problems.

I once found myself in a conversation with a relatively new friend that I couldn't extract myself from. She began telling me vivid stories about her childhood and personal life, none of them happy. Afterwards, I felt really uncomfortable in a strange way. People will often feel inclined to talk to empaths about difficult situations that they’ve been through or are currently going through, as they will always express genuine concern and be supportive. But hearing all of that can be harmful for an empath’s well-being. They often end up with unwanted information and thus unwanted sad, negative feelings. But they want to be there for everyone, always, and don’t want to turn their back on anyone who seems in crisis.

7. They just know. Even when no one else does. And that can be frustrating.

Empaths are intuitive. They know when one friend says something to another that hits a nerve—they feel the emotional twitch themselves. They notice when a friend is smiling less than usual or making his sarcastic, witty comments with less enthusiasm. They can tell when someone is enjoying life less than they used to. They’re silent observers and they just have that sixth sense. They know, though, that they likely won’t get explanations or answers about these feelings, and that they might not even be talked about at all, so a lot of the time they just end up feeling stuck.

Cover Image Credit: Ariana Leo

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What It's Like

I really like to color coordinate my folders so I'm a bit "OCD."

I rarely discuss this particular subject anymore. I like to think that this part of my life has been left in the past, but since I now feel more comfortable talking about it, here it is.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder took away the freedom I had over my actions and my mind. This issue is often portrayed by almost everyone as a cleanliness or organizational problem or utilized as an adjective to describe someone who likes order. I'm not here to tell you how that definition is incorrect, but rather to speak about how OCD is unfortunately beyond that adjective.

My mind was the prisoner of this illness. I had no control over the one thing I always wanted to be able to have a good spiritual connection with: my mind.

This subject is important to talk about because it is a mental disorder that often gets twisted and is conceived as some hand washing issue or an adjective to describe people liking things in order or being clean. That's not what OCD is. Obsessive compulsive disorder isn't just an adjective. Unfortunately, it's a chronic mental disorder that definitely puts your life on hold.

Saying "OCD destroyed my life" is a bit of an exaggeration as I don't nearly struggle with it as much as I did even a year ago. Also, as a disclaimer I would like to say that I don't believe in the power of mental illnesses in terms of defining your life: because if you relinquish your power to something that holds you back, what will you have left? However, I can attest that waking up every day was a chore due to the rituals I had to perform just to live out a single day. The sequences that went through my head every time I washed my hands, took a single step, ate food, or honestly just moved were hell. I was constantly afraid that my house was going to catch on fire or people would break in. My brain decided to cope with my fears by telling me to touch the knobs on the stove in a 2-4-6-8-10-1-2 sequence at least 7, 17 or 27 times. It took so much time away from my day in order to carry out. If i accidentally hit my leg on the side of the table, I would have to keep hitting myself 6 more times in order to complete my sequence. Every time I would go through one of these sequences I would also be feeling intense waves of intensity and doubt. It never felt like enough.

The earliest I remember of my struggles with OCD was with locking the doors when I was about 9 years old. I was always home alone in my small apartment in Brooklyn, and although my neighborhood was not "dangerous," there were quite a number of burglaries on my block. I think the worry behind making sure the doors were locked is rational, but the relentless patterns of repetition drove me to a place where I was irrationally fearful of what could actually happen.

Fast forward to junior year of high school, where I was increasingly struggling with my health in general. This was by far the worst year in terms of the reoccurrences of my rituals. I remember driving myself crazy when a single edge of a magazine wasn't lined up perfectly with the one underneath it and the tortuous feelings of me not being able to control every obsession I had. To this day I still haven't figured out how or why OCD seemed to come out of dormancy and progressed so rapidly that year. The questions of how and why don't really matter as I was eventually able to find the will inside of me to go out of my comfort zone in order to get rid of something that made my life so painful.

Perhaps that is why it use to make me so uncomfortable when OCD was used as a sort of branding for products and companies such as the "I have CDO, which is OCD except the letters are in order" shirts, the bakery Obsessive Compulsive cookies, and the Obsessive Christmas Disorder shirts. The reason why I wrote this article was to in my own way debunk some of the myths surrounding OCD and explain why it shouldn't be glorified. I guess my overall message is that the next time you decide to announce casually "Omg, I'm so OCD", I hope you think about what you are truly saying.

Cover Image Credit: RasMarley

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