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.