If you’re an empath, you feel the energy and emotions of people and animals. You’re sensitive to your environment, including noise, clutter, brightness, and the overall feeling of your surroundings. Being an empath also means that you have unique struggles, including a tendency to feel lonely. It’s not hard to understand why loneliness would be an empath’s safe zone.
When you feel the emotions of those around you, it’s tough to know where their anxiety and pain ends and yours begins. When it comes to closer relationships, you may feel a constant sense of emotional overload.
Dr. Judith Orloff, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and bestselling author, explains that empaths are “super-responders; our sensory experience of relationship is the equivalent of feeling objects with fifty fingers instead of five.”
Just as massage therapists can feel fatigue in their hands and wrists, an empath’s “emotional fingers” can tire and seize up. Feeling and processing the emotions of those around you is so exhausting that you begin subconsciously pushing people away as a means of self-protection.
You put up walls to protect yourself
You may only allow people to get so close before you put up walls. It’s like you have an intricate system of gates surrounding your heart. Only those you love and trust most are allowed into your inner court. But even they can’t get through the armour you wear day in and day out to protect your energy and emotions.
It’s ironic because there’s a myth that empaths are the most giving and openhearted people. And that may be the case for some empaths, but there is another side to the story.
A damaged empath
For empaths who grew up in emotional chaos, isolation is a hardwired coping mechanism. Imagine a hypersensitive child who can feel every mood and predict every teardrop, living in a home where there is constant arguing or even violence.
Imagine if the people she must rely on to protect her are unknowingly drowning her in a sea of anxiety and depression. The girl doesn’t have the tools, nor is it her responsibility, to heal the situation. She feels helpless and heartbroken. From this young age she learns that the only safe space is within herself.
How to deal with chronic loneliness as an empath
The irony about empaths is that you spend so much time dealing with other people’s emotions that you don’t know how to process your own emotions.
You might be highly emotionally intelligent and aware of your feelings. But knowing what to do about said feelings, as well as the ones locked away in the basement of your subconscious, is the biggest challenge.
Much of what you feel today is linked to unprocessed emotions from your past. They are the feelings the little girl stuffed down as she focused on surviving.
Today, those unprocessed emotions leak out—and sometimes explode out like fireworks—when you’re emotionally triggered. When someone starts to get too close and that self-protection button gets pushed…when they criticize your decisions and your sense of self-worth unravels in an instant…when another person’s depression reminds you of the sadness that engulfed your childhood home…
When any of these emotional triggers are activated, it’s like accelerating a car on a dusty road. Before you know it, you’re choking on a cloud of emotions all getting kicked up at once. It’s an overwhelming feeling that you just want to escape. Isolation seems like the best solution. But it’s only a temporary one.
How to better manage emotions as an empath
When I do deep transformational work with my clients, they inevitably get triggered emotionally. The truth is that this is a necessary part of the process if they are to be free of any kind of lifelong pattern like loneliness.
You see, as painful as it is to have suppressed feelings of unworthiness, shame, fear, or anger come up, it’s really an opportunity.
There is immense power locked up in your unprocessed emotions. Think of it this way. We are energetic beings and all emotions—even the ones we ignore and hide—are made up of energy, too. Release those emotions and you free up A LOT of wasted energy.
There are countless ways that you can be supported as you deal with unprocessed emotions and overcome a pattern of isolation. I personally have worked with energy healers and hypnotherapists.
When I coach my clients through their transformations I draw on a wide variety of tools, including neuro-linguistic programming, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), visualization exercises, and other techniques to create pattern interrupts and release emotional blocks.
I recommend that you also develop a dynamic toolkit of rituals, exercises, and supports to process difficult emotions. Start now before you’re emotionally triggered and feeling so lonely it hurts. This way you’ll have solid support systems in place before you feel like your life is falling apart.
Over to you
Are you an empath who struggles with loneliness? Please feel free to share your story in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. If you’re new here, or you haven’t seen my face in a while, here are 5 things you should know about me:
1. My name is Michaela and I’m an HSP, INFP, introvert.
2. I LOVE apocalyptic movies (currently obsessed with The Rain on Netflix).
3. I’m the author of The Irresistible Introvert.
4. I help introverts gain confidence, self-love, and fulfilling friendships in their own innie way.
5. I share some of my best insights, wisdom, and free ebooks with my subscribers. Join my Innie Tribe and get a free Introvert Connection Guide here.
Thank you for a helpful article that addresses why I have limited my interactions with people. You have provided much needed insight and excellent suggestions for healthy coping with life.
You’re very welcome Roger <3
I’m 39 now, I’m the loniest I’ve ever been in my life. I only found out that I am an empath last year and since then I’ve been struggling with the realisation. It’s answered questions for me of why I felt so emotional but it’s also made me feel very sad and isolated. I don’t have a big friend group but the people I do have as friends don’t seem to understand what being an empath means to me. Me and my friends got together the other night for a chat, I hadn’t seen one of them for a few weeks but I could tell she was off with me for some reason I could feel it deep down inside. A few remarks from her here and there had my back up. Then she did something that triggered me, so I told her to pack it in. None of my friends could see what had just happened and so I get told I’m “to sensitive” I had to walk off for a while to cool down. After a few days of feeling so sad I plucked up the courage to speak to one of my friends about what had happened that night, only to be shot down and told that basically I’m to insecure. So I sent him an article about the traits of an empath hoping that finally someone would understand me. This is not the case, he said that I shouldn’t be thinking that I have a super power and that I’m special in anyway and that can read people minds, it’s just your emotions. I got so upset that yet again it’s been put down to me being to sensitive and insecure and thrown back at me. Only I really know how I felt that night and do feel every second of my life but the closest people to me didn’t and still don’t have a clue why I’m feeling this way now. It would seem they don’t care either.How in the hell do I get them to understand? If the excuse of me being insecure is going to be used whenever they see something they don’t understand or don’t like then how can they ever understand how I feel?
The truth is they will never understand how you feel. It’s like speaking a different language. They may understand some subtle gestures but your brain and nervous system speak to you in a way that is completely foreign to them. The onus is on you to manage your inner world, heal your inner child and accept yourself with love and compassion. The more you ground yourself, accept yourself and love yourself, the less you will NEED them to understand. The challenge then is to know how to navigate others blindness. It is not personal and I relate to your struggle. Went through that for decades with my family and my inlaws. There are no easy answers or quick fixes but there is information out there that will help you learn to soothe yourself and manage those around you with boundaries. I bought a book called How To Do The Work by Nicole LePera that was pivotal in my healing. May you find peace and harmony my friend. It gets better, I promise.
Valerie – this is excellent. Thank you for posting this. You have helped me tremendously. I hope it helps others too.
Andy….as an empath you do have a lot of power but I think it is well hidden a lot of the time because we feel safer that way. The hurly burly of personal relationships can cause a lot of confusion sometimes to an empath and I keep my true self hidden away for fear of being labelled ‘too sensitive’ as an insult rather than a virtue. I think sensitivity is a virtue and to be over sensitive does no harm whereas insenitive does.
We empaths shall come to the head of the crowd one day as people realise the world is crying out for kindness not uppityness.
Go easy on yourself. My mantra is always to ask yourself ‘how can I make this person’s life next to me better’ even in a small way.
I think your mantra is good but requires caution. For myself as an empath, I’ve put others ahead of myself, overloking my own wellness. I now know that my health has to come first so that I can think of and care for others in a balanced way!
Reading this post made me feel that someone actually understood how I feel.
I have tried so hard to explain to my family and closest people how I feel and how I sense what people feel or think just to be told I am too sensitive or that I overthink .
I feel so lovely every day and struggle to get up as I don’t see the point .
Everything causes me pain, even seeing a bird in a cage causes me to want to cry, if someone tells me their problems I carry them as if they were my own
Michaela, I can’t get over how much this post describes me. The little girl in the picture even looks just like me as a child. I grew up in a loving but extremely turbulent family with a violent and alcoholic father. I could always sense when things were about to get out of control and always felt it was my responsibility to stop the fights. I had no friends at school and felt left out even though everyone seemed to like me. I guess I couldn’t get close to people as, obviously, I couldn’t invite them home but also I guess I just didn’t have room for them emotionally. To this day I find it hard to be open with people, which is sad because I feel like am a quite an open and honest person by nature.
Very relevant and helpful article, Michaela!
Certainly rings true for me and my experiences: I have needed to be very selective about whom to share time with so that I have the resources to do so with the people I care about. And when alone there is a noticeable drop in stimulation / activation so sometimes I have noticed that change and called it “loneliness.”
Thanks for sharing that, Rob. Good to hear from you. 🙂
I can relate, very much so. Thank you for being able to put into words what many of us can’t. For me, knowing anyone can relate to how I feel as well, makes me feel less isolated in the world.
Love, Light, & Blessings.
I live in a senior community where almost every interaction can be present: hostile, funny, kind, sad, depressed, joy, etc. What an emotional ride…
You really do understand!
I have worked and been friends with a wide variety of people and have taken on a lot of different feelings from them. It has been hard to block out the negative and I still struggle so have distanced myself from quite a few people while still learning what I have to do to not take everything on. Still a long way to go…
Much needed article…thank you ❤️
This is a very helpful article my niece is an empath. At first, I used to think that she is an Introvert but I feel sometimes that there is more to it so now I fully understands
It is hard to find people to talk to about being an empath. I dont know how todeal with sadness. I have a spouce that i cant be around all the time. He is diabetic , has sleep apnea , and presently waiting for diagnoses on cancer testing. As an empath i cannot be around him without feeling his sickness, sadness, etc. I feel lonely. We stay separated often because i cant handle it all. He understands but it is sad. Im upstairs he is on the lower level. We are prisoners in pur home. Confined and lonely.
Thank you Michaela,
I have felt lonely for so much of my life, i even feel lonely when I’m with my boyfriend (ie, if we are disagreeing). Im reading about being an empath on your site and so much of it makes sense. At my last few places of employment, I have misrepresented myself and none of my coworkers knew me as the kind individual i know myself as, i felt very misunderstood at those places. I have a wonderful partner, and we agree on everything important, but out arguments (literally over gummi worms, once) devolve into these hellish yelling contests that go nowhere but last for two to four hours 🙁 we always make up and agree that we have emotional baggage that we both need to resolve but i never can seem to talk my feelings out. Feelings from my past and present come marching in every day and i cry over my dad, my ex, kids from fourth grade….it feels like Im confronting my feelings but then why dont they go away? It’s a journey, i bet. Im listening to a great hypnosis app called mindifi, but i definitely need more help!
I am an Empath, hsp, introverted healer. And boy do I isolate. I always have. I have always questioned why I am like this. I have probably spent a good portion of my life alone, thinking. My mind does not shut off when i am awake, ever. The world is very noisy to me in the way that all the terrible things going on try to affect the way I feel, it is a constant struggle to remain positive, But I have learned it is sensory over load so I even went as far as to shut off my cable to limit what I hear daily. It helps.
I run a recovery-support group for women who have lived with domestic violence and for an Empath I have grown so much and I know my purpose on this planet now, which makes being an Empath so much easier. My group is online though so really even though I interact with women all day, I am still alone. But for me it is what i need after doing what I do. I have listened and consumed other members emotions all day, for some reason i can take a lot of people’s pain and guide them out of the darkness, but an Empath can only do that so long before they must recharge. So again being alone is probably best.
I have been told by many spiritual teacher’s that an Empath’s journey here on earth is a lonely experience. Not saying you don’t have relationships but many times those relationships end up abusive. So really an Empath has to educate themselves on all the dangers that are out there waiting for them, learn to apply boundaries and use them. We are prone to getting involved with narcissist’s and if you have ever done that you will understand that they destroy empath’s. So when all is said and done you are very cautious of people and who you let in your life, leaving you again, alone. I have been doing what I do for almost 6 years now and I have seen the patterns of abuse and it is the same every time. until an Empath educates and empowers themselves to not live in fear, Loneliness will be a problem. But once you heal your own wounds loneliness becomes peace and peace is the one thing an Empath needs to not feel so alone. I hope I explained that so it made some sense, I loved this article because I can totally relate. Sometimes I wish I could change the way I am, an introvert, but I have not figured that one out yet. thanks
Ok, where to start? Well I’m highly empathic I have learned how to filter out the emotions of others. It’s my own feelings I struggle with. I am a introvert but have also learned how to be in social situations. But what I have trouble with is feeling alone even with my closest friends . And I struggle with not having someone in my life that I can be close to that understands me. Not having love in my life that stays. I am lost and alone and have been 90% of my life.I hide it well. No one knows. But I always feel alone.
I can imagine there must be a lot of us that feel so very alone. I to spent most of my life alone, it’s left me very sad. I always thought there was something wrong with me. Social inept, ugly, weird. We just want to be excepted for who we are. I feel you pain just like mine. I hope you find what you need and deserve. I hope we all doo.
I think a part of my experience as a damaged empath [your description of that for me is precise and complete] reveals the depths of where it can take you if you don’t get a handle on it.
I grew up as an empath in extreme poverty, my knees bigger than my thighs and sores on my face most of the time. I was brutalized as a constant, and almost died on three occasions (drowned in a basement industrial tub at age 5, beat so badly, near death, having my my first out of body experience at age 8, and the last time, at age 15, in a coma in the basement for three days, and when I awakened my mother was looking into my eyes and said, “You have to leave and never come back”, which I did).
I became a hard-core New York City street kid, and at age 20 I was sent to what Dr. Karl Menninger claimed in his book, The Crime of Punishment, was the worst prison in America at that time. The main ingredient of that status was that you could kill anyone you wanted with the slightest finesse and not get an extra day of added time, because it wasn’t a concern with the guards: we were the “last stop” prisoners, those perceived as not reachable and better off dead for our sake and the sake of everyone else in and outside prison. The advantage of this horror story for an empath is that it was rare for prisoners to fight. It was always an anticipated second-to-second death match, never a fight: you could blink at the wrong moment and get shived, which created the most calm of prison environments (and I already lived in high anxiety and severe depression as my ground my entire life, so this rabidly dark and fear-based environment didn’t have such an impact on me as other prisoners — and I relished that peaceful environment).
Here’s the thing: I got released after ten years on parole. I still owed them 6 years. And I realized not too long after being out that my 5′ x 7′ cell was the best home I’d ever had, a place I could indulge other worlds, especially in literature, philosophy and psychology, and, most importantly, a place where I could minimize emotional environments with ease, and most of my time was spent in blissful isolation in my 5 x 7 cell. So I returned to prison, and then, after a year, they threw me out again on parole, and when I again chose to come back, they wouldn’t accept me. It was strange for them, no doubt, but I’m sure I wasn’t the first empath they had encountered.
You published a great description of what empathy is and how to deal with it. And I pray every empath who reads it takes it to heart. It is a precise and concise road-map for empaths, and thanks much for that.
I’ve been an empath my whole life, after realizing this at the age of 19 I somehow feel depressed. I try to go out to free my mind but end up regretting why I didn’t just stay in my room. Being social is hard for me. I really don’t know how to deal with this loneliness anymore 😔.
I haven’t read anything so spot on before. I’ve always felt like ‘I’m on the wrong planet ‘. Even as a child, I went out of my way to scan the playground and personally dealt with the bullies with the only thing that would get thru to them=violence. I was one of the smallest kids in grade school, but I was fearless and new anatomy. I was insatiable when it came to books, including my parent’s medical books (they both worked in hospitals). As an adult I rarely use physical means, I usually disarm with humor or walk away but always speak my mind.
I’m currently madly in love with another empath, who’s a bit telepathic. She told me that she used to do tarot readings but they were so spot on that it scared her, so she stopped. She is currently living with her ex boyfriend, basically just to live with their teenage son. I was immediately intrigued when I first met her, because I couldn’t get a read on her emotions. I hardly ever see auras, but I ‘always’ feel them. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. As the months have passed, I just care for her more. She has been chronically hurt by many life experiences. I knew this before she opened up to me a bit. I want to remove all her hurt, but she hangs onto it and hides it very well. She’s a strong soul who blames herself for a lot, to the point where she believes she deserves all “bad” things that happen. Yet she has adopted an aloof ‘I don’t care’ attitude that fools all. She is the sweetest, hasn’t let horrible life experiences ruin her. She avoids eye contact with most, but has the most amazing eye contact with me always. We have only touched accidentally , and it’s like electricity. She calms and excites me at the same time. It’s wonderful and a bit overwhelming at the same time too. I can tell she’s reluctant to let go and love me, even though she feels the same. I can only speculate that all the walls she’s put up to protect herself are very hard to come down. I respect that because I have walls of my own. You can’t just wish them away, some are very old. When I’m near her I literally feel less physical pain ( I have chronic pain from being physically harmed). I told her so, also that it made me feel a little selfish yet greatful. She just continued “looking thru me” and gave me her gorgeous smile. She intoxicates me in the best way. I have never waited this long to make a move on someone that I’m attracted to. I sense she needs time, she is worth waiting for. I have never felt this way. How do I handle this intensity?
Thanks for this great article. I’m an empath, ENFx with Sensor Thinking parents who are always at ends with each other. Very stressful. Dealing with forcing myself to be in self-isolation. Very insightful stuff that takes focusing on to even identify.
Hi thanks a mil for this information… I’ve been struggling for years always isolating myself from loved ones.. I’m at a stage where I don’t have friends at all only my daughter and mother understands me to some point when I’m just not talking and to myself….
Sometimes like now the loneliness hurts because I wished I had friends to talk to and sometimes I want noone around I literally chase them…
Hopefully I’ll get the help I need to deal with these feelings.
my name is gina and this has helped me understand why i feel the way i do 24/7 of my days on this earth and why i feel other peoples emotions on a daily bases it sucks it really does you only get those few moments of happiness during the days and it feels like its not enough.. i help people all the time even people i know that dont really deserve my kindness but i dont know why i do it but this made me understand thank you so much….
thankfully yours , Gina
I’ve been struggling with this my whole life. My mom and stepfather fought from the time I was 9 years old until I left home at 18. My mother was a physically/emotionally abusive alcoholic woman. The result of this has been a series of broken relationships, friendships….I feel everyone’s pain at every moment. It washes over me like a wave. I hide when I’m overwhelmed or sad. I shut down. I take care of everyone around me before I tend to myself. I hide behind jokes and laughing but I’m scarred and torn up inside.
All of my life, I have heard, “You’re very empathic” from people who were often leery of me and “Toughen-up: you’re too sensitive” from those who care about me.
I just returned from the gym. I walked in and–without thinking–asked the desk attendant, “Did you ask for that raise yet?” He replied, “I just got the raise last week. How did you know? You have ‘that’ gift, don’t you?” I told him that I wasn’t hiding “it” any longer and am being more honest with others about “it”–so that they leave me alone. I have been “listening” to conversations in others’ minds for years, and–to be honest–I’ve been ashamed of “it”–even thinking that it is somehow wrong.
Thanks for your very on-point article.
Wow … Thanks so much for getting this information out there. I’m 72 and just confronting the past and why now I have fibromyalgia – severe depression – and have isolated myself especially since the pandemic. All I want to do is be in bed … my house is full of clutter and I barely interact outside of my house except to by grocery’s and errands that I have to go out for. I’m in contact with a few lifelong friends but it’s usually on the phone or through social media. I just started a chiropractic exam and found my back is in bad shape so I have a calender for 2 visits a week through May and then tapering as needed. Actually the self care is helping and it’s forcing me out of the house twice a week and I plan on building on that. I need a good talk therapist and finally got insurance that will cover therapy it’s been a struggle to find someone. It helped me a lot to read other peoples stories so similar to mine.