7 Strategies for Empaths to Heal Trauma & PTSD

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To learn more techniques to manage your sensory overload get my PDF “Life Strategies for Sensitive People” Here.

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Empaths and sensitive people often experience some level of post-traumatic stress.

This is, in part, because they’re on sensory overload for so many years their systems are flooded with adrenaline. Other reasons include early neglect, abuse, or simply that they didn’t feel “seen” or have their sensitivities supported in their families. I’ve written about this topic in my new book “Thriving as an Empath”.

Early trauma can come in many forms. Possible sources include::

  • Hearing your parents or siblings frequently argue
  • Being repeatedly yelled at
  • Physical and/or emotional abuse
  • Being shamed or blamed for being “overly sensitive.”
  • Being bullied

Even experiencing intense ongoing household noise and chaos can feel traumatic. An empathic child’s highly sensitive system can absorb more stress than others would in these situations.

When empaths are exposed to early trauma or abuse their young nervous system may develop without healing making them hypervigilant. They can become exquisitely attuned to their environment to ward off threats and ensure they are safe or enter a state of hyperarousal. This hypervigilance is extremely draining for empaths.

Your past can still affect you now. When you are exposed to a similar stimulus as an adult such as a disagreement with your partner, you may have an exaggerated emotional response because you are flashing back to the original trauma. (This is similar to a veteran who misreads a car backfiring as an exploding bomb.) With post-traumatic stress, your system can’t fully return to its calmer state before the upset or even the initial incident. You are never quite at rest and remain aware of protecting yourself from further threats.

Empaths are often mistaken for being aloof or snobbish, but others don’t realize that the distance you seem to keep is because you’re focused on protecting yourself and ensuring that the ground is solid. The Buddhists say, there is always a groundless ground there to support you. Even when you are inundated with excessive stimulation, the groundless ground is always there.

To find your solid ground follow these seven strategies from “Thriving as an Empath” to help heal your past trauma.

7 Healing Strategies

1. Journal about your early traumas. Then you can be aware of them. None are “too small” to count. This is the first step to freeing yourself from the past.

2. Retrieve your inner child. In a quiet moment, think back to when the early trauma occurred. How old were you? Where did it take place? Then picture yourself returning to the house or other location where it happened and retrieving your wounded inner child who has been stuck there. Tell the child “I am sorry you were hurt and I will never allow that to happen to you again.” Then take the child home with you to care for with love.

3. Emotional Release. As you heal, many emotions will surface: anger, fear, depression, self-doubt. Let yourself feel and express these emotions—a supportive therapist can create a safe environment for you to do this.

4. Set Clear Boundaries. Learn to stick up for yourself. Don’t be a doormat. If someone isn’t treating you well, say in a firm, neutral tone, “Let’s discuss this when you’re calmer” or “It hurts my feelings when you say…I’d appreciate it if you would stop.” Also remember that “No” is a complete sentence. Sensitive people are often afraid to disappoint others but it’s essential to get in the habit of saying “no” when something doesn’t feel right.

5. Conscious Breathing. When your old traumas are being triggered take a few slow deep breaths to calm your system before your respond.

6. Meditate. Regular meditation calms the mind, body, and soul. It decreases sensory overload and keeps your system in a peaceful state.

7. Practice Self-Compassion. Shower yourself with love and kindness as you go through the healing process. You are a caring person who deserves to be loved.

It is often helpful to consult a therapist to work through the original trauma. Useful techniques for clearing trauma include EMDR, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and somatic awareness. Since trauma often lodges in the body it’s also useful to get regular massage or energy work to clear any remnants that are hanging on.

Give yourself time to heal. Be patient and loving with yourself. Mourn the losses you experience. Allow yourself to experience your feelings and memories without any judgement. Healing is an exercise in loving yourself.

The great news is that past trauma can be healed. In that process, you will become more at ease with your empathic abilities and learn to protect your sensitivities using the strategies I suggested. As a result, you’ll be able to relax more. The world will feel like a safer place to inhabit.

S E T  Y O U R  I N T E N T I O N

I will identify my early traumas. I will notice how my reactions to them may be repeating in my relationships today. I am capable of healing from these wounds.

Empaths, Trauma & PTSD Video

(Adapted from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” and “The Empath’s Empowerment Journal” by Judith Orloff, MD)

 

Judith Orloff, MD is the New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her new book Thriving as an Empath offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people along with its companion The Empath’s Empowerment Journal. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA and has a TEDX talk. Her other books are Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive HealingExplore more information about her Empath Support Online course and speaking schedule on www.drjudithorloff.com.

Connect with Judith on  Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

27 thoughts on “7 Strategies for Empaths to Heal Trauma & PTSD

  1. I could just weep reading this as it hits so very close to home. I broke completely last year and was suicidal. I had battled all I could. I was diagnosed with severe C-PTSD from some horrific things that have happened as a youngster decades ago and leaving a dark energy career as an RN at a dialysis clinic from hell. I can say without a doubt EMDR is effective. I have been told that those of us that suffer from PTSD can talk all day long about the event but it won’t make the PTSD go away. Our wounded warrior son can attest to that, too, as can I. I actually use EMDR techniques I learned in stressful situations. And I can say I am so much better but it is a journey.

    I always believe that when the student is ready the teacher arrives. By some not so accident coincidence, I was perusing the vegan cook books at a book store, Judith’s books were right there beside them oddly catagorized. Out of curiosity I picked one up. Showing my husband, who is an empath himself, he encouraged me to get The Empath’s Survival Guide, The Empath’s Empowerment Journal, and Thriving As An Empath. I also downloaded the survival guide on Audible for him as he won’t just sit and read. We both have been blow away. We both have come through an incredible year of healing and it has just blown wide open our empathic gifts. I was shocked to realize that I was even an empath. I knew I was a HSP. I literally ticked every single box on pp 6-7. No wonder I have had a hard time living in this world! Now that I know this I can explore so much more.

    Thank you Judith!

  2. It all fits me like a “T” though I was born with a serious heart defect and pulmonary hypertension. Very little in therapy has worked. No one has answers for me. Never had emotional support. Had 3 friends from grade school and now I don’t have any. Can’t work and always wanted and needed a close friend. Yet I have serious attachment issues. I automatically connect with women with similar traits but lack emotional availability. It was awful but I connected so strongly fairly recently with a younger married woman. Just don’t understand what happens to me on so many levels. On top of that my dad is currently at hospice.

  3. I am so shocked to discover that I am not alone . Ever since I discovered Dr Orloff’s books , I am hooked . I have cried tears of recognition and relief . I really didn’t realise that there are people like me in this world . I can’t stop listening to the audio books . They have become my best friends and I have booked a session with Dr Orloff to really hear it form the horse ‘s mouth that I am truly an empath. Having grown up being ridiculed and told that there was something wrong with me is something that is very hard to shift . I truly believed that I was the biggest moron in the universe . I was crushed by a narcissistic mother so it’s very difficult for me to accept this positive self view that I am getting from the books .

    I am so glad that you are all here as it makes me feel that I am no longer alone . I have been so lonely all my life . I know that I may never meet any of you but that doesn’t matter as I can feel your living ,breathing spirits .Thank you 🙏🏾

    1. Hello. Happy New Year beautiful soul 🙂 I just found out that i am an empath also and my mom was the same also sadly with me so i grow up without self-confident and i been abused every was in school at home everywhere and i have cried a lot so fare and many times i wanted to give up my life also because i felt like i don’t belong here and i always felt alone and no one understood me ever before and now i am so happy to find out what a uniqe special humans we are. Love yourself a lot and give yourself a kiss haha 🙂 You can e-mail me if you like and have sometimes conversation. I am a Leo girl August7 birthday and i will be 29 years old and i am leaving in Canada Toronto. Have a blissful year to you and all empaths!!! YEAH i am not the only weird one lol. 🙂 I love you all

    2. I am also an empath, and I must say I know it’s a gift from God. Although it’s a gift it sometimes feel like a burden. I have been taking on other people’s pain for as long as I can remember, one day I had a friend ask how did I know things that I spoke about before they took place, well at that time I didn’t know why I was able to identify certain things. Being a empath I tend to love so deep and yarn for that in return, so far no one has been able to return the love. I find myself always trying to fix other people’s problems. I went through an emotional time with a friend I found myself not being able to sleep for years, until one day I realize me being in communication with her every day all throughout the day I was picking up her energy. So I went to visit her and I prayed over her room and ask God to allow to rest. The next morning she came in to the living room and told me she had slept good. Prayer answered, not I’ve have removed myself from her because I began to see she was depending on my energy on a daily. One day I told I had some business to take care and I couldn’t talk, she later told me she told someone she was going to answer for me. That’s was hurtful I thought that was pretty selfish and eventually she began to do things to test me to see if I was going to there there for her. Well that cut deep because I carried her pain with her so why would she ever feel the need to text our friendship. I come to find out that people clingy to me for my uplifting, but I’m exhausted and hurting deep inside myself.

    3. Wow, your story and Alexandra’s are very much like mine. I hope I can put this here, the book Daughter Detox: Recovering From An Unloving Mother and Regaining Your Life has really helped me regain my life and I am 54. It is never too late to break free from toxic people. I showed the book to my therapist and she now recommends it to many of her clients. You could easily replace the word ‘daughter’ with ‘son’ and it would still apply for the men out there.

      I have shed a lot of dark energy this last year. The more that was shed the more my empathic abilities started to be made known.

  4. Thank you for sharing this…it gives me assurance as I’m 65 and only now going through healing. I have absolutely no one but a therapist…. Now discovering I am an empath..and there ARE others like me! I have distanced myself from my remaining relatives who only degrade me – only bringing up my past mistakes. I am getting better at not dwelling on my mistakes and painful childhood. There are no photos of me in family pictures or yearbooks. I felt too ugly to be seen…I was violently abused raped and neglected. Suddenly I’m thinking of my accomplishments when I begin to say negative comments to myself. I did extraordinary moral things to live well and survive! I am worthy of love and deserving of respect! I am in debt living on SSI and never have any extra money for special items like your book…maybe someday. But I am grateful for what I do have.
    I hope someone reading this gets help before the age of 65 🙂

    1. I was recently told by a physic that I am an empath. Three

      such persons have said this to me over the years, and I am now 58. As a child I would have numerous motion picture dreams of people in my family or complete strangers dying. I would dream of seeing their faces two or three times and they would die. As as child this “power” was terrifying to me. I asked the Great Spirit to take this from me, and it was gone. Now, I am beginning to understand why I enjoy and look forward to long periods of simply being left alone. I am an extrovert, a high school physics teacher with five adult children who have wonderful careers and are all on their own unique spiritual journeys. Their Dad my exhusband once said that he didn’t know if God existed. I have tried to communicate to my children over the years to be on some sort of positive spiritual path. Two of my children practice Buddhism and meditating everyday like me, the oldest Son who has a very sad, and angry demeanor attends church intermittently etc. My point. I have lived a purposeful, conscious life of trying to be authentic, caring

      and loving toward those around me. Know that I am an empty nester, I am so eager to spend more time honing my spiritual skills. Namaste⛩

  5. Im 28 and just now becoming in tune with this curse. I can’t stand feeling what others feel. I wish I could just be oblivious to others, its awful knowing what people truly feel about you and seeing how cruel people can be all in the name of maintaining an image. It really shows the narcassism in this world. Glad im not alone though.

    1. Hi Mr. Smith…I remember being 28 and not knowing or understanding my emotions. In fact as I was growing up I was told I was too emotional and too sensitive and I believed it for 30 years until I moved away from my family. Being an Empath isn’t a curse at all, its a gift. And like most gift, if we don’t know to use it, it can become more of a burden than anything. You’re young, as long as you nurture and educate yourself along the way you will OK. Wish I would have known at 28 there was nothing wrong with me 😉

  6. I’m an Empath, have been since I was a very little girl. I remember seeing spirits in my room, I remember vivid dreams when I was 3 on up that was relevant to my life. My mom said I always kept saying that I wanted to heal people when I was younger. I could look at a picture of someone and “know “ that that person was going to be significant in my life one way or the other. Back in the 80’s before they had cell phones I could telepathically communicate, as with a good friend of mine who lived 15 miles away, she was in an abusive relationship and if the abuse started I knew I had to go get her and most every time she’d be outside waiting for me to pick her up. Sadly I have a rare spinal cord disease and it causes debilitating pain so I have to take medication for it, and it has somewhat altered my abilities. I have cptsd and they keep wanting me to take meds for it but I’m done with them. I feel worse taking them than I did before. I still sense spirits and they’ve made theirselves known, I can still ‘sense’ things such as feelings, true feelings that is, I can ‘feel others’. Just not as good as I used to. My great grandma could do a lot of things but didn’t tell many people in those days because she would have been a witch and burned at the stake. So we have always been told not to tell anyone. Now I don’t feel so alone, thank you all.

  7. This is so helpful for me to read and see the comments too. I am currently listening to “The Empath’s Survival Guide” which I checked out from the library. I am breathing a big sigh of relief as I feel understood at last and can understand myself better. Thank you.

  8. thankyou for The Empath’s survival Guide. It is my first introduction to your work. What is stated in your book relates personally to me. I feel right at Home. I very rarely feel right at home. it is extremely comforting and healing to know that I am not odd or strange and there are actually many others with the same challenges as me. WOW
    I want to continue learning from you. where do I start?
    Thankyou,

  9. Thank you Judith, I will buy the book, another one of yours, at Barnes and Noble.
    God Bless you,
    Jean Lovecchio

  10. Whst if you don’t remember childhood … just the feeling of terror, being unsafe … so can’t go back to the first traumatic incident or any other early traumas?

    1. It’s not always necessary to go back. What is important I learned through professional help is what we can do to help ourselves? Not always asking why this happened? What happened? Etc. But what we can to get better now to find peace and love for ourselves.💜💜💜😊
      Peace to you

  11. Having just become aware of Energy Vampires and my Empathic roots I have found your books and this group a fantastic support for me in going forward.
    I just wondered if you ever did UK workshops?
    Suzie

  12. I also wanted to say that I think its very cool and generouse that you share your info and put this group together, it has been a major resorce for me! Lastly, thank you for acknowledging the empath and making into something positive, and helping us/me to use it as a gift to help, rather than viewing it as a curse!

  13. Hi Judith Orloff, that was some helpful info and I would really like to get the book; im quite low income and I was wondering if you have a digital copy or a used copy thats cheaper? Actually I dont know the cost of the book at all, after most of my monthly bills get paid, groceries etc there isnt much, if any money left! Im trying to live on survivors benefits from social scurity and due to some health issues I cannot work at this time, sooo, do you think you mite be able help with this endeavor? Thanx!

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