Empaths are often prone to experiencing sensory overload where the world just seems like “too much.” So there is a tendency to reach for addictions (alcohol, substances, sex, food, shopping, gambling, etc.) to quiet the external and internal stimuli and go numb to shut the world out. It’s important to recognize this unhealthy addictive pattern in yourself and shift it. This means learning strategies to consciously decrease stimulation in your life through asserting your needs, taking alone time, dealing with emotional triggers and regular meditation as well as daily self-care. Twelve Step programs can also be useful. You can do this!
If you suspect you are using alcohol, drugs, overeating, or addictive behaviors to manage the sensory overload of being an empath, take some time to reflect on how you cope by evaluating the following statements from The Empath’s Survival Guide.
I Turn to Substances, Medications or Other Addictions When:
- I’m overwhelmed by emotions (mine or another’s)
- I’m in emotional pain and feel frustrated, anxious, or depressed
- My feelings are hurt
- I feel uncomfortable in my own skin
- I can’t sleep
- I feel emotionally unsafe in a situation
- I feel criticized, blamed, or rejected
- I feel shy, anxious, or don’t fit in socially
- I’m isolating at home and I need confidence to go out in public
- I’m tired and need an energy boost
- I feel drained by energy vampires
- I want to escape and shut out the world
Here’s how to interpret this self-assessment:
• Answering yes to even one statement indicates that you sometimes turn to an addiction to cope with your sensitivities.
• Answering 2-5 yeses indicates you are moderately relying on an addiction to self-medicate feelings of sensory overload.
• Answering 6 or more yeses indicates you are largely coping with empathy by engaging in addictive behavior
(To learn more see the section on empaths and addictions in “The Empath’s Survival Guide.”)