Empathic illnesses are those in which you manifest symptoms that are not your own.
Empathic illnesses are those in which you manifest symptoms that are not your own. Many patients have come to me labeled “agoraphobic” with panic disorders, chronic depression, fatigue, pain, or mysterious ailments that respond only partially to medications or psychotherapy. Some were nearly housebound or ill for years. They’d all say, “I dread being in crowds.
Other people’s anger, stress, and pain drain me, and I need a lot of alone time to refuel my energy.” When I took a close history of all these patients I found that they were what I call “physical empaths:” people whose bodies are so porous they absorb the symptoms of others. I relate because I am one.
Physical empaths do not have the defenses that others have to screen things out.
As a psychiatrist, knowing this significantly changed how I treated these patients. My job became teaching them to center and protect themselves, set healthy boundaries, and let go of energy they picked up from others.
by Judith Orloff MD