32 Emotional Triggers For Empaths (2024) & How To Cope

Welcome to my comprehensive list of emotional triggers for empaths. 

Triggers For Empaths
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This should help you to identify if you’re an empath and avoid triggering situations. I’ll also add some advice for how to cope with common empath triggers.

In my role as a life coach, I am often helping clients better understand themselves and those around them. 

That’s why I’m keen to share this guide with you. 

So, let’s dive in.

What Happens When An Empath Is Overwhelmed?

An empath is a highly intuitive and very emotional person, who is highly sensitive to the emotions of others.

Empaths are more likely than other people to feel overwhelmed by negative emotions and can be overly sensitive to stressful situations.

They can react to this state of overwhelm in various ways;

Empath Shutdown

This response involves the empath shutting down all of their emotions and going into a state of complete apathy.

This is an involuntary and subconscious response to protect themselves from emotional pain, but it’s not the only way an empath might respond.

Empath Anxiety Triggers

Empaths might respond to emotional distress with symptoms of anxiety, such as with panic attacks or immediately moving to escape the triggering situation. We’ll explore what triggers this response in the guide below.

Related: Reasons The Gift Of Empathy Is A Blessing And Not A Curse

Empaths And Anger Outbursts

An empath is a highly sensitive person, but this doesn’t mean they’re incapable of acting out in anger.

Just as the sweetest kitten might respond aggressively when threatened, an empath is capable of doing the same towards those who trigger an emotional response.

Empath Overwhelm Triggers 

As a highly emotional person, you can expect an empath to react to negative feelings in a range of ways, depending on the situation.

In most cases, they’ll do whatever it takes to stop or get away from the negative emotions as soon as possible.

Related Content: Ways How To Spot An Empath  

What Are Empaths Sensitive To?

Below, you’ll find a list of 32 common triggers for empaths. While an empath may not be triggered by all of these situations, these have all been cited as empath triggers in the past.

1. Other People’s Emotions

This is what defines an empath. They’re not only highly sensitive to their own emotions; they’re highly sensitive to other people’s feelings too.

They’re emotional sponges. If someone else is feeling upset, an empath will pick up on that stress and experience it as if it was their own. 

This makes them a great friend by the way, but it also leads to them becoming emotionally drained very quickly and we’ve listed how they may respond to this emotional exhaustion above.

However, the hurt feelings of others is not the only empath trigger that can cause a severe emotional response.

So, let’s explore some more.  

2. Other’s Pain

It’s not just emotional pain that empaths are highly sensitive towards. If someone is in physical pain, this can make empaths very uncomfortable too.

While they won’t experience the physical sensations of pain themselves, they will empathise with the hurt party enough to make themselves emotionally uncomfortable.   

3. Big Parties 

Most empaths feel overwhelmed at large social gatherings pretty quickly. This is not necessarily due to social anxiety. More than anything else, this is because empaths will become exhausted, soaking up so many other people’s energy.

For the sake of their own mental health, you’ll often find empaths spending time alone or with one close friend outside when you invite them to parties.    

4. Crowded Spaces

It’s not just parties that overwhelm empaths. They can become overwhelmed with emotional energy at any other crowded spaces, like a busy shopping mall or a sold out music concert.

5. Noisy Places

Noisy places tend to be crowded with people, but they can also cause a sensory overload which makes it harder to cope with any emotional trigger that an empath experiences.

6. Lengthy Group Gatherings

It’s not just huge gatherings that empaths tend to struggle with. It could be a small social gathering that lasts a long time, especially if they’re not afforded alone time to recharge.

7. Other People’s Disappointment

Empaths are sensitive individuals and many will experience others’ disappointment as if it happened to them. 

8. Other People’s Grief

This is an emotion which many empaths have particular trouble coping with.

9. Other People’s Expectations

Empaths struggle to cope with the pressure of high expectations from others, whether that’s their own family members or other people in their friendship group.

Related: 21 Real Problems Empaths Have In Romantic Relationships

10. Other People Not Being Empathetic

Empaths are easily affected by this and it can lead to their own empathy being heightened for someone in a difficult situation.

11. Being Judged

This is another form of negative energy which empaths are highly sensitive towards, even if it’s other people being judged and not them.

12. Not Fitting In 

The awkwardness of one person not fitting in with a group is rarely verbalised, but it creates an energy which empaths are very sensitive to.

13. Awkward Silences

Silences are only awkward if other people decide they are, but you better believe that empaths will be able to feel the awkwardness others are feeling in these tense situations.

14. Dishonesty

Because they’re so sensitive to the emotions of others, empaths are pretty good at spotting liars. The toxic energy of dishonest people can overwhelm people at times too though. 

15. Narcissists

In many ways, narcissists are the ‘final boss’ for empaths because they are so insensitive to the feelings of others. Typically, an empath feels completely unable to relate to a narcissist and will often feel uncomfortable in their presence. 

16. Energy Vampires

These are people who suck their life out of others with their own negative energy. With no self-awareness and usually a severe victim mentality, they typically spend time dumping their problems onto other people.

Once an empath recognises someone as an energy vampire, they might be triggered just at the thought of being around them.

Related: Reasons Why Intuitive Empaths Have A Gift

17. Pessimists

Pessimists are slightly different to energy vampires. A pessimist could be charactierized by self-doubt, self-criticism and low self-esteem without always dumping it onto other people, but empaths can still feel it and that’s why they should try to avoid spending time together.

18. Feelings Of Helplessness

Whether it’s their own feelings or those of others, feelings of helplessness or worthlessness can be difficult for empaths to deal with.

19. Witnessing Violence

To be fair, this can be tough for anyone. 

20. Competitive Mismatches

The feelings of helplessness of the underdog can be too much for empaths to handle, especially in combat sports or when there’s a lot at stake. 

21. Emotional Scenes In TV Shows And Movies

Yes, it’s not just real-life emotions that trigger empaths. The emotions portrayed on the big and small screen can affect them too.  

22. Global Suffering

Empaths tend to be particularly sensitive to witnessing a traumatic event or scenes of poverty on the news. Indeed, they’ll often feel compelled to help homeless people in their own cities as well.  

23. Too Much Intimacy Too Soon

A lot of men and women find intimacy difficult to handle at the best of times, due to their fear of being hurt. An empath will also be desperate not to hurt the feelings of others when dealing with this too much intimacy. 

24. Deadlines

Deadlines can cause pressure, stress and expectations all at once. That’s why they can often cause mental health issues with empaths.

25. Having Too Much To Do At Once

This can be a strain on anyone’s emotional health, but empaths are particularly sensitive to the stress this causes.

Related: 12 Types Of Empaths And How To Identify Yours

26. Traffic

This might be seen as a strange empath trigger, but it causes stress, anger, deadlines and expectations of others, which many empaths struggle to deal with. 

27. Sensory Overload

It’s not just loud noises, which affect an empath’s ability to regulate their emotions. Bright lights, bad smells or uncomfortable temperatures could do the same. 

28. Not Enough Alone Time

Empaths need alone time to recharge. A lack of it can hurt their mental health and make them more easily triggered in future. 

29. Stimulants

Drugs, alcohol or other stimulants that heighten emotions can make empaths feelings easily hurt, even more so. It’s better for their emotional health that they only enjoy these in extreme moderation.

30. Heavily Processed Food

Another strange empath trigger; it is said that empaths can ‘feel’ the energy in food and that they struggle to handle heavily processed foods for this reason.   

31. Being Told ‘To Get Over It’

As mentioned, a lack of empathy from other people can hurt empaths. A lack of empathy towards their heightened emotions can be particularly difficult to deal with. To deal with this, an empath will have to learn strong self-compassion as part of their healing journey.

32. Untreated Trauma

Untreated trauma can trigger all of our emotions more than other people might expect. The smallest incident can set us off if it reminds us of traumatic events. This is a struggle that many empaths have to deal with, as well as other people.

In such situations, it’s best to talk to a mental health expert, such as a counsellor or a therapist.   

Related Content: Empaths Protection Tools

How To Cope With Emotional Triggers For Empaths

Recognising common triggers is a great start. Once you’re aware of certain triggers, this level of self-awareness will hopefully allow you to escape the situation before the emotional or physical symptoms of an empath shutdown begin.

Any exercises that help you stay present can make it easier to cope with emotional triggers. By this, I mean exercises that help you remain in the present moment, rather than stuck in your thoughts. My list of proven ways to empty your mind has plenty of related ideas.

Empaths are often recommended to cut out the people and places that drain them the most. At the very least, take the time to set boundaries with these people and stick to them. It’s important to realise that these companions and environments can take more from your life than they provide, stressing you out and creating a vicious cycle that helps neither of you.  

Finally, it’s worth looking into giving up alcohol, drugs and other stimulants that trigger heightened emotions. These can make common triggers for empaths much harder to deal with. 

For more ideas along these lines, see my list of ways to prevent an empath shutdown and how to change.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s round off this empath’s survival guide with the answers to some frequently asked questions about empaths.

Triggers Empathy
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What Triggers Empathy? 

Neuroscientists have identified that empathy is triggered in the anterior insular cortex region of the brain. Some people are found to be more sensitive in this part of the brain and these individuals are labelled as empaths. People with absolutely no empathy might be labelled as psychopaths.

However, it’s widely agreed that empathy is a trait that can be developed through effort. 

A great start is to create time to spend with people who have led different lives to you. Find the curiosity to learn deeply about their experiences of life. Their ups and downs. Their rewards and struggles. 

It’s also recommended to spend more time escaping your comfort zone. People with low levels of empathy have often experienced low levels of adversity themselves.

What Zodiac Signs Are Empaths?

All zodiac signs are capable of being empathic people, but Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio are regarded as the most emotionally sensitive.

What Is A Super Empath?

A ‘super empath’ is a term for those who are incredibly sensitive to other people’s emotions, more than other people including other empaths.

A super empath may be even more sensitive to feeling triggered by the people, places and scenarios mentioned above. 

Related Content: Super Empath Vs Narcissist & What We Can Learn From Both

Any More Questions About Empaths And Overwhelming Emotions?

Thanks for reading my guide on emotional triggers for empaths.

If you have any questions about life strategies for empaths, mental health and setting boundaries, feel free to drop me a comment below.

It would be great to hear from you.

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.