Connection between Empath and Cptsd


I am experiencing intense feelings in therapy lately so I am trying to understand and learn more.

I have been conscious often to dismiss/ignore/avoid/close my eyes and pretend sort of others' feelings in situations that are not about feelings like work, places, etc. I have been super concious of this side of me but never challenged why. I just thought I do not want to get mixed up with others and be unable to detach or untangle or to be FREE (free with capitals cause this is my ultimate dream can imagine my childhood is opposite of that (-;). In short I swung too far to the opposite but yet in my personal relationships, friendships or close relationships I am often aware of others' feelings/state of mind or their inner states and often gently ignore but sometimes I may comment and if it is too deep, this causes a bit of embarrassment in others or may trigger shame or sometimes other protective so because of this, I am often (prefer) to be aloof....

Other times, I get close to people very deep and very close in short time... for example, I fell in love in 2 days with my there is a good and bad but to avoid all things, I more or less became more dismissive/avoidant type to be on the safe side but never explored more.

Over the weekend, I was sitting with a friend who has bipolar and was experiencing symptoms of it and all of sudden my whole body was reactive to her. I was feeling so unsettled and so unlike me and confused, confabulated and utterly all over. I am aware of my empathy level as far as feelings go but so much bodily as I have been lately. As I listened to her I was all over....I could not explain....and this friend is experiencing really hard time right now...I have not seen her for 4 or 5 months. She has been in the hospital few times in the past 6 or 7 months.

I guess what I am trying to learn from others who have better knowledge and articulation is this: how does emapth and cptds related? when I google emapth (which I never called myself and not starting today...) I am also finding a lot of information about narcissism which surprises me.

I am not sure all the connections and the relations of all of this. Hope anyone who has the gumption and understanding of all these things can help. My main search is how is empath is related to childhood traumatic events. My feeling is I must have closed this part of me and now like a baby I am learning and it is overwhelming but yet I am conscious of it and trying to put the lid back on.

No longer sure what I want. Thank you for reading and becoming as confused as me!
ps. sorry if this is in the wrong section.


Not sure if this helps, but this is my experience and my understanding (so far) about that:
I am super aware of people's emotions, inner states etc. Highly attuned mostly. Had to be from childhood. Was made, from early childhood, to know that my role was to make other people ok. So empathetic? Or hypervigilent? Or both?

This has been at the detriment of knowing what my emotions are, either in feeling them or identifying them or knowing how to self sooth. I wasn't allowed emotions as a child. And then I also didn't allow me emotions for my trauma.

I'm very comfortable with other people's emotions. If they are upset or traumatised or depressed. If they are angry, it depends on the situation as that can trigger me. But mostly, it's ok.

My T says it is "my script". And that it is good to be empathetic. But not good to be extreme in it and loose myself. Which I do. I don't have a natural balance between empathising and being able to express me. It's like it's all or nothing for me.

Sounds like something in that interaction with your friend triggered a body memory/feeling? Not something that usually happens, but some sort of connection whether that is where you are at in your therapy and knowing yourself better, and what she as saying/feeling/doing?


Thanks @Movingforward10 for your extremely thoughtful response. It is unleashing me more....

My friend said that she loses most friends when she is struggling and I was different cause I do not run away....but after this experience, I understand the friends and her loss too.

I guess why I am confused is because I felt running away too (I need freedom from others' things spilling into me - this must be my reaction to my childhood - I shut down - I do have dissociation reaction rather than maybe emapthic reaction to my mother -
(I think if I was too empathic to my mother - I would live in her inner state of hostility/aggression/threatening and I probably just closed my eyes and took the lesser evil - no bodily empathy but obviously she was so bad she still punctured my little baby/child pores).
But I think the fact I did not run away but allowed her inner state to dwell in me and caused me a bit instability is a new arena for me. I see all or nothing thing here. I was probably too nothing (dismissive, avoidance before) and now I am all in it swimming in her inner state dwelling getting swept with mine - cannot tell which is which anymore....but hopefully with my long adult memory of being the other side, of this feeling, I will find my equilibrium. I do not want to be consciously dismissive/avoidant anymore but for sure I also do not want to swim in others' inner states of mind (gosh I will lose my f*cking mind...if this goes on forever....

I need to rest and calm my senses.


I'm sorry it is unleashing more. Is there some grounding techniques that can help at the moment?

The way you write makes me think you are very empathetic.
But that your mother was so intense it swallowed you up, which like you say you disassociated from to survive. Which doesn't stop you being empathetic. But that there is a particular interaction that might trigger this feeling you have now?
Your friend is unwell. A terrible state for her to be in. And you are trying to be a friend to her. But also trying to take care of yourself. A very challenging balance given the past.

Maybe be kind to yourself right now.
Doesn't need to be that all or nothing.
You can be separate you right now and stabilise you.
You can also be her friend, but maybe right in this moment you need that time for yourself. Doesn't mean you can't be her friend.


It’s difficult to find the right distance and understand what you’re responding to.

It’s quite normal that in empathy problems you find a lot of stuff about narcissist personality disorder as it’s a cluster B disorder. Disorders of empathy. In there you also have borderline and antisocial. The cluster B that has such a horror show reputation, and if which somehow many many of the sufferers have a traumatic background. Or at least extremely invalidating or contradicting. And guess what, personality disorders, especially BPD, are often misdiagnosed against CPTSD. Possible to have them all though.

In contexts where we had to block or filter others’ emotional states in order to survive, I guess there are many cues that you don’t pick or make you shut down. I shut down when people show cues of boredom, or disinterest, or of shutting down. I realize it’s been rather selective and I have a horrible time in standing any feeling of irritation or disappointment—either I respond to it with extreme discomfort, either I completely ignore it and will ram through in a way or another.

I used to be the ear in which everything falls in because the quality of hearing was based on this very sensitive attuning. Or being hated because I was sending stonewalling vibes around me or at times being rather aggressive by prevention. So depending of the context of contact people had with me they had very different impressions. If you didn’t know the soft under the hard you’d stay with that awful image in mind.

Also my capacity for empathy decreases as the number of people increase. I mean, I pick discrete cues that almost no one does, but there are such a number of them I can’t filter or process fast enough and I get overwhelmed or shut down. Sometimes I can manage, sometimes I can’t. And if there is one person who’s upset or angry or sad in the middle it will f*ck with all my systems.

When I see someone emotionally struggling I get overwhelmed but somehow compelled to ease it or to absorb it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s hard to set the right level of boundaries for ourselves while also negotiating other’s limits, needs and boundaries. Where you do sit in their landscape, and where they do sit in theirs. I personally have a really hard time in areas where people start to get closer but not too close, as I tend to flip in an all-or-nothing kind of emotional investment and attuning. Either I’m very rational and almost brutal or cold in my responses, either I mop emotions like a sponge. People with quite a level of high emotions, be it by personality traits or their circumstances, tend to get close to me because of this I think. I don’t know if you relate to this.


It has helped to set mental boundaries with different people. I had a lady come help me during Covid....she was a cleaning lady....I hired her more often, and used my stimulus check to give her work....and help me out. I soon realized that she was extremely needy, would take many things home that I tossed, and that she came from trauma, too. We connected there....I got her and after listening to her story....I felt kinda hooked in. It was about this time I started looking at relationships from the "where do I see this relationship going and what might I want from it? An employee who does their job and leaves (e.g. plumber)........employee with drama (a potential recipe for being taken advantage, needing to fix, or getting keep a big distance and don't engage in personal discussions or disengage if they are triggering)........acquaintance (keep a distance-just listen, don't offer personal advice, disengage if they do crazy drama)...... a friend with a specific interest (like art/photography) (just share that interest and get to know them and keep things light and fun).....a good friend-someone who'd like to spend a day a week with(share our interests, pull my weight in the relationship...and always pay for my half and give as much as is received).....someone I want to spend a lot of time with (always pay my half, give and receive equitably, and then in bits and pieces, as appropriate share trauma history when relevant.....but as a sideline....not a serious conversation)....or someone I trust with my life (be there for them no matter what, walk my talk, and share my feelings as I deem appropriate about trauma). So, with different relationships I've had to set appropriate boundaries which include what I'll discuss about me, and what's best for the relationship not to discuss....... depending upon what I see in the relationship for the long haul and am very closed about sharing trauma in new relationships. When I did share trauma sooner in relationships.....I always ended up with someone who has a trunk load of trauma and I usually ended up regretting it, and the drama came back to haunt me.

Now, I'm able to stand back, when the person isn't there, and kinda evaluate the relationship. When I evaluate and relationship....and there is a trauma connection (like I can feel we could bond over similar trauma)....I immediately set a boundary because people who openly tell their trauma, and are needy, and I'm a fixer. When I go into fixer out! But, the fixer role isn't a great place to be....because people also blame me if it doesn't work out. So, I've tried really hard not to do the fixer thing and I must admit, there is so much less drama in my life and there are less problems in my life when I don't. I can still empathize, and keep my involvement very limited, and there are other ways to help -even if it is just listening.

So, when I run into someone who clearly comes from a dysfunctional background ....... that's an immediate boundary for me....I feel like it is easy for me to hook up with other people who have similar's like I can feel their pain and I wear a sign that says "I get you and your feelings and trama, need fixing?..... see me!" So, I am immediately feeling their pain, connecting with their pain.....and planning how to fix their situation........but I pay a huge price climbing on their roller coaster for free and becoming super involved and overwhelmed, then have to figure a nice way to "get off their roller coaster" with me emotionally intact, and then pay my therapist to explain once again, boundary setting and figure out how to get out of it.................after already climbing aboard someone else's trauma train Drama for me is a trigger and a way to undo the progress, and it costs me more therapy bills. In my case, it is best to avoid it wherever possible. If I stay on their roller coaster too long, I meet their dysfunctional I start to feel that crazy feeling again-losing control of things or a situation, once again (HEAD BANG). So, I had to kinda put people on a relationship spectrum.......and change my behavior, so I wasn't getting enmeshed with their emotions and trauma drama. Don't know if this helps.
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Wow...the friend who sort of unsettled me. I met her at work and right away she shared all her trauma with me and ASKED ME about mine and when I was not forthcoming, sort of did not let go.
Interesting points Truthseeker. thank you for sharing. It made me think a bit deeper about this.