Numerous reports suggest that empaths are frequently misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder. Based on my observations, it appears that seeking professional assistance to manage empathetic abilities and gifts often leads to a bipolar diagnosis as the most probable psychiatric explanation.
In my view, some empaths may experience receiving a misdiagnosis primarily because they continuously absorb the emotional, mental, and sometimes even physical energy of their surroundings. Consequently, they may feel as if they are on an unpredictable emotional ride, which could lead to a fragmented sense of self and overwhelming energetic experiences.
Bipolar disorder is primarily characterized by intense emotional states that vary from extreme highs (mania) to profound lows (depression). Since empaths absorb the emotions of those around them, they may also experience abrupt mood swings, fluctuating from elevated to deeply distressed in quick succession. This is why some empaths may initially mistake it for bipolar disorder. However, unlike bipolar disorder, the emotions do not originate within the empaths but are energetically transmitted from others.
Empaths possess a heightened sensitivity to energy and possess a natural ability to tune in to the emotions of others, allowing them to instantaneously perceive how others are feeling. This can cause empaths to suddenly feel anxious or drained when in crowds of people, to feel energized or fatigued depending on the people around them, to turn off or avoid news about tragic events, and to feel as though they need downtime to recharge after socializing.
Attuning to other people’s emotions offers empaths an in-depth insight into other people’s suffering, which then opens a pathway for compassion and healing. However, it may also mean that empaths react to what they are feeling and sensing as though it is their own experience, which can then cause their emotions to flip from one end of the scale to the other. For example, empaths may absorb the energy from an entire room, causing them to feel blissful, fearful, irritable, and sad—all at the same time.
While the symptoms may appear similar to manifestations of bipolar disorder, bipolar disorder is not yet fully comprehended by professionals. It is hypothesized that bipolar disorder is triggered by genetics and a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters that transmit signals to the brain, causing illogical and irrational thoughts and behaviors as well as reality distortions.
The effects of bipolar disorder vary from person to person, and the duration of the extreme highs or lows can fluctuate depending on the individual and their particular circumstances.
A significant contrast between bipolar disorder and empaths is that individuals with bipolar disorder can possibly become reckless and lose control during these episodes, and the highs and lows can persist for an extended period. Conversely, empaths tend to have more control over their emotions, and their moods tend to subside more rapidly. Additionally, empaths are less prone to delusions and irrational thoughts.
Another significant distinction is that studies show that individuals with bipolar disorder are less likely to exhibit empathy towards others, whereas empaths are known for their remarkable capacity for empathy and compassion.
I believe the lines between empaths and individuals with bipolar disorder can be blurred because both encounter intense emotions. However, the intense emotions experienced by empaths, as previously stated, are often transferred from others rather than arising from internal factors.
For empaths, especially those who are unaware of their empathic abilities, one of the most challenging aspects is distinguishing whether the emotions they experience belong to themselves or to others. Consequently, they may often absorb the joy, love, pain, anxiety, stress, depression, and other emotions of people in their vicinity, regardless of proximity, without fully knowing the source.
Empaths can internalize these emotions to such an extent that they can become incorporated into their own belief system. They may even lose their sense of self and begin to adopt the reality of others, particularly if they spend an extended period around someone radiating potent emotional energy.
If empaths are not aware that they are absorbing emotional energy, they may experience mood swings that can be confusing and even frightening at times, as it can be a challenge to find the logic in them. This may cause them to feel bewildered and struggle to take their emotions by the reigns.
Empaths may begin to perceive that something is significantly amiss, which may prompt them to seek medical assistance. However, if the healthcare provider is not knowledgeable about the characteristics and symptoms of being an empath or the distinctions between empaths and individuals with bipolar disorder, it is possible that they may receive an inaccurate diagnosis.
Experiencing emotional instability can be overwhelming, particularly when we are unaware of the cause of our struggle to regulate our emotions and cannot easily clarify why we are abruptly inundated with intense feelings.
When empaths take on other people’s emotions and feelings, they notice a sensation that feels like friction in their energy field. Friction happens when we are unclear of exactly what emotions we have absorbed, so the emotions ricochet around our energy field trying to get our attention so that we can process and finally clear them.
The reason empaths soak in energy is because they have the inherent skill of naturally soothing, breaking down, and transmuting negative energy so that it vibrates on a totally different frequency—one filled with love, understanding, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and oneness. Therefore, they naturally draw in energy and situations that are highly charged, and often toxic, so they can neutralize the toxic energy and dispel it.
This is why it is vital that empaths discern what is happening in their own lives, as well as what happens around them, and that they pay attention when their emotions suddenly change. This will enable them to understand why they are feeling a particular way, where it has come from, and most importantly, whom it belongs to.
By spending some time in silence or practicing meditation, we can sort through the vibrations we sense and process our experiences in a deliberate and effective manner. Once we have taken responsibility for our emotions, we can begin the process of examining our recent experiences to determine what has caused us to feel a certain way, or what emotions may have been transferred from the people or situations around us.
When “putting ourselves in other people’s shoes,” it is vital to do so without absorbing and taking on the associated emotions and feeling them as intensely as the other person does. Instead, we can empathize without becoming too emotionally entwined and living out other people’s stories as if they are our own. This can take time to learn, as it feels natural for empaths to try to lift low-vibrational energy.
By taking ownership of their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, empaths can gain insight into the boundary between their own energy and that of others. This can help them distinguish between emotional, mental, and physical energy that belongs to them and that which has been absorbed from others.
Exercise, yoga, and meditation all help to dispel negative energy, re-balance emotions, and recharge our energy supply.
The author of this quote is unknown, but its wisdom is worth contemplating: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by a**holes.”
Disclaimer: It is essential to seek advice from a medical practitioner if you have any concens about bipolar disorder since it is a severe illness distinct from being an empath that may necessitate professional advice, support, and potentially medication.
Writing: Alex Myles
Image pixabay intographics
I feel like this is really true as I myself find my mood changing when I’m around others .. I seem to shift to the sane mood as them. If I’m around a happy energetic person I become happy and energetic and vice versa.. but I never allow my emotions to get out of control… when I start feeling like I’m losing control I have to isolate myself and spend time alone to refocus and unwind
I’m a bipolar empath. There are definitely differences between the two, but I guess it would be hard to know from the outside.
Ditto we are a special kind 🧚
I feel like that slot and people think I,m hearing things!
I was misdiagnosed as bipolar and for 5 years on unecessary medicine. Ultimately the medical establishment then put me in the PTSD box but now this article brings the clarity. Thank you.
i was traumatized on trip to foreign country, 2018..came back to US. started experiencing emotional upheaval. was raised by truly BPolar Mum, but i was 69, & had never been dx’d with it.
Arrogant ER doc dx’d me w/ BP, insisted i go on anti-psychotic med’s. What a horrid RX. thank God, my MHNP saw the dx, and stopped it.
I’m 48 and I knew when I was 7 that I was different and I just knew things about other people (feeling their pain was not in my vocabulary at the time). I worked as a paramedic for nearly 20 years and feeling their pain took on a whole new meaning. I never tried to label those feelings until 3 years ago when I could tell someone their whole life story which included the mental disorder they suffer with. In my imagination I get a glimpse of their entire life and it has been spot on for everyone I reveled it to. I do not know how to separate someone else’s emotions from mine and if I’m around a group of people I don’t know how to allocate the feelings I’m having to the individuals around me. I’m very rarely around a group of people and I only leave home when I absolutely have to but when I’m in a public place like a restaurant I some how can ignore, if you will, most of the people. My 2 year old grandson has helped because I can focus my entire being on him and be oblivious of my soundings. I would love some advice, words of wisdom, and hear experiences others had and how they ‘handled’ it.
I like What Leigha said. We are kind of special. You’re not hearing things … I went through the same thing. I think it’s more a reaction to things that we feel outside of ourselves. Think energy constantly flowing in and out dynamically.
I feel as doe this is true i am diagnosed with bipolar depression and Ambrose sensitive and I’m an empath and everything that is said I went through I am now knowing but I am and I’m in A New Path just came across me to show me there’s nothing wrong with me I’m just real sensitive and I’m an empath
It took a very long time to accept my special gift. I already knew when I was a child I was treated differently But I have gotten comfortable with it over the years. It’s a great relief to finally realize I don’t need to feel weird or don’t fit in anymore. I am enjoy the Positivity of it. My soul is finally Free!
I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2019 and ended up in hospital. My working environment is sucking me in on a daily basis as I work in a government hospital as well as doing 2 people’s work. I’m constantly in contact with sick patients and negative, arrogant, selfish staff. Toxic micture. I am unable to detach myself and want to run away every day because it sucks the last bit of energy out of me to just keep going and try to cope. It’s not easy having this special gift but I am greatful as it makes me a special kind of person how feels and understand