What it means to be ‘hyper-empathic’?
BPD is also known as emotional dysregulation disorder or emotionally unstable personality disorder (World Health Organization, 1992). Despite being referred to as a ‘personality disorder’, it is not a character flaw but is best understood as a limitation in a person’s capacity to regulate emotions. This means that the person with BPD often experience emotions as rapidly changing, or spiralling out of control. These symptoms go alongside impulsive self-soothing behaviours and a chronic sense of internal hollowness.
Although the link between BPD and empathy remains controversial, many people with BPD identify with the traits of being an “empath”, or being hyper-empathic.
Empathy is broadly defined as the way we react to one another (Davis, 1983), and it defines how we conduct ourselves in this world. An empath is extremely sensitive to the emotions and energy of other people, animals and places (Orloff, 2011). Although the term ‘empath’ has not been used very much within the academia, psychologists have extensively studied what it is like to have high empathy, and they have found the following phenomenon: