5 Signs of The Empath’s Dark Side

In my last article, I talked about some of the traits of an empath. They are kind, caring, nurturing, and loyal friends. They are seen as dependable and trustworthy because they make others feel safe. But, being exposed to other people’s emotions at all times is exhausting. 

This gift of hyper-empathy has negative side effects. Not only can you become emotionally exhausted, but also you can become so absorbed in other people’s emotions that you forget to take care of your own. 

Below, are five negative sides of being an empath. 

  • Their actions may seem forced.

In efforts to keep the peace and avoid conflicts, some empaths become performative. They may say or do things that they do not believe. They will act kind, warm, and diplomatic. However, they may be going through the motions.

As an empath, you will have days where you do not feel emotionally capable of being the ideal– warm, super supportive, and understanding. It’s okay. After all, you are human too. It’s important to remind yourself that your emotional needs matter. So, set time aside to look after yourself. If someone needs your support, you can still be there for them but set boundaries for how present or invested you are willing to be there for them at that moment. Communicate with that them. 

  • They may take advantage of their ability.

There are always two sides to everything. When an empath’s personality merges with a personality from the dark triad, they become a dark empath.  On the face of it, it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie or fantasy novel. But, it’s dark empaths are real. A dark empath uses their ability to read people to manipulate and take advantage of them. 

If an empath uses empathy to relate to others to help, dark empaths use empathy to draw people close and mine information out of them. A dark empath may appear to be kind and warm. However, they are unfeeling and calculative. With acute focus and precision, they learn what makes a person tick and can influence others to act the way they want. 

  • They experience frequent bouts of paranoia.

All humans possess mirror neurons, but research suggests that the MNS of an empath is more responsive. This hypersensitivity can lead some empaths to experience more anxiety and paranoia. According to Dr. Orloff, anxiety and paranoia are results rather than symptoms of being an empath. 

If you are an empath who experiences frequent anxiety, try to understand your emotions. Journaling or working with a therapist can help you winnow through your emotions and the emotions you may have absorbed from those around you. 

  • They experience cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes. It is the mental discomfort you might experience when you harbor two conflicting ideas. For example, you may do something that does not align with your core beliefs. For an empath, it might look like indecision but it is a form of self-preservation. 

There are several ways of dealing with conflicting beliefs. One way is to provide enough evidence for the supportive belief. Doing so will help you outweigh the dissonant belief. For example, if you are passionate about climate change but feel that your outdated cargoes against your belief, swap out your car for a more environmentally friendly option or get a bike. Do things that support what you believe in. 

  • They can be frequent liars.

Sometimes, to avoid hurting other people’s feelings, empaths lie. They see lying as a necessary evil that helps maintain harmony and avoid conflicts. At times, they may bottle up their feelings and thoughts to comply with popular opinion. However, this tactic can have immediate negative effects.

Not only does society teach us to that lying is bad because it harms our relationships, but lying can also prevent us from relating to others. Research led by Julia Lee from the University of Michigan found that lying lowers your empathic accuracy. What does this mean to an empath? Whether the lies they tell are detected or not, an empath, at that moment, is unable to identify the other person’s emotion and is likely to continue lying. 

If you are an empath who resorts to lies to maintain harmony, it is time to be honest. Not just for the sake of your relationships, but also for yourself. 

The dark side of an empath is not borne out of malice. Sometimes, it is a means of self-preservation. However, it does not mean that any of these traits are defensible. If you are an empath and recognize some of these traits within yourself, seek help to rectify them. Talk to a counselor if you need assistance. 

Best of luck and take care! 


Garis, Mary Grace. “The Dark Empath Personality Merges Empathy With Dark Triad Traits-and That Spells Trouble.” Well+Good, 2 Sept. 2020, www.wellandgood.com/dark-empath/.

On Track. “10 Signs of The Empath Dark Side.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Dec. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPgbIPujgSM&feature=youtu.be.

Orloff, Judith. “The Science Behind Empathy and Empaths.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 3 Mar. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empaths-survival-guide/201703/the-science-behind-empathy-and-empaths.

Promises Behavioral Health. “The Hazards of Being an Empath.” Promises Behavioral Health, 18 Jan. 2020, www.promisesbehavioralhealth.com/addiction-recovery-blog/the-hazards-of-being-an-empath/#:~:text=Given%20these%20risks%2C%20it’s%20not,Orloff%20notes.

Rajmohan, V, and E Mohandas. “Mirror neuron system.” Indian journal of psychiatry vol. 49,1 (2007): 66-9. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.31522

Zahid, Arslan. “The Dark Side of Empaths.” Medium, Medium, 28 June 2017, medium.com/@arslion/the-dark-side-of-empaths-8380d4d9a13b.

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