The Cost of Being an ADHD Empath

by | Feb 1, 2024 | ADHD Symptom Control | 4 comments

ADHD Empath

You might have heard that lots of people with ADHD are super sensitive. And guess what? It seems like when you’re sensitive, you’re also super empathetic. Are you one of those people – an ADHD empath? 

I suspect many ADHD adults are empaths just like I am.

Being an empath means you soak up other people’s energy in all sorts of ways. You soak up their emotions, their physical sensations, their moods, and even their thoughts. It can be a lot to handle for many of us. I know it definitely is for me!

To me, being an ADHD empath is kinda like walking through a field of prickly weeds in my mesh sneakers. Every dang weed sticks to my shoes, no matter the size. It’s the big ones, the tiny ones, and don’t even get me started on those pesky foxtails that somehow manage to jab right into my foot!

I also think that being an empath makes ADHD harder to live with. We have enough trouble doing what we need to while we’re dealing with our own stuff. Add other people’s emotions into the mix and you can be even more distracted and unmotivated.

I used to just chalk up feeling tired after a long day at work or an event to, well, just being tired. But then I started questioning if I was truly exhausted or if my empathetic self was absorbing others’ emotions. 

Turns out, that was a great question to ask. Paying attention to my empathic tendencies and how they affect me has been a cool journey of self-discovery. 

Here’s what I’ve noticed about being an empath with ADHD:

  • When I’ve absorbed others’ emotions, my whole mindset tanks. Life suddenly feels unsatisfying, and I start noticing all the negative stuff around me. It’s like I become the exact opposite of the positive person I strive to be—my glass half-full self goes completely out the window.
  • I’m strongly impacted by what I read, see, and hear. Diving deeply into the news or a violent, intense show or book sticks to me and can bring me down. This isn’t new info to me. But, how I act is. Seems I get crabby and distant with my sweet, unsuspecting husband.
  • I can absorb the emotions of people I’m not interacting with – of a whole group of strangers. Just last week I had a happy, uplifting visit with a girlfriend at my favorite cider pub. But when I got back home, I realized I was incredibly exhausted. Weird, right? I mean, my friend’s energy was fantastic, so how did I end up so drained? But of course, the place was packed with people. Could it be possible that I somehow absorbed their energy without even interacting with them? Kinda like when you’re walking through a field and those pesky stickers stick to your shoes? 

So, Dear ADHD Empath, how do you shake off everyone else’s mood, emotions, and feelings? I’ve tried a few ways to send the emotions back to the owner. Physically brushing them off my arms and torso doesn’t do the trick for me. It might work for you, though, so give it a shot.

What works better for me is to say to myself, “I’m giving all the emotions I’ve absorbed back to their owners in a way that they can handle”. When I do this, I immediately feel lighter and go back to my happy self.

I know this might sound a bit out there and different from our usual practical posts about living with adult ADHD. But I really think it’s worth talking about. I mean, when your energy is low, it becomes so much harder to handle everyday life with ADHD, you know? 

So, what can you do with this information? Well, first, pay attention. Is what you’re feeling actually yours, or does it belong to someone else or even a group of people? How does absorbing others’ emotions impact your ADHD and your life? 

Once you’ve figured that out, practice ways of clearing the emotions of others. Let’s get you back to the important work of living easier with ADHD!

Let us know below ways that you deal with others’ emotions!


  1. Rita

    Thanks, Dana!
    This is a subject I’m somewhat familiar with but I’ve never done much deep study on it. I’ve definitely experienced much of what you describe here.
    Being deeply empathetic is both a blessing and a curse (just as we always say about ADHD)! Knowing how to handle this “Gift” is the big challenge.

    So appreciative that you continue to share your knowledge and leadership on this subject!

    • Dana Rayburn

      Hi Rita! Great to hear from you, and I hope you are well. I’ve found the more I practice the better I’m getting at shielding myself from other energy. Whew!! Dana

      • John

        wow, i thought i was the only one,
        i,m 50 yr old male, hypo active adhd,
        highly stimulated by emotions and energies, i,m very sensitive to sound and light, wow, luv dancing to my energy and listening to music, don,t like been stuck in a room of people, to much to read and feel,

  2. LCS

    This is so incredibly spot on!


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