Grief Recovery Specialist, Writer + Blogger

8 Triggers For Empaths That Drain Your Energy In Unexpected Ways

Crowded city street of people walking in Centered One blog about triggers that drain empaths

As an empath or highly sensitive person, you probably know that you are an emotional sponge and have triggers. You pick up on the emotions, feelings, and energy of others. Your mental health is extra sensitive, in part due to the negative emotions and traumatic events occuring in the world. You are also affected by family members and great friends. It can be a challenge to discern their emotional responses from your own feelings. Your capacity to feel a deep connection to almost anyone is vast. You may have a hard time tending to your own needs. Sensitive individuals may also get sensory overload, compassion fatigue, or become drained easily. 

You’re not alone! The tricky part is that the source of these triggers for empaths can be a bit hidden. They aren’t always obvious or easy to pinpoint. I’m here to share eight triggers for empathic people that may be draining your energy in unexpected ways. I will also tell you how to plug those drains and feel better. Consider this an empath’s survival guide of sorts.

Keep An Empath Journal

First things first. In general, I recommend you keep a journal or log (or you could record an audio if you prefer) on this topic. Note it all down. How do you feel before, during, and after every interaction and task in your daily life – especially when other people’s emotions are involved? Your own emotions and emotional energy are most important. What drains you the most may be different than for someone else. Nevertheless, I believe there are some universal, unexpected triggers for empaths. Here we go! 

8 Unexpected Triggers For Empaths

1. Triggers for empaths: Social media

You knew this one was coming! Our digital age has arguably gotten out of hand. There are so many positives, yet the downside can be devastating. What you see online is often NOT the truth or full picture. The pressure to be perfect or curate the appearance of happiness all the time is not healthy. This can foster shame, comparison, and depression. All of which are even more triggering for sensitive people and empaths.

No one posts an unflattering photo on Instagram. You’re most likely not going to see the hard moments, the self doubt, the crying, the irritable mood. Aka, LIFE! Some brave souls do share more honestly, and they should be commended for the courage to be real. It gives everyone else permission to let down the mask. Relief floods in when we let ourselves be human.

Limit the time you spend on social media, and take breaks. Seriously. We all know how addictive it is, and by design. You can enjoy it in small doses, but that hit of dopamine often isn’t worth it. You will then take a “hit” to your emotional health, and maybe also be affected by the projections and emotions of others. Others’ emotions and judgments are NOT about you. I’ve found that for some empaths, even posting a story (the 24 hour shares) can drain your energy. It can take some journaling and trial and error to figure out the amount of daily/weekly social media time that works for you.

2. Triggers for empaths: Narcissists

Narcissism is certainly a buzzword right now, along with gaslighting. The collective awareness around this personality disorder has greatly increased, and that’s a good thing. As with most psychological traits, narcissism is a spectrum. It ranges from a touch of self-centeredness, to full blown, toxic narcissism and psychopathy. To my above point, social media has unfortunately contributed to its prevalence, and the ability of narcissists to gain their “supply.” Supply, or fuel, refers to the attention, control, and manipulation that narcissists unconsciously need and seek.

As an intuitive empath, you may mistake a narcissist for simply a strong connection. Until you learn to set strong boundaries, you’re a target. Sensitive souls are easier to control. Narcissists feed on your kindness, compassion, and generosity. They are energy vampires and will trigger you, suck you dry, and even make you question your sanity. Your health, both physical and mental, depends on recognizing the signs and blocking out this negative energy. Go no contact, whether it’s a romantic partner, family member, friend, etc. This can be very serious. Contact me at if you need help extricating yourself.

3. Triggers for empaths: Arguments

You don’t have to be an empath to feel the palpable energy of a room where an argument just took place. The part that’s different for empaths is that we often take on that energy or the feelings of others, and become drained. Even barely imperceptible changes in tone or attitude can trigger empaths. This may include traumatic memories resurfacing. Seek help if you have trouble shaking it off. And literally, shaking physically can help you do so.

Do your best to avoid tense situations or leave the space soon afterward. Even if you can’t avoid it, remind yourself that conflict isn’t about you and your worth. And it’s not your responsibility to “fix” or heal anyone else. You can’t, even if you try. That’s one of the greatest life lessons for an empath: BOUNDARIES.

4. Triggers for empaths: Crowded places and loud noises

Your nervous system picks up on more than the average person. Crowds and noises can be particularly triggering and destabilizing. Interestingly, I find one of the most common examples of triggering places for empaths is the grocery store. Being around food (and paying money for it) can trigger people’s unconscious fears related to survival, and you may feel it. Grocery stores have so many people coming in and out all the time, that a LOT of wild energy and emotion can linger. 

Limit the time you spend in crowded areas if possible. Imagine a bubble of protective light around you before entering these places, and/or do a clearing ritual afterward. It can be as simple as taking a shower or a few deep breaths, or try the classic option, burning sage.

Sometimes noises can’t be avoided, especially if you live in a city. Just try to have tools available that you can use if you need to, either during or afterward. Exercise, journaling, lying down, and EFT tapping are all helpful examples. Contact me at for help with EFT.

5. Triggers for empaths: Coffee

You’re not going to like this one. I get it! I’m not saying you need to give up coffee. Just bring it on your radar as a possible trigger. Be more mindful about how much you consume, and how you feel as a result. Some empaths can drink coffee and get a helpful boost in energy and productivity. Others spiral into a nervous wreck. The adrenaline surge you receive may be helping you cope with the intensity of the world, but it can also cause anxiety, insomnia, and scattered energy.

At the least, I recommend limiting it to about 2 cups per day. Try green or black tea (or herbal or homeopathic options) as a substitute. The reliance on coffee may be more mental than physical. However, caffeine addiction is real, widespread, and no joke. Consider tapering off slowly instead of going cold turkey, which can reduce symptoms. That being said, there are health and energetic benefits to coffee (in my opinion), particularly organic coffee blended with healthy fats. Check out my blog here for more on that, as well as tea benefits.

6. Triggers for empaths: Being around other people

While this is true, it may sound depressing. Ha! You can and should obviously have relationships and be around others. The caveat is when togetherness is for long periods or in an intense way. Empaths become very affected by other people because they can often sense the emotions and underlying energies. For example, if you’re around someone who has a simmering rage beneath the surface, you may feel it out of nowhere. This relates to true empaths having more active mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that activates when we take a certain action (like reaching for something) and also when we watch another person do that action. 

A prime example of being around other people is staying at someone’s house. I’m serious when I say you might want to consider having your own way to leave. For example, taking your own car, renting one, or having a train/bus option – vs. riding with someone as your only way home from a visit. This is not a reflection on anyone else. It’s about healthy boundaries, and you need to prioritize those as an empath. This might also look like telling a loved one you need a break from an emotional conversation, taking a walk during an office workday, or taking a nap. These practices all help you release what you’ve taken on from others, which is why they are most effective when done alone.

7. Triggers for empaths: Lying

Empaths have been called “human lie detectors.” Wear it proud! You usually can sense if someone is being truthful or not. This ability may derive from your clair- or “psychic” senses, which are clairvoyance, claircognizance, clairsentience, and clairaudience (clear seeing, knowing, feeling, and hearing, respectively). These intuitive senses are more pronounced in empaths. They are not logical, meaning you may feel things inexplicably. Trust yourself.

The mere presence of people who aren’t honest or in integrity can trigger and drain you. It’s not always possible to anticipate this, so just be aware. If you see a pattern emerge, you may want to re-evaluate that relationship, or take some space. This is wise not only from a healthy relational perspective, but from an energetic perspective you are preventing empath drain and unnecessary triggers.

8. Triggers for empaths: Alcohol

Empaths sometimes use substances, including food and coffee (as mentioned above), to cope with the world. One of our favorites, as humans, is alcohol. Ironically, what may reduce anxiety temporarily, or allow us to relax in social settings, can set us back over the long term. Life as an empath can feel so intense or overwhelming at times that we just want to check out. This is actually the cause of most addictions for all humans! It’s totally understandable; forgive yourself. However, I suggest a two drink maximum for most occasions. 

You may be able to enjoy drinking at times, but just be mindful and don’t overdo it. Hard alcohol isn’t called SPIRITS for nothing. You are opening your energy field up when imbibing. Not to mention, the plethora of health problems chronic drinking can cause, plus the hangovers! Hangovers are actually a massive part of the energy drain and trigger drinking creates for empaths (and non-empaths).

Address Empath Triggers to Feel Better

There are, of course, many more common triggers for empaths, both expected and unexpected. But this is a sampling of my favorites in terms of what is most beneficial to address. Triggers aren’t really avoidable in this human life, but awareness goes a long way toward lessening them and bouncing back more quickly. I hope you enjoyed reading this article about eight triggers that may be draining your precious energy in unexpected ways. Take care of yourself! Feel free to reach out if you have questions or need help plugging a drain at 

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