It is always so wonderful to meet people who are kind and caring. Being compassionate is one of the best qualities any human being can have. Some people care for their own family or community, while there are others who care for the whole humanity. If caring is noble, whether it is for one’s family or community or the whole humanity, then how can someone care too much?

In my clinical practice I have met so many men and women who suffer because they care too much. Some worry a lot about their family. Others become preoccupied with the sick and the disabled in their community. While there are still others who ruminate about all those who are the victims of violence and war. When they see violent crimes on television, they experience sleepless nights, as they cannot get those images out of their minds.

When I interview such people in my clinical practice, I realize that some of them have highly sensitive personalities while others suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They obsess and analyze a situation so much that their analysis turns into paralysis. Since they cannot do anything concrete to improve the situation they feel frustrated, distressed, disappointed and disheartened.

I share with them that there is a difference between caring and carrying. Caring for other people is noble but carrying other people in one’s mind all the time can lead to resentment and anger, and finally depression and desperation.

I suggest to them to set limits and define their area of interest and expertise. I give them my own example. I share that I am a psychotherapist and enjoy helping my patients in their emotional struggles. But if someone has a neurological problem, then I refer them to a neurologist. Knowing one’s limit is very important in caring for others. I ask people to learn to say ‘no’ when they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Those people who can say, ‘no’ without feeling guilty and know their limits of caring, can easily find a balance between their own needs and needs of others.

Those people who care too much, far more than they can emotionally afford, finally get tired and exhausted. These are the early signs of burnout. Such people overuse and abuse themselves. They are driving on an empty emotional tank and they need to learn to fill their emotional tank if they want to care for others. One cannot keep on giving without receiving. I suggest that they to do things that they like to do, want to do and love to do, as such activities fill our emotional tanks and then we have extra energy to care and serve others.

To help my patients fill their tanks during the day, I get involved in recreational and creative activities with my creative friends in the evening to fill my own emotional tank. The more our emotional tanks are full, the more we enjoy life and the more we are able to care for others without feeling overwhelmed and getting burnt out. Caring for others out of love is different than caring out of obligation and guilt. Those who love themselves in a healthy way are able to care for others in a loving way.



Dr. Sohail


12 thoughts to “CAN SOMEONE CARE TOO MUCH?”

  1. Dear Dr Sohail,

    Unlike the people above I am just learning this concept. I struggle daily with the world and all its uncertainties. I struggle with what I have no control over. I have no control over the pain, the suffering and humans ability to use their intelligence to meet their own needs rather than truly building a caring world. My head obsesses over and over as to what is wrong and could go wrong and why people don’t seem to care. Why they don’t interact from a loving, tender heart rather than a cold reality.

    In an effort to change things I approach people as a happy, caring, giving person but underneath I am a fearful, hurt, anger and depressed soul. I continually try to find the proverbial heart of gold which I can rest my heart in, always finding that people themselves have already learned the lesson you have written about or don’t feel like I do.

    I guess I am misguided in that I think caring and trying to bring peace to others and the world should be the goal of ever human. It pains me to find out that who I am and my core beliefs, which I believe should bring light, only bring darkness to my heart. I am upset and angry this is the world I live in.

    I really don’t know how I am going to make this change but I have to as I am truly depleted. How do I turn a blind eye to what in my heart is wrong? Why don’t people see it my way? Why do I refuse to change and accept the words of your wisdom? Why do I always search for another soul to save or someone to save my soul?


    1. Dear Neil, Self awareness is the first step to change. The second step is focusing on those things that we have control on. I think once you feel good about making small changes in life, that I call baby steps, the more you will get ready to make big changes. Having a circle of friends, that i call family of the heart, that nurture you, support you and inspire you can also play a significant role in changing your life for the better. Thanks for sharing your honest opinion.
      Dr Sohail

  2. Dear Dr. Sohail
    What comes to mind for me in this topic is – caring too much being ‘sympathy’ rather than ’empathy’. I believe that when we are sympathetic we go into the drama and trauma of the other persons circumstances – whether it be someone we know personally or the world at large (horrible news stories). We become a ‘victim’ of the situation – rather than a witness who can then relate with some objectivity – therefore being of more help than if we get sucked into the drama. We don’t HAVE to be caught up in the drama – we serve no one – most of all ourselves, when we get caught up in the victimization. Just this evening I am talking to a dear friend online in chat. She lives in the states and has recently moved out of her common-law home and relationship. She is very depressed, has been crying all day and feels very lonely. As her friend I care deeply about her and I do my best to be empathetic so that I can be emotionally supportive rather than fall into her emotional grief. In all honesty her ex is an absolute jerk who has been nothing but disrespectful and has undervalued her for most of their relationship. He quite literally told her to get out of his house. He has already replaced her with another lover and has completely disconnected himself from her. I believe that she is not grieving the man – but rather the dream of what she hoped their relationship was… would have been … could have been … should have been and she is struggling to cope with that. Until she can realize this for herself – she will unfortunately continue to grieve someone who is not worthy of her own mental and emotional health. All I can do is try to be there for her – in empathy. Not carrying her. Thanks for this insight, as always.

    1. Dear Georgina, Thanks once again for your profound and insightful comments. Your friend is very lucky to have a wise person like you in her life. Once i wrote an article titled…Therapists are paid friends and friends are unpaid therapists. Never feel shy to share your wisdom. You never know who will read and benefit from it.
      Dr Sohail

    1. Dear Naveed,
      Mirza Yasin Baig did a wonderful job in translating the Blog in Urdu as it increases its readership. Thanks for your support. I hope you also read and comment on future Blogs.
      Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  3. Dear Dr. Sohail:

    I couldn’t agree more with your above observations. I learned this early in life by raising my own child. Being compassionate and empathetic is a virtue however one must be very careful not to enable dependency or bad habits because we don’t want to hurt others or we think we are helping them. This is why your suggestion of “setting limits” is so critical to one’s happiness when you have a caring, compassionate personality.

    Caring and “carrying” is an excellent observation. I can more than relate. By being a sensitive person who prides myself in having an open mind and compassionate heart, I must be careful not to enable bad behavour by others who can take advantage of these qualities and who I can wind up “carrying” instead of helping.

    I have to thank the “Parents Support Group” in Aurora, who taught me a valuable lesson that has helped me to this date. That was, when confronted with emphasizing with someone we love, to look at the situation and create piles of what we can control and what we can’t. For example, my child or friend is taking drugs. I don’t like it and feel sorry for them as they are damaging their life by this substance abuse. I can’t control what they do but I can control how I respond to them. I won’t allow drugs or any drug paraphernalia in my house or car, nor will I allow myself to be around that individual if they engage in drugs. By doing this, I am making my role clear and not enabling their practice. I will be there to support them emotionally, to a limit, but won’t “care too much” to support them financially, as I know my hard-earned money will go towards this habit I don’t support. I’m also clear on how much support I will give them because I don’t want my valuable time sucked dry by trying to console them for the consequences of their bad decisions. I will guide them and offer advice but if the advice is constantly ignored, I’ve learned to say no.

    I think people who care too much could be trying to compensate for the love and attention they were denied as a child. Awareness to this is critical because if someone realizes this, they can stop the roller-coaster of feeling helpless when they can’t help a person or situation. When a person can identify when they are sabotaging themselves due by trying to fix something out of their control, is a most important life lesson.

    I strongly feel that people who care too much are also doing so due to an insecurity in how they view themselves. By being true to yourself and honestly loving yourself, you are able to see how you can help, guide and mentor another without allowing them to walk all over you. This, to me, is one of the greatest lessons any person can every learn.

    Sohail, thanks for sharing this most important observation and how you help such people to become aware of this sense of helplessness and how to learn coping mechanisms to help such people to live much happier and fulfilled lives.

    1. Dear Linda, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am sure other readers will benefit from your letter. I also learnt about ‘Parents Support Group’ from you. Stay in touch. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  4. This article is so right on. Defining my area of concern and setting limits is something that I have been working on, with your help. It is so easy to get sucked in to things and get in over your head. I like the idea of refilling your emotional tank. I took on an online editor’s position in an area of interest, and it does a good job of refilling my emotional tank.

    I really like the phrase” Those who love themselves in a healthy way are able to care for others in a loving way.”

    That says it all

    Aiming for the Green Zone,

    John Jeffery

    1. Dear John, I am glad you liked the concept of emotional talk. I am glad you are learning the art of it. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  5. Dear Dr. Sohail,

    I am very glad to read this article by you. Indeed it is usually a hidden vice in the society that caring more than one’s capacity brings. You have covered its aspects beautifully in your article, especailly concept of caring vs carrying makes it easy to understand. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

    1. Dear Malik Jahanzeb, I am so glad you read our Blogs and share your valuable comments. Stay in touch. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

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