It gets worse the older I get
Firstly, I need to say THANK YOU!!! This is the first piece of information I have ever read that finally explains why I feel what everyone else is feeling as though I was actually in their body, I feel it that intensely.
Secondly, you are right, the empathizers of the world do or at least try to use their gift later on in life. I have a BA in both clinical and organizational psychology. My intention was to follow on and complete my honours as well as masters and become a clinical psychologist, however that plan has had to be amended.
The depth and intensity that I feel what others are feeling has become more and more overwhelming as I've aged. I am the exception to the world's perception on drugs and alcohol. I just recently realized at the age of 30, that the reason I used to enjoy partaking in the substances is not so I can numb myself, the reason it appealed was because that was the only time I had to feel my own emotions around other people. It somehow managed to allow me to tune everyone else's emotions out, so that for a few hours I could have some peace and focus on me for a change.
Obviously this was not a solution and I'm 100% clean now, but as a result I've essentially become a hermit that barely ever leaves the house and avoids people like the plague. I work from home too, which was a conscious choice, as I can no longer cope with the office environment. All my communication is done via the web, which is somewhat better as I only deal with words and not faces and voices. However it is still a problem, even instant messaging or chatting on Facebook becomes problematic and too much for me after 5-10 minutes.
The tragedy of all this, is that I do love people. I was the social butterfly when I was younger, but the older I get the more I understand the emotions and can process them on a deeper level and as a result feel them even more, hence my current self-imposed isolation. I was once the wise 18 year old girl that 45 year old women used to come to for advice....now I just feel like the little, old woman, who lives in a sock, (I don't like wearing shoes) who doesn't know what to do.