What is an empath?

Empaths — Everything You Need To Know About This Personality Type

Empathy is the gift of being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel things as if you were them. Empaths are those in your life who are the healers, the nurturers, the highly sensitive lovers that give, and give, and give, often to the point of exhaustion. Though considered rare, empaths actually make up 15-20% of the population, meaning that there is a chance you yourself could be one.

What Is An Empath?

Empath (n): a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.

Empaths are deeply sensitive individuals who are highly attuned to the emotions and energy of others. They can easily take on the emotions of others as their own. This can be a challenge when they have porous boundaries and end up absorbing the pain and stress of others. Empaths are sharply intuitive and are adept at reading people and situations beyond just surface-level impressions. Due to their giving nature as well as their keen insight into the human psyche, they tend to be natural healers.

“Being empathetic is when your heart goes out to somebody when they feel joy or sadness,” explains Judith Orloff, MD, psychiatrist and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide. “But being an empath means you can actually feel their happiness or anxiety in your own body.”

While most of us have the ability to empathize, Dr. Elaine Aron (1991) discovered that highly sensitive individuals make up approximately 15-20% of the population. So, if you have ever felt like your personality almost continuously attracts those who need guidance and help in life — you may be an empath.

The Main Empath Traits

  • Highly sensitive
  • Introverted
  • Intuitive
  • Giving
  • Committed
  • Good Listener
  • Self-sufficient
  • Easily Overwhelmed

Am I An Empath? Questions To Ask Yourself If You Think You Are An Empath:

  • Am I often called highly sensitive, or emotional?
  • When a friend feels hurt, or overwhelmed, do I start to feel it too?
  • Do my feelings get hurt easily?
  • Am I drained, both physically and emotionally by crowds?
  • When drained, do I need time alone to recharge?
  • Do I cope with emotional stress in destructive ways, such as overeating or promiscuity?
  • Am I afraid of becoming completely overtaken by intimate relationships?

If you answer yes to 1-3 of these questions, you are partly empathetic. If you answer yes to 3 or more of these questions, you are a highly sensitive individual, and you have found your personality type.

Empath Signs

Empath Traits Explained — 38 Signs You Are An Empath

1. You experience an inner sense of knowing. Empaths have a deep sense of knowing that is unwavering and unquestionable. They are capable of reading others without obvious cues and can describe what’s really going on beneath the surface. They know if someone is being dishonest or not speaking their truths. The more attuned they are to their empathy the stronger and more frequent the knowing and reading abilities will be.

2. You’re an effective listener and communicator. Empaths have a natural ability to listen with all their senses, allowing the person they are listening to to feel as though they are being heard and understood. They can intuitively guide a conversation with sincere compassion enabling even the most reserved person to respond and express their deepest and even most painful thoughts and feelings they wouldn’t ordinarily share.

3. You feel easily overwhelmed in public places. Shopping malls, supermarkets or stadiums where masses of people gather can be overwhelming and even lead to panic attacks or anxiety due to the myriad of emotions being sensed by an empath. Until an empath knows how to control these feelings, they will steer clear of being in said surroundings.

4. You feel others’ emotions, pains, illness, and stresses. Due to heightened sensitivities to emotional and physical energy, it is a very common occurrence for an empath to deeply take on the emotions etc. of others and not even realize they are doing so. Empaths will directly mirror the emotions, as though they were their own feelings. Consequently, empaths have a hard time distinguishing what is belonging to themselves versus what they connected with, and picked up, from another. This makes life extremely overwhelming. However, when an empath matures, and figures out self-awareness, they can develop a greater degree of control and the ability to determine whose emotions etc. are whose.

5. You experience mood swings and can come across as unpredictable / needy. Empaths can experience extreme highs and lows which makes them unpredictable. One minute they can be happy and the next minute they can be very sad and withdrawn. This is not always the result of how they actually feel, but rather, what they have picked up in others, and this can be confusing for them. Empaths can also be very demanding of attention — be it for good reasons or not. If they feel they are not being heard they will act out and come across as needy, even narcissistic, due to being so overwhelmed with emotion.

6. You’re sensitive to TV, movies and real life chaos. Violence, cruelty, shocking scenes of physical or emotional pain or abuse can bring an empath to tears. They may even feel physically ill, bewildered and struggle to comprehend such acts as being justified.

Jesse Herzog

7. You’re prone to illness, disease, and physical pain.The onslaught of emotional energy an empath takes on can become problematic and manifest into varying forms of illnesses or disease. It is vital for an empath to learn about controlling emotional energy, distinguish its origin and apply the tools that will allow themselves to move forward with balanced wellness.

8. You embody a magnetic pull of trust. Others, including strangers are drawn to an empath like a magnet and find it easy to express themselves. People resonate with empaths on a deep and meaningful level; they will often feel like they have known each other for many years even though they may have just met. Human beings have this innate sense of trust and feel comfortable and relaxed in an empaths presence, even when they are often the reserved or closed off type. An empath has the capacity to crack even the toughest of shells wide open.

9. You are constantly fatigued. Empaths are drawn to helping others and in doing so they take on more than their fair share, and sometimes find it difficult to emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually cope with this onslaught of output. This, therefore, causes them to experience chronic fatigue. They may need to take daily catnaps or retreats just to replenish their energy and feel revitalized.

10. You are prone to addictive behavior. An empath wanting to escape from what they are bombarded with, or needing to feel connected, and listened to, could display addictive behavior. Their heightened sensitivities more than often don’t come with an awareness of how to deal with it, and they will adopt addictive tendencies to drown out, numb and distract them, such as drinking, smoking, taking drugs, binge eating to gambling etc. Unfortunately for some, in doing so it can heighten their sensitivities even more and create greater issues.

11. You are drawn to healing and holistic health and wellness. Whether it is a career as a nurse, doctor, physiotherapist, neurosurgeon, psychologist or massage therapist, homeopath, naturopath, social worker or a veterinarian, those who have strong empathy from a young age are often drawn to these fields due to a pull to helping heal people and/or animals.

12. You are inherently curious and a seeker of truth. Empaths are driven by their curiosity to understand the intricacies of life and feel an intense desire to seek the truth and question much of everything until they feel understood.

13. You are interested in spirituality. Empaths are often drawn to the unexplainable, and the paranormal, and have a deep sense of spirituality (not necessarily religion even though they may lean towards such in order to find a sense of belonging). They will dabble in many areas until they find their niche and they will actively pursue it throughout their lifetime.

14. You are drawn to ancient / indigenous cultures. They are drawn to ancient cultures that adhere to long-held traditions cloaked in universal laws as they embody innate logic, common sense and practical uncomplicated ways in which to do all manner of things. They will often shake their head in disbelief when others do and act in a way that opposes universal laws.

15. You are interested in your ancestral lineage. From a young age, they are the child that listens to the stories of old that are passed down throughout the generations. They have a genuine interest in wanting to know where they came from and who their ancestors were and what they did in their lifetime and will grow up to be keepers of the family tree and possess a collection of photo albums and heirlooms. Feeling a sense of connectedness holds great importance and as they learn this, they in-turn will be the one to pass this knowledge on to their children.

16. You are a quiet achiever and /or a strong leader. Although they are quiet achievers who prefer to do the hard work behind the scenes, empaths will often be found in positions of leadership due to their ability to be focused, organized and supportive, quick thinking and capable of inspiring and motivating others with magnificent poise. They are more comfortable in giving sincere praise upon others rather than accepting it and are often found mediating to maintain a balance of harmony.

17. You are creatively talented. Empaths have a great love for expressing their creativity as artists, musicians, singers, dancers, performing artists, acting, poets and designers etc. They love to tell a story and can captivate an audience through a vivid imagination and an ease in which they can take you directly into the picture as though you were actually experiencing it firsthand.

18. You have a love of nature and animals. Inclined to have a pet as they love to give and receive unconditional love that come from dogs, cats, rabbits etc. and are often advocates or supporters in the prevention of cruelty to animals. They enjoy being outdoors, amongst the forest or high in the mountains and are content being connected to the land and will often escape from the busy world to rejuvenate their senses.

19. You believe in the cleansing powers of water.Be it swimming in the sea, floating in the pool, walking in the rain, a long soak in the tub or a hot shower to cleanse and wash away the troubles of the day, empaths have a tendency to sense the healing properties of water, and always feel comfortable and most calm in it.

Kirill Vasilev

20. You need solitude. Although empaths can be very sociable, they also like to escape from the hustle and bustle and are content with their own company enjoying the tranquillity that comes with being in a quiet space reading a book, watching a movie, drawing a picture, pursuing a hobby they love to just relaxing. They will display this tendency from childhood and throughout life.

21. You are easily bored or distracted and frequently daydream. Empaths need to be stimulated and focused on one project or another and will give all their energy to any given task whether it is at school, work or home life. If the task fails to stimulate their senses they become bored, distracted and will either begin to fidget, doodle or be off in their minds daydreaming.

22. You seek adventure through travel or spontaneous acts. Empaths enjoy spontaneity in their life and will seek out adventures, travel to far off places or find enjoyable activities nearby. They enjoy being free spirited, leaving the constraints of the world behind them, and if they don’t get to do this as often as they would like, they become quite restless and agitated.

23. Your sensitivity to energy flow makes you sensitive to clutter. An awareness of energy comes naturally and an empath will feel weighed down by clutter and chaos. Although they may collect things, everything has a place and order and they will constantly de-clutter to balance out their environmental energy. Empaths have an ability to place furniture or even plant gardens in a way that energy flows in and around everything.

24. You are a rule breaker. Routine, repetition and rules can become mundane for the creative empath who continuously seek ways in which to express their love, and the things they enjoy in life. If they are told they cannot do something, within reason they will find a way that they can, as the willingness to challenge themselves goes hand in hand with being spontaneous.

25. You demonstrate great enthusiasm and appreciation of life. An empath is always bursting with energy and an appreciation towards life and living it as fully as they can. However the downside is that they can exert so much energy that they will burn out and need to take time to recuperate. An empath doesn’t do anything in halves; it’s all or nothing and they tend to feel disappointed if others around them don’t share the same zest for life as they do.

26. You are a humanitarian, a peacemaker and a meditator at heart.
Conflict for an empath is extremely unsettling regardless if it is with family, friends, colleagues or if it is direct or indirect. Because of this, an empath will try extremely hard to find a peaceful resolution between others, in order to control the situation, and to find harmony. Because of this, they are natural born peacemakers.

27. You value antiques (vintage or second-hand). Holding objects such as rings, jewelry, clothing, ornaments or touching door handles to old buildings, entering historical homes etc. can bring through very vivid and accurate accounts of the owners history and life experiences. This can be extremely daunting and off putting to those sensitive to picking up energies, whereas those who are more aware and in control of their empathy will feel at ease, and be drawn to such.

28. You are given to lucid dreaming. An empath often has vivid dreams from a very young age and will have lucid dreams where they are awake in their dreams and have an ability to control certain aspects by willful thought alone. Empaths are capable of describing in graphic detail the dream content. Also, empaths have a strong desire to interpret their dreams knowing that they could have direct relevance to their physically awake life and in doing so can find answers to guide them well.

29. You are a lover, not a fighter. Empaths love to love others and be loved in return and will seek meaningful relationships throughout their entire lives. Empaths, however, are not always adept at self-love as they are inclined to give of themselves freely to others and can grow up thinking (by what they learn from society) that it is selfish to love themselves. They do not like to be caught up in fights be it verbal or physical as communication comes easily to them, however they will not be passive either, but rather, they will aim for a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible. They will get extremely frustrated if the other person is not willing to resolve the conflict fully as they don’t see the logic in dragging things on.

Derrick Freske

30. You are a visionary, an entrepreneur, and /or a problem solver
Empaths are intense visionaries, and this trait, blended with their adventurous love of life and their enthusiasm, affords them many opportunities and allows them to expand their potential, feed their creative minds and do the things they love to do. Empaths have this instinctive belief that they are capable of achieving greater things and will constantly think outside the box and push through any and all boundaries, (often against the odds) with focused and determined energy.

31. You are forgiving, sometimes to a fault. Empaths have a tendency to be overly forgiving of those in their lives. Because they feel so deeply, and can connect with someone on an emotional level, empaths aren’t the kinds of people who hold grudges — they always see where someone was coming from. However, this means that empaths sometimes attract those who may take advantage of their good nature, and sometimes this can lead to toxic friendships and relationships.

32. You have trouble standing up for yourself. As mentioned above, empaths are the emotional type that most often attracts toxic relationships. An empath never really knows when to walk away from someone, as they are always understanding and deeply intertwined with another persons struggles. They have a hard time justifying walking away, and see it as giving up on someone they can help. An empath thinks that if they just listen a little longer, or love a little harder, or give a little more, they can fix things with a person who may not be treating them the best.

33. You give more than you receive. An empath gives with everything that they have, sometimes more than they realize. However, a lot of empaths feel that when they need help, a lot of the people closest to them fail to love them the way they love others. Empaths seeking support therefore look internally, and sometimes bottle up emotions, because they don’t feel as if those around them care enough.

34. You are not a reactive human being. Empaths understand that words have power. They understand that saying something in a moment of anger or frustration can never be taken back, or undone. They understand that certain statements can cut deeply, and because of this they are almost always masters of self-awareness and discipline when it comes to arguments or unsavoury situations. An empath will always choose their words wisely, they will always think about a situation before allowing their feelings to get the best of them, because they do not want to hurt another human being, they do not want to make anyone feel sad or disappointed or misunderstood. Unfortunately, with this trait comes a lot of pressure, and sometimes empaths have breakdowns or mood swings due to the sheer capacity of their internal struggle.

35. You are a nurturer, but not an enabler. An empath will never tell someone what they want to hear just to appease their feelings. If someone was wrong in a situation, or if someone needs to change, they will always approach that conversation with honesty and thought. Because empaths care so deeply about those in their life, they want to ensure that they are actually helping the people they love, instead of nurturing them into complacency.

36. You are often accused of living in your head. As an empath, you are constantly thinking about the things going on in the world. Because you are deeply affected by everything around you, you have a tendency to mull over all of the issues others have, or you use daydreaming as an escape from your own mind. Because of this, empaths are often accused of living in their heads, and people might see them as narcissists because they are often in their own world and that can come of as being self-absorbed. In reality, because they are so absorbed in everyone else’s feelings, and emotions, they need to escape into themselves in order to relax, calm down, and balance themselves out.

37. Your moral compass is extremely strong. Empaths are sticklers for the truth. They believe in honesty, and they believe that everything in life should be rooted in honesty. If they find out that someone is lying to them, they not only feel deeply hurt, but they also feel extremely disappointed and sometimes disillusioned. Being lied to, or seeing injustice in the world related to anything that isn’t morally sound, often throws an empath into a tailspin, and they have a hard time not being sensitive to the fact that people can be dishonest.

Jesse Herzog

38. You have an extremely hard time breaking up with others. Yes, as mentioned above, empaths have a difficult time burning bridges when it comes to toxic relationships. However, even in the relationships where they feel nurtured and loved, if an empath wants to walk away, they will still have an extremely hard time doing so. Because empaths never want to hurt those they care about, and those they have strong feelings for, they are often the kinds of people who will stay in relationships where they are not inspired or fulfilled. However, due to being highly sensitive, these feelings of moral dilemma will eat them alive, and they will be forced to end the relationship and potentially hurt the person they were with more than they would have if they were simply honest from the start. Sometimes, an empaths desire to protect, can actually hurt more than it helps.

The 9 Main Types Of Empaths

1. Claircognizant Empath

The claircognizant empath is an empath that has traits derived from both clairaudience (clear hearing) and clairvoyance (clear seeing) thus making them claircognizant — someone who is perceived as clear knowing. These souls have the capacity to simply know certain things, and they are constantly being enlightened with understanding, and vivid ideas, that puzzles and inspire others.

2. Emotional Empath

An emotional empath is an empath that is highly sensitive to the feelings of other human beings. These empaths have the capacity to connect with what others are going through even before they open up.

3. Physical Empath

A physical empath is an empath that is often referred to as being highly sensitive to the physical suffering of other human beings. These empaths are highly receptive to wounded souls, and they are known to quite literally feel and physically take on the pain others are going through. Because of that, physical empaths are often exhausted, and burnt out. They may even go through life feeling hostile, or used, because they have no control over how someone’s stress, pain, and emotional output makes their body feel.

4. Fauna Empath

A fauna empath is an empath that is known for their capacity to understand the mental state of animals, and their ability to connect with their emotions. Fauna empaths have strong relationships with animals, and are intertwined with their energies. These empaths are known to like animals more than human beings, and are often those who express feeling deeply connected to all species.

5. Geomantic Empath

A geomantic empath is someone who is known to have a deep connection with the environments they find themselves in. Geomantic empaths can feel the presence, or soul, of a certain place, and they are therefore subconsciously drawn to these destinations. An empath with geomantic tendencies can actually feel the happiness, or the sorrow, that a place holds, and often connect with older places like churches, and graveyards.

6. Medium Empath

A medium empath is the kind of empath that has established a deep, and rooted, connection with a supernatural force or the deceased. Not only do these empaths connect with forces they may not be able to see, but they feel, and hear, the emotional output of the spiritual world.

7. Psychometric Empath

A psychometric empath is an empath that has the ability to receive memories, energy and detailed information from physical objects. They can gather this information, or these feelings, from things like jewelry, photographs, clothing, and so on.

8. Precognitive Empath

A precognitive empath is the kind of empath that has a very strong sense of intuition. These people will have visions about events that have yet to happen. Precognition gives these empaths the capacity to foretell or predict future occurrences, and these visions often come to them in their own dreams. It is important to note that sometimes precognitive empaths do not dream about direct situations that will happen, but rather, sometimes they dream of signs and symbols that are relevant to the future.

9. Telepathic Empath

A telepathic empath is an empath that can decipher, and read, someone’s inner thoughts.

The Main Struggles You May Deal With As An Empath

1. You have a tendency to isolate yourself. An empath will always feel drawn to quiet, calming environments, and will consistently stray away from any place that can easily overwhelm them. However, most places in the world are loud and filled with crowds, which poses a problem for empaths. On one hand, they enjoy the way they feel when they are alone and safe in their own solitude, but that can easily become isolating. Because of this, empaths don’t have many friends. Due to their fragile nature, and their tendency to retreat into their shells when the world gets too overstimulating, they sometimes lack the ability to create new, foundational relationships the way most people do these days.

2. You get hurt very easily. Empaths have hearts that are pinned to their sleeves. Unfortunately, this is almost always the reason why they get hurt. An empath’s vulnerability often makes them a target, and they tend to find themselves in relationships and friendships where they feel taken advantage of. Because of their track record with feeling hurt in relationships, empaths have a hard time pursuing new ones, and even though they love deeply and give everything they have, they sometimes feel like they will never find someone who truly understands what it means to be them.

3. People are highly critical of your sensitivity. For the majority of their lives, empaths will be bombarded with others telling them to stop being so sensitive, and trying to help them disconnect from their emotions. However, these statements are hurtful and harmful, and because empaths don’t agree with their sensitivity being an issue, they get tired of consistently hearing these judgements. On the other hand, an empath would never think of telling someone that they needed to grow a thicker skin, or just get over their emotions. Highly sensitive people believe in others and they encourage them to feel as much as they possibly can, so hearing the opposite from those they care about can sometimes deeply hurt them.

4. You often feel emotionally imbalanced. Because empaths live inside of their own hearts, they have a predisposition towards anxiety and depression. Their feelings are the front and centre in their life, and they are controlled by their emotions. This can often cause an empath to feel overwhelmed and imbalanced, and sometimes these intense feelings manifest as stress, and physical illness.

How To Protect Yourself As An Empath

1. Allow quiet time to emotionally decompress. Get in the habit of taking calming mini-breaks throughout the day. Breathe in some fresh air. Stretch. Take a short walk around the office. These interludes will reduce the excessive stimulation of going non-stop.

2. Practice meditation. To counter emotional overload, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. This centers your energy so you don’t take it on from others.

3. Safeguard your sensitivities.

  • If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”
  • If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing–even if you adore the people–take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded.
  • If crowds are overwhelming, eat a high-protein meal beforehand (this grounds you) and sit in the far corner of, say, a theatre or party, not dead center.
  • If you feel nuked by perfume, nicely request that your friends refrain from wearing it around you. If you can’t avoid it, stand near a window or take frequent breaks to catch a breath of fresh air outdoors.
  • If you overeat to numb negative emotions, practice the guerilla meditation mentioned above, before you’re lured to the refrigerator, a potential vortex of temptation. As an emergency measure, keep a cushion by the fridge so you can be poised to meditate instead of binge.
  • ‘Carve out private space at home. Then you won’t be stricken by the feeling of too much togetherness. Thought Catalog Logo Mark
    Thank you to Brianna McDonald, Ari Eastman, Dr. Judith Orloff, Christel Broederlow and Shahida Arabi for their contribution/inspiration to this article.

Bianca is the author of The Strength In Our Scars and A Gentle Reminder.

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