Empaths are people who have a lot of empathy for others and good intuition, but who may have difficulty setting boundaries.

What is an empath?

Do you often feel deeply tuned in to the feelings of people around you? Do crowds make you uncomfortable? Would you (or the people closest to you) describe yourself as a sensitive person?

If so, you may be an empath.

Dr. Judith Orloff, a pioneer in the field, describes empaths as those who absorb the world’s joys and stresses like “emotional sponges.”

In her book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” she suggests empaths lack the filters most people use to protect themselves from excessive stimulation and can’t help but take in surrounding emotions and energies, whether they’re good, bad, or something in between.

Kim Egel, a San Diego-based therapist, expands this further: “Empaths have a higher sensitivity to outside stimuli such as sounds, big personalities, and hectic environments. They bring a lot of heart and care to the world and feel things very deeply.”

Sound familiar? Here are 15 other signs you might be an empath, along with tips for dealing with being one.

You have a lot of empathy

The term empath comes from empathy, which is the ability to understand the experiences and feelings of others outside of your own perspective.

Say your friend just lost their dog of 15 years. Empathy is what allows you to understand the level of pain she’s going through, even if you’ve never lost a beloved pet.

But as an empath, you take things a step further. You actually sense and feel emotions as if they’re part of your own experience. In other words, someone else’s pain and happiness become your pain and happiness.

Closeness and intimacy can overwhelm you

Empaths often find frequent close contact difficult, which can make romantic relationships challenging.

You want to connect and develop a lasting partnership. But spending too much time with someone leads to stress, overwhelm, or worries about losing yourself in the relationship.

You might also notice sensory overload or a “frayed nerves” feeling from too much talking or touching. But when you try to express your need for time alone, you absorb your partner’s hurt feelings and feel even more distressed.

You have good intuition 

Ever felt like you have a strong gut reaction to things that feel a bit off? Maybe you pick up on dishonesty easily or just know when something seems like a good (or bad) idea.

This may be your empath trait at work.

Empaths tend to be able to pick up on subtle cues that provide insight on the thoughts of others, suggests Barrie Sueskind, a therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in relationships. “An empath’s intuition often tells them whether someone is being truthful or not,” she says.

As an empath, you might put a lot of faith in your instincts when making decisions. Although others might consider you impulsive, you’re actually trusting your intuition to guide you to the choice that feels right for you.

You take comfort in nature

Anyone can benefit from spending time in natural settings. But empaths may feel even more drawn to nature and remote areas, since natural environments provide a calming space to rest from overwhelming sensations, sounds, and emotions.

You might feel completely at peace when hiking alone in a sunlit forest or watching waves crash against the shore. Even a quiet walk through a garden or an hour sitting under trees may lift your spirits, soothe overstimulation, and help you relax.

You don’t do well in crowded places 

According to Sueskind, empaths can absorb positive and negative energy just by being in someone’s presence. In crowded or busy places, this sensitivity may seem magnified to the point of being almost unbearable.

Egel agrees, adding that “empaths can be easily overwhelmed by feeling everything more intensely.” If you can easily sense how others feel, you’ll likely have a hard time handling the emotional “noise” from a crowd, or even a smaller group of people, for an extended period of time.

When you’re picking up on negative emotions, energy, or even physical distress from people around you, you might become overwhelmed or physically unwell. As a result, you may feel most comfortable on your own or in the company of just a few people at a time.

You have a hard time not caring

An empath doesn’t just feel for someone — they feel with someone.

Taking in others’ emotions so deeply can make you want to do something about them. “Empaths want to help,” Sueskind says. “But this isn’t always possible, which can disappoint an empath.”

You may find it difficult to watch someone struggle and act on your natural inclination to help ease their distress, even if that means absorbing it yourself.

Caring about the suffering of others isn’t a bad thing, but your concern for another’s difficulties can overshadow your care for yourself. This can factor into compassion fatigue and burnout, so it’s essential to save some energy for yourself.

People tend to tell you their problems

Sensitive, empathic people tend to be fantastic listeners. Your loved ones may feel comforted by your support and reach out to you first whenever they experience difficulty.

Caring deeply can make it hard to tell people when you approach the point of being overwhelmed. But it’s important to find a balance. Without boundaries, unchecked kindness and sensitivity can pave the way for “emotion dumps” that may be too much for you to handle at once.

Empaths may also be more vulnerable to manipulation or toxic behaviors. Your earnest desire to help people in distress can leave you unaware of signs of toxicity.

You may have a deeper understanding of the pain fueling their behavior and want to offer support. But it’s important to remember you can’t do much for someone who isn’t ready to change.

You have a high sensitivity to sounds, smells, or sensations

An empath’s increased sensitivity doesn’t just relate to emotions. There’s a lot of overlap between empaths and people who are highly sensitive, and you might find that you’re also more sensitive to the world around you.

This could mean:

  • Fragrances and odors affect you more strongly.
  • Jarring sounds and physical sensations may affect you more strongly.
  • You prefer to listen to media at low volumes or get information by reading.
  • Certain sounds may trigger an emotional response.

It should be noted that covert narcissists, also known as vulnerable narcissists, are also highly sensitive. They may appear to be empaths to manipulate others.

You need time to recharge

“Heightened sensitivity to other people’s pain can be draining, so empaths may find themselves easily fatigued,” Sueskind says.

Even an overload of positive feelings might exhaust you, so it’s important to take the time you need to reset.

If you can’t escape overwhelming emotions and rest your senses, you’re more likely to experience burnout, which can have a negative impact on well-being.

Needing time alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an introvert. Empaths can also be extroverts, or fall anywhere on the spectrum. Maybe people energize you — until you reach that point of being overwhelmed.

Extroverted empaths may need to take extra care to strike the right balance between spending time with others and restoring their emotional reserves.

You don’t like conflict

If you’re an empath, you likely dread or actively avoid conflict.

Higher sensitivity can make it easier for someone to hurt your feelings. Even offhand remarks might cut more deeply, and you may take criticism more personally.

Arguments and fights can also cause more distress since you’re not only dealing with your own feelings and reactions. You’re also absorbing the emotions of the others involved. When you want to address everyone’s hurt but don’t know how, even minor disagreements can become harder to cope with.

You often feel like you don’t fit in

Despite being highly attuned to the feelings of others, many empaths find it difficult to relate to others.

Others might not understand why you become exhausted and stressed so quickly. You might struggle to understand the emotions and feelings you absorb or feel like you aren’t “normal.” This may lead you to become more private. You might avoid talking about your sensitivities and sharing your intuitions so you feel less out of place.

It’s never easy to feel like you don’t belong, but try to see your ability to deeply empathize with others as something special. It may not be common, but it’s an important part of who you are.

You tend to isolate

Isolation can help empaths recover from overwhelm, so completely shutting out the world may seem healing. But prolonged isolation can take a toll on mental health.

There are different types of isolation, and some may offer more restorative benefits than others. Try taking your time alone outdoors when possible and meditate in a quiet park, walk in the rain, take a scenic drive, or garden.

You have a hard time setting boundaries

Boundaries are important in all relationships.

If you’re an empath, you may struggle to turn off the ability to feel and find it impossible to stop giving, even when you have no energy left. You might believe boundaries suggest you don’t care about your loved ones when the exact opposite is true.

Because the experiences of others have such an intense impact on empaths, boundaries become even more essential. They help you set limits around words or actions that may affect you negatively, allowing you to get your own needs met.

When you start to feel unable to decipher your emotions from those of others, it may be time to explore healthy boundary setting with a therapist.

You see the world in unique ways

Deeper emotional understanding can drive your intuition, and you likely pick up on things other people miss or make connections that aren’t clear to anyone else.

But this increased connection to the world can also have drawbacks. Environments that don’t provide much space for emotional expression can dampen your creativity and sensitivity, Egel says, leaving you disinterested, disengaged, and struggling to thrive.

You sometimes find it tough to cope with sensory and emotional overload

It can be difficult for empaths to protect themselves from taking on other people’s emotions, Sueskind says.

Good self-care practices and healthy boundaries can help insulate you, particularly from negative emotions and energy. But the emotional “noise” of the world can cause significant distress when you lack the tools to manage it.

Different types of empaths

There are different types of empaths, including emotional, physical, and intuitive empaths.

Emotional empath

This type of empath is highly sensitive to the emotions of other people.

For example, when another person is sad or happy, an emotional empath also becomes sad or happy.

Physical empath

Physical empaths are very sensitive to the pain and illnesses of others.

They may even experience empathic illnesses or symptoms that are not actually their own.

Intuitive empath

People who are intuitive empaths are extremely perceptive.

Although there is no scientific evidence to support it, intuitive empaths may believe they are psychic or telepathic. Some may think they are able to communicate with plants and animals.

How to deal with being an empath

If you are an empath, setting healthy, clear boundaries can help reduce distress, Egel suggests. “You must know how to preserve yourself so you don’t get your energy and emotional reserves swallowed up,” she says.

You can also try taking some of the following steps to help protect your psyche:

  • If people drain you easily, consider adding a pet to your life. Empaths may connect to animals more intensely and draw deep comfort from this bond.
  • If you’re struggling to manage overstimulation on your own, and it affects your quality of life or keeps you from relationships and other personal goals, a therapist can help you learn to develop boundaries and identify helpful self-care approaches.
  • To emotionally decompress, take frequent short breaks during the day to meditate, go for a walk, or do another stress-reducing activity.
  • Build your sense of self awareness by paying attention to your own feelings and the characteristics defining you.
  • Try to maintain a positive outlook. Avoid negative people and negativity in general.
  • Boost your self esteem by repeating positive affirmations.

Remember, your needs and emotions are just as important as the ones you pick up in everyone around you.

What Is An Empath? 15 Signs and Traits (healthline.com)

Views: 71

Replies to This Discussion

I don't think so, but having a lot of sensitivity and being very emotional these days is not worth it!

I don't agree with everything in the discussion, either.  I'm just getting some opinions out there.  Saying we don't have the means to protect ourselves is crap, obviously.  I do know if I go into a restaurant or store and someone's having a bad or rough day, I can always feel them, no matter how well I ground myself.

You're right.

Hmm, I read through this article and well one thing comes to mind. The way it was written, is saying that Empaths are the victims of the world's problems.

And yet apparently, shutting your feelings off completely is akin to being seen as a psychopath or narcissist.

This sounds passive aggressive to me. The only thing I can positively say I look for in anyone close to me in terms of a relationship, is equal ground. Common interests, speculative conversations or simple agreements throughout the day making my time be appreciated and valued in equal measure to another.

I believe the following was not brought up in the traits of empaths. Because I feel it beneficial, I will list a few of my own that are also not mentioned.

1. Selective honesty. Empathy and apethy go hand in hand with one another when an empath has reached the limit to their expenditure of emotional feedback. In other words, when they're backed into a corner and see no ability to have self control or a space of their own. They will evidently without their own independence, become an antisocial reclusive and self harming individual over the course of their time in such a mood. To a point where, if left for too long in such a state of abandonment, they will become selectively honest with those around them to get what they want as a last resort. the problem is, they will not forget what has been done to them afterwards, and can therefore find it difficult to escape their inner darkness.

The solution for this problem would be to tell the difference between someone who appreciates all they have, and someone who doesn't appreciate anything they get. This is the stark difference between an empath recovering from abuse, and an abusive person taking advantage of empathy.

2. Nature versus nurture. Empaths appreciate wide open spaces more, and the symptoms addressed here, appear to target those dealing with some form of progressive claustrophobia. Every time I have met someone who has been emotionally clingy or needy, they've tried to be all up in my face about what they think are my experiences, versus their own. I found out later on this is the trait of an empath, to in a sense, abuse the right to listen and understand thinking they lived through what they didn't. They're seemingly prone to projected emotions from others, likely as a result of the right side of their brain's hemisphere being more active than the left.

The solution for this, is to get empaths engaged in and interested with artistic expression of some kind. They'd be excellent at play acting, music, art and creative analysis. While channeling their emotions they have felt in wide open spaces, to true works of timeless classic pieces of absolute beauty. The trick is to get an empath to recognize a space as truly their own, and defend it stronger than any other where they do not belong as much and they know it.

3. Roles of political leadership. You wouldn't think an empath would be a capable individual on the battle field, however when push comes to shove, not all battle fields are physical or emotional. Empaths due to reasons 1 and 2 as outlined above, need to do something with the extra energy they get through their emotional feedback from others. And no other profession on this planet, is more meaningful and steadfast than politics.

Solution: if more empaths were able to recognize their weaknesses as a character trait on the whole, they'd be better able while more willing to be the true voice for the people's needs. True missionaries, peace keepers and scholars can spend their lifetime devoted to ensuring humanity is on the path of the productively straight and narrow. They can be more dedicated to their craft than anyone else. Beyond the level of lawyers, doctors and serial electorates due to their ability to play to their strengths.

In summary, I believe the strengths of empathic solutions to problems we face, can be achieved if a fair and honest balance for the greater potential of humanity and our world were given to empaths to sort out. All others have tried, and those who display psychopathic tendencies, get as far as they do, by playing on under cutting others vision, rather than respecting and allowing it to grow. For we can only remember what we are encouraged to interact with, and to empaths, this means that hard work can in such a way, pay off for the good of everyone.

I don't believe empaths need clinical help. I believe they need a visionary to see their dreams turned into reality. Their own emotions would ensure they were loyal to this cause alone. And those who already have succeeded in this way, are already timeless heroes of our generation. It's time to stop putting empaths aside because they can't handle crowds or toxic individuals. IF they were given a chance, what they could handle, would be the exact opposite. Even if they had to rely on each other to get the ball rolling.


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