The term ‘empath’ is tossed around a lot these days, and I hear a lot of folks who claim to be empaths. I wanted to make sure that I really understood what an empath was, so I did a bit of research to see if the term applied to me – I don’t think it does, but…let’s take a look.
First, I did this quiz – and, according to it, I’m empathing all over the place! My overall score was 68 out a possible 80, which seems high. Here’s an article on empaths to help us understand things a bit better:
13 Signs That You’re an Empath
An empath is someone who is highly aware of the emotions of those around them, to the point of feeling those emotions themselves. Empaths see the world differently than other people; they’re keenly aware of others, their pain points, and what they need emotionally.
Many highly sensitive people (HSPs) are also empaths — but there may be a difference between empaths and HSPs. Having a high degree of empathy is just one of the four traits that make someone an HSP, and HSPs are sensitive to many kinds of stimuli, in addition to emotions. It’s likely that most empaths are highly sensitive, but not all highly sensitive people are necessarily empaths.
So how do you know if you are one? Here are 13 signs.
13 Signs of an Empath
1. You take on other peoples’ emotions as your own
This is the classic, number one trait of an empath. No matter what someone else near you is feeling, even if they think they aren’t showing it, you’re likely to pick up on it immediately.
2. Sometimes you experience sudden, overwhelming emotions when you’re in public
It’s not just in one-on-one conversation where you sense the emotions of others. It can happen at any time when there are other people around, and without warning.
3. The “vibe” of a room matters to you — a lot
Perhaps unsurprisingly, empaths are extremely sensitive to the “feel” or atmosphere of their surroundings. When surrounded by peace and calm, they flourish, because they take on those qualities internally themselves. For the same reason, places of beauty can be transformative for empaths, whether it’s a quiet garden, a lovely bedroom, or the halls of a museum. Likewise, chaotic or depressing environments will quickly pull the energy out of an empath.
4. You understand where people are coming from
Empathy is fundamentally about understanding and connecting with others. And that’s what it means to sense where people are coming from.
5. People turn to you for advice
With such insight, empaths are frequently sought out by their friend for advice, support, and encouragement. It helps that empaths also tend to be good listeners, and will often patiently wait for someone to say what they need to say and then respond from the heart.
6. Tragic or violent events on TV can completely incapacitate you
If you’re an empath, it doesn’t matter that a horrible event isn’t happening to you, you still feel it through your entire being. You may seem to “live through” the pain or loss of the event yourself, even if you’re thousands of miles away — or indeed, even if it’s a fictional event in a show. This reaction can be completely overwhelming at times.
7. You can’t contain your love of pets, animals, or babies
Sure, everyone knows that babies are adorable little miracles, and dogs and cats are cute — but for you, those feelings seem to be much stronger. You may not be able to help yourself from gushing over someone’s lovely child, or immediately crouching down to show some love to a puppy. Some people might find your reaction “over the top,” but for you, how can anyone not react this way?
8. You might feel people’s physical illnesses too — not just their emotions
When someone is sick or injured, you might even go so far as to feel their ailment as if it’s your own. This doesn’t just mean feeling sympathy or concern for them, but having actual physical sensations like pain, tightness, or soreness in the same areas of the body. It’s as if your empathic brain is not only mirroring what the other person must be experiencing but also projecting that experience physically into your own body.
9. You can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships
Relationships can be challenging for everyone. But imagine how much bigger those challenges are when you can sense every little mood, irritation or, yes, even lie from your partner. And positive emotions can also become overwhelming — as if the relationship may “engulf” you. Sound familiar?
But it’s more than that. Once you live together, the shared environment is also a hurdle. A cohabiting partner’s “energy” is always present for an empath, and can almost feel like an intrusion. Empaths view their homes as a sanctuary where they can get away from the constant demand on their emotional senses, and a partner changes that.
10. You’re a walking lie detector
Sure, there probably have been times when someone successfully deceived you… but even then, you knew you were going against your gut instinct from the start. The thing about an empath’s ability to process even the tiniest social cues means that it’s almost impossible for someone to hide their true intentions. Even if you don’t know exactly what a person really wants, you know if they’re not being completely honest — or if they seem shifty.
11. You can’t understand why any leader wouldn’t put their teams first
Empaths can make excellent leaders themselves, and when they do, it’s always by listening to their team and uniting people around shared goals. Empaths tend to be thoughtful and attentive, making sure each team member feels heard. The result isn’t just a happier group of people, it’s making better decisions by getting all the information.
12. You have a calming effect on other people — and the power to heal them
It’s true. Just as people seek out empaths for advice, they also just feel more at peace in an empath’s presence. In fact, people often unwittingly seek out their most empathic friends during difficult times.
This is something you can develop and use to actually heal people, in the sense of helping them work past serious emotional baggage and overcome unhealthy patterns. But you can’t do so if you hide your sensitivity and empathy — you have to embrace your gift if you really want to make a difference.
13. You cannot see someone in pain without wanting to help
Empaths are such a valuable part of the amazing kaleidoscope of the human race. For an empath, people are the brightest things on their radar, and it’s impossible not to see — and respond to — the needs of others. That is exactly where an empath’s healing ability comes from, and it’s something we could use more of in our world.
I can definitely relate to some of these signs (I’m looking at you #3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13!), but there’s a lot of others that aren’t me at all. I noticed that the article made frequent references to being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), and that sounds a whole lot more like me, so I checked it out. Here’s what I learned:
A highly sensitive person (HSP) experiences the world differently than others. Due to a biological difference that they’re born with, highly sensitive people are more aware of subtleties and process information deeply. This means they tend to be creative, insightful, and empathetic, but it also means they’re more prone than others to stress and overwhelm.
Although being highly sensitive is completely normal — meaning, it’s not a disease or a disorder— it’s often misunderstood, because only 15 to 20 percent of the population are HSPs.
Are you a highly sensitive person? If you relate to most of these signs, there’s a good chance you’re an HSP.
Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
1. You absolutely abhor violence and cruelty of any kind.
Everyone hates violence and cruelty, but for highly sensitive people, seeing or hearing about it can be extremely unsettling.
2. You’re frequently emotionally exhausted from absorbing other people’s feelings.
Although highly sensitive people are not necessarily empaths, HSPs tend to “absorb” other people’s emotions, almost like an empath would. It’s not unusual for an HSP to walk into a room and immediately sense the moods of the people in it. That’s because highly sensitive people are very aware of subtleties — including facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice — that others may miss.
3. Time pressure really rattles you.
In school, timed quizzes or speed tests made you extremely anxious — perhaps to the point of not being able to perform as well as you normally would. As an adult, when you have too many things on your to-do list and not enough time to finish them, you feel very stressed. HSPs are more sensitive to stimulation, and time pressure is no exception.
4. You withdraw often.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you need plenty of downtime, preferably alone. You often find yourself withdrawing to a quiet, darkened room at the end of a long day — in order to lower your stimulation level, soothe your senses, and recharge.
5. You’re jumpy.
When someone sneaks up on you, you jump like a frightened cat. Many HSPs have a high “startle reflex” because even in non-threatening situations, their nervous systems are dialed up.
6. You think deeply.
The cornerstone of being an HSP is you process information deeply. This means you do plenty of reflecting on your experiences — more so than other people. Unfortunately, this also means you’re more prone to negative overthinking. Sometimes you obsessively play events over and over in your mind or spiral into anxious thoughts.
7. You’re a seeker.
HSPs seek answers to the big questions in life. They ask why things are the way they are and what their role in all of it is. If you’re a highly sensitive person, you may have always wondered why other people aren’t as captivated by the mysteries of human nature and the universe as you are.
8. Sudden, loud noises startle you.
For example, a loud motorcycle suddenly roaring by your window may really shake you.
9. Your clothing matters.
You’ve always been sensitive to what you wear.Scratchy fabric or restrictive clothing — like pants with a tight waistband or pantyhose — really irritate you. Of course, non-HSPs might dislike these things too, but an HSP will carefully select their wardrobe to completely avoid them. And if an HSP inadvertently wears one of these things out, the discomfort may detract from their entire experience.
10. Your pain tolerance is less.
Many HSPs are more sensitive to pain of all kinds — headaches, body aches, injuries, etc. — than non-HSPs.
11. Your inner world is alive and present.
Again, due to your deep processing, you have a rich inner world. As a child, you may have had several imaginary friends, enjoyed fantasy-based play, and were prone to daydreaming. As an adult, you may have vividly realistic dreams.
12. Change is extremely upsetting.
HSPs take comfort in their routines, because the familiar is far less stimulating than something brand new. For this reason, change — both positive and negative — can really throw off HSPs.
13. Sometimes your environment is your enemy.
Similarly, moving to a new home or traveling (even if it’s just a “fun” vacation!) can be quite difficult for you, because your senses are bombarded with so much new stimuli.
14. You’re misunderstood.
High sensitivity is often mislabeled. You may have been called “shy” or “anxious,” and perhaps it was implied that something was wrong with you. Similarly, many HSPs are labeled as introverts, because introverts and HSPs share many characteristics, such as needing lots of downtime. However, 30 percent of HSPs are actually extroverts.
15. You get hangry easily.
HSPs tend to be sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels, so they may get quite “hangry” (hungry + angry) if they haven’t eaten in a while.
16. Who needs stimulants…
…when your nervous system is already ratcheted up to the highest level? Some HSPs are sensitive to caffeine and need very little of it to feel its buzz. Similarly, some HSPs are also sensitive to alcohol’s effects.
17. Conflict is your poison.
When there’s tension or disagreement in your close relationships, you feel it deeply. Many HSPs even report feeling physically ill during conflict. As a result, some highly sensitive people become conflict-avoidant, doing or saying almost anything to keep the other person happy. It’s because conflict hurts so much.
18. Criticism is a dagger.
Words really matter to HSPs. Positive words can make them soar, but harsh words will send them crashing to the ground. Criticism can feel like a dagger, and negativity is toxic to the highly sensitive person’s finely-tuned system.
19. You’re conscientious.
At work and in school, you try hard not to make mistakes. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re perfect — nobody is! — but you’re always giving things your best effort.
20. You’re deeply moved by beauty.
Fine meals, rich scents, beautiful artwork, or stirring melodies have a deep impact on you. You may find that music or certain sounds put you in a near trance-like state, or the way the wind catches the leaves in the autumn sunlight leaves you awestruck. You don’t understand how other people aren’t as moved by beauty as you are.
21. You’re perceptive.
Because you notice things that others miss, you’re seen as perceptive and insightful. Even as a child, you may have been wise beyond your years. The world relies on highly sensitive people like you to make it a more compassionate, understanding place to be.
Ding ding ding ding ding!! I think we have a winner here, folks!!! While I don’t embrace all of the HSP characteristics, I do feel that it fits me better than the empath list…I hate being around crowds of people, the energy (or ‘vibe’) in a room REALLY matters to me and affects me completely, I can have my entire day ruined if I don’t feel comfortable in my clothes, and sweet Jesus do I get hangry! Crikey! However, I am not generally resistant to change, I can tolerate pain like the Viking that I am, and I can handle conflict. Strange, eh? Perhaps I’m a hybrid blend of both empaths and HSPs…who knows? Regardless, I think it’s interesting to analyze some of my more unusual character traits and find out that there’s a reason (apart from ‘quirky’!) for them!
Where do you fall on this spectrum, friends?