In this article, you will learn:
- What is an Empath?
- Types of Empaths
- Common Traits of HSPs and Empaths
- What Does It Mean To Be An Empath?
- How You Become An Empath?
- Logical Findings Behind Empathy
- Being An Empath
- How To Know If You Are An Empath?
- How To Deal With Being An Empath?
There is a difference between empathy and being an empath.
Empathy refers to being able to step into the shoes of another person and understand what they are going through.
Empaths, on the other hand, are individuals who are highly sensitive people. Such individuals feel everything typically to an extreme level. Further, they are not able to shield themselves from the feelings and emotions of others.
Such people are often asked to develop a thick skin and are called over-sensitive. In our society, we are criticized for being over-sensitive instead of being supported.
However, you must understand that no doubt empaths are criticized and are less understood and accepted in this harsh world. But there is nothing wrong with being a sensitive person.
As per research, 20% of the population is impacted by high sensitivity. We often find over-sensitive people giving up on accepting their sensitivities. They may feel exhausted and want to unwind as they get overwhelmed with the crowds.
But they are unable to accept their sensitivities and are not able to unwind due to the world challenging their sensitivity.
However, if you are an empath, you must understand that your empathetic capabilities are simply credible if channelized in the right way.
In this article, you will learn what is an empath, how to know if you are an empath, and how to deal with being an empath.
What is an Empath?
As mentioned above, Empaths are highly sensitive individuals who absorb other people’s emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in their own bodies.
Such individuals feel both the stress and joy of other individuals. Further, they feel everything to an extreme level.
For instance, they are highly sensitive to people’s body movements and tone of voice. Likewise, they can understand what people do not say in words but communicate the same non-verbally via silence.
Judith Orloff, MD, in her book titled, the Empath’s Survival Guide, says that empaths feel things first and then think. This is in contrast to a majority of individuals that live in today’s intellectual society.
Further, empath persons are extremely reactive and experience sensory overload easily. They get intimidated by excessive stimulation and are vulnerable to exhaustion and sensory overload.
Thus, when facing a crowd, empaths absorb the energies exuded by other individuals who are a part of the crowd. As a result, they feel anxious and exhausted when in a crowded place.
As per Elaine Aron, a clinical psychologist and author, empaths have some traits of individuals which she describes as Highly Sensitive People (HSPs).
Common Traits of HSPs and Empaths
There are a number of traits common between empaths and HSPs. These include:
- A lower limit for stimulation
- Sensitivity to sound, light, and smell
- A requirement for alone time
- Aversion to large groups
- Need more time to get back to normal after a heavy day as they take time to transit from high stimulation to becoming quiet and peaceful
- Love for nature and calm environments
But, Empaths are a step ahead of highly sensitive people. Such individuals can absorb other people’s energy into their own bodies. This is not common with the HSPs.
Thus, you must understand that Empaths are able to pick up energies around them in a very deep way. They are able to internalize the feelings, stress, and even the physical sensations of other individuals.
One thing typical to the empaths is that they are not able to guard themselves against the energies of other people. In other words, such individuals are not able to differentiate other individuals’ pain from their own.
Types of Empaths
To know if you are an empath yourself, you must know the various types of empaths that exist. These are as follows.
I. Physical Empaths
These individuals harmonize with other people’s physical symptoms and generally soak them up into their own bodies. In addition to this, such empaths get excited or stimulated by other people’s state of wellbeing.
II. Emotions Empaths
These Empaths sense other people’s emotions. They pick up the feelings of others as if it is their own pain or joy.
III. Intuitive Empaths
These Empaths go through exceptional perceptions. Perceptions include telepathy, increased intuition, communication with plants and animals, receiving information in dreams, and access to spirits on the other side.
Thus, such empaths are of various types. These include:
- Dream Empaths
- Animal Empaths
- Telepathic Empaths
- Plant Empaths etc.
What Does It Mean To Be An Empath?
Being an empath in today’s intellectual world brings shame and difficulty in accepting one’s sensitivities. This is because of the resistance shown by the heartless world where the sensitivities of an empath are condemned.
If you are an empath, you are often told to toughen yourself up. Further, you may not want to be a part of crowded places and simply withdraw from the world. This is because it becomes extremely overwhelming for the empaths.
You go to social events feeling all good. But, you come back feeling anxious, tired, or suffering some pain you did not have earlier.
Further, when you are at a crowded place, you internalize the energy emitted by others. This makes you feel anxious and tired. Also, this is the very reason why you feel like running away from such crowded places.
As mentioned earlier, you get easily stimulated which leads to sensory overload. Likewise, you have been feeling both the stress as well as the joy of others intensely.
Further, you keep yourself away from people because that calms you down and you feel less intimidated. In other words, you have a lower tolerance for socializing and chit-chatting.
When too much comes your way too quickly, you experience overstimulation. Further, you don’t know how to defend yourself from the feelings, emotions, and physical symptoms of others. This is unlike normal people who know how to defend themselves from such symptoms.
Thus, all of this leads you to become anxious, depressed, and sick.
What Makes Your Overloading Symptoms Worse?
The following things make your overloading symptoms worse.
- Excessive socializing
- Being stuck in over stimulating situations like get togethers
- Toxic people
- Loud environments
- Fatigue, etc.
Also, over the years, you have been the one indicating to others that you can help them. However, in the wake of helping others, you overhelp other people resulting in emotional burnout.
Likewise, you find great difficulty in setting boundaries and are highly sensitive to light, smell, and sound.
However, you must remember that being an empath can be a great quality only if you know how to manage it. You must understand that you have the trait or quality of helping others when in need.
Likewise, your empathic outlook can prove to be a great quality when it comes to maintaining relationships.
You may wonder what made you an empathic person and not others. Likewise, you may question what are the underlying reasons that can explain the empath inside you.
Answering these questions will help you better understand why you are an empath.
How You Become An Empath?
There are a host of factors that make you an empath. These are as follows.
Some children come to this world as more sensitive to others. That is, sensitivity is innate to such newborns. One can make out sensitive babies the moment they are born.
For instance, you will find them more reactive to temperature, sound, light, smells, touch, and movement.
In addition to this, some of the sensitivity is also genetic. This means the newborn babies get sensitivity from their biological parents.
The way parents raise their children also plays a key role in making the child highly sensitive. For instance experiences of neglect or abuse during childhood can directly impact sensitivity levels in adults.
Likewise, children brought up by narcissistic, alcoholic, or depressed parents or parents experiencing trauma also eventually become highly sensitive.
Such children typically do not develop the much-needed defenses relative to the other children who have experienced good parenting.
Thus, such a parenting style makes children feel invisible not only in their families but also in the outside world.
In other words, sensitive individuals do not learn defenses against stress in the manner other children learn. That’s the reason why empaths have a lower threshold for stimulation.
The moment they are in a crowd or experience noise, they get easily irritated.
Logical Findings Behind Empathy
Judith Orloff provides a number of scientific findings that explain what makes you an empath.
As per researchers, there exists a specialized group of brain cells that bring about compassion in an individual. These cells empower an individual to mirror emotions. That is, to feel and share another person’s pain, fear, or joy.
You must understand that an empath personality possesses highly responsive mirror neurons. That is why they consider others’ pain or joy as their own.
Mirror neurons get stimulated by external stimuli. For instance, when your loved one is in pain, even you feel the pain.
However, when it comes to other individuals like sociopaths or narcissists, they are not able to feel empathy the way normal people feel.
This is because they have inactive mirror neurons. As an empath person, you must be really careful of such individuals. This is because they lack the ability to love without any conditions.
The second scientific finding claims that both brain and heart produce electromagnetic fields. These fields transfer information in respect of one’s emotions and thoughts.
Now, empaths are highly sensitive to such information. As a result, they become intimidated by it.
Likewise, empaths are highly responsive to the electromagnetic fields of the sun and earth. That is, they understand that changes to the sun and earth impact their mind.
Process of Emotional Contagion
Another research finding that helps in understanding empaths is the process of emotional contagion. As mentioned earlier, empathists absorb the emotions of people around them.
For example, an anxious person sitting next to an empath personality can easily pass on his anxiety to the empath. Thus, it is very important for the empaths to see that they move around or make positive people a part of their life.
Heightened Dopamine Sensitivity
Another research finding suggests that an introverted empath person is more sensitive to dopamine than an extroverted empath personality.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates the activity of neurons and is related to pleasure response in individuals.
When we say that introverted empaths are sensitive to dopamine, we mean that they need less dopamine to feel pleasurable.
This is the reason why empaths long for me-time, enjoy reading and meditation. Thus, they meet fewer external stimuli like social events to be happy.
Another finding that helps in understanding an empath personality is called mirror-touch Synesthesia.
Synesthesia is a condition in which two distinct senses are paired in the brain. Empaths go through this neurological condition. In other words, they feel the emotions as well as the sensations of other people in their own bodies.
That is why for empaths, the pain of others is their own pain.
Being An Empath
Being an empath is both beneficial as well as challenging. Understanding the advantages and the common challenges faced by an empath can help empaths manage their sensitivities. Also, they can use such knowledge to their advantage.
Advantages of Being an Empath
The first and foremost advantage of being an empath is that such an individual is intuitive and is able to feel the energy of others.
Further, such an individual is able to read the non-verbal cues and understand what other people are going through without them communicating to an empath.
Secondly, empaths have a big heart and have an impulse to help people in need.
Thirdly, empaths are creative people, passionate and deep, and have a strong connection with their emotions. They are compassionate souls who are able to see the overall view of a given situation or an event.
Also, empaths are able to acknowledge other people’s feelings. Hence they become trusted friends and intimate partners. Further, they are spiritual and can feel the energy of people around them.
In addition to this, empaths prefer being one with nature and thus love plants, animals, water, etc.
Disadvantages of Being an Empath
You must know that it is very important for you as an empath to understand the challenges that you face each day.
Understanding the challenges will help you develop coping skills and allow you to enjoy the good part about yourself even more.
Thus, some of the common challenges faced by an empath are as follows.
I. Get Stimulated Easily
As mentioned earlier, empaths never learn the defenses that other people learn to cope with distressing emotions and feelings of others in the crowd.
That’s the reason they burn out easily, get tired and exhausted. Further, they require sufficient alone time to rejuvenate themselves.
Thus, if empaths do not get their share of me-time, they have to endure the negative effects of overstimulation and sensory overload.
Some of the negative effects include adrenal fatigue, pain, panic attacks, agoraphobia, crowd phobia, social anxiety, etc.
II. Feeling Things Immensely
Typically, empaths find it difficult to watch violent content or content promoting animal killing. This is because the inhuman side shown is something that hurts them.
Empaths feel the pain of people in their life and even feel for the suffering they see in the world around them.
III. Taking The Negativity and Stress of Others
As mentioned earlier, empaths are not able to separate the pain of others from themselves. This means they can’t really tell if the uneasiness is faced by the other person or by them.
Absorbing other people’s negative emotions can impact an empath personality both emotionally and physically. For example, an empath may feel anxious, have panic attacks, experience pain, etc.
IV. Feelings of Loneliness
Empaths distance themselves from people. This is because they get extremely intimidated by their presence. This may make others detach themselves from you.
Similarly, you may be extremely particular about inspecting the environment to see if it’s safe for you. This too may drive people away from you.
Additionally, you may not be able to say or do anything when around negative people. This too may suggest that you are a detached person.
V. Witnessing Social and Emotional After Effects
Being around people brings about sensory overload in empaths. Thus, they not only get overstimulated but such overstimulation is carried long after the social event that took place.
VI. Burnout is Real
The harsh reality of the life of an empath is that they are compassionate souls. This makes people come to them with their life problems and distressing events.
From the very beginning, empaths seem to be the ones who can help other people. That’s why it’s very important for empaths to set clear boundaries with people and not overdo it.
This is because doing or giving one’s own capacity would certainly bring burnout.
VII. Difficulty to Cope With Light, Sound, Smell, etc.
Another challenge that empaths face includes their sensitivity to light, smell, sound, temperature, and taste.
It is painful for them to experience bright lights, loud noise, extreme temperatures, and strong smells.
VIII. Difficulty in Expressing One’s Needs in Intimate Relationships
As mentioned earlier, empaths have specific needs. For example, they need their alone time to replenish themselves.
Thus, it can become difficult for empaths to share space with their partners. Therefore, it is important for them to be very authentic in their relationships about their specific needs.
They should have conversations with their partners regarding their needs and set clear boundaries in terms of time and energy.
How To Know If You Are An Empath?
Judith Orloff has come up with an Empath Self-Assessment Test. This test helps you in finding whether you are an empath or not.
In order to take the test, you must answer either moderately yes or moderately no to the set of questions included in the test.
Finding out the extent to which you are an empath will help you understand what you need and strategies that you must learn to fulfill these needs.
Some of the questions of her Empath Self-Assessment Test are as follows. Do
- I get frequently overwhelmed or anxious?
- arguments and yelling make me ill?
- I often feel like I don’t fit in?
- crowds drain me, and do I need alone time to revive myself?
- noise, odors, or non-stop talkers overwhelm me?
- I have chemical sensitivities or a low tolerance for scratchy clothes?
Likewise, there are multiple other questions that form part of the test. To know the result of the test, you need to follow the below points. If you answer ‘Yes’ to
- 1 to 5 questions, you are at least a Partial Empath.
- 6 to 10 questions, you are a Moderate Empath.
- 11 to 15 questions, you are a Strong Empath.
- more than 15 questions, you are a Full-Blown Empath.
To take the complete test, click here.
How To Deal With Being An Empath?
To use empathic traits to your benefit, it is extremely important for you as an empath to identify what triggers sensory overload in you.
Only then can you act to reduce stimulation and protect yourself from being overstimulated. Judith Orloff beautifully puts down some amazing coping strategies for empaths. These strategies will help them to protect themselves from intimidation and exhaustion.
I. Shielding Visualization
This is an instant and easy way to safeguard yourself against toxic energy. All you have to do is sit in a comfortable position and breathe in and breathe out.
While doing so, you need to focus on the energy running from head to toe. And as you do so, you need to imagine a shield of pink and white light surrounding your body.
This shield helps you to protect yourself from the negative and stressful energy of others.
II. Grounding and Earthing Visualization
Much like the Shielding Visualization technique, sit in a comfortable position and breathe in and breathe out.
While breathing, you need to imagine a long tree having a strong trunk extending down your body from head to toe.
Take some time to internalize its power and energy. Next, imagine that the roots of the tree are growing from the bottom of your feet making their path deep down into the ground.
This will make you feel strong and stable. Always remember that this inner tree will give you enough strength and will safeguard you when problems of life come your way.
III. Adrenal Fatigue
To get rid of adrenal fatigue, you will have to make some simple lifestyle and diet changes. This will help you manage your energy over a long period of time.
Thus, to get rid of adrenal fatigue, you can
- avoid junk food and eat whole food diet,
- Do meditation to reduce stress hormones, exercise to feel energized
- Take rest
- Stay away from energy vampires
IV. Prevent Sensory Overload Due To Empathy
Being an empath also brings the absorption of unpleasant energy. You can do the following to avoid such an overload:
- Spend time with nature
- Keep a balance between your alone time and time with people
- Set clear boundaries with toxic people and energy vampires
- Be compassionate with yourself
- Take some personal time out away from this world once in a year
V. Communicate Your Relationship Needs
As an empath, make sure that you are aware of your needs and are able to express them to your partner without hesitation.
In other words, be assertive about things you don’t feel good about and raise the concern instead of suffering all alone.
If you are unable to do so, you become anxious, tired, and feel as if your very basic needs are not being met.
You need to understand that your partner cannot read your mind. Therefore, you need to express your concern for your own wellbeing.
VI. Safeguard Yourself From Narcissists
You know that narcissists are self-centered, entitled souls. They are just bothered about their own needs and require infinite praise.
Furthermore, they are extremely manipulative individuals as they want to seek their personal motives. Therefore, you can use the following tactics to protect yourself from them.
- Don’t let them control you
- Do not keep an expectation that they will honor your sensitive side as they are extremely selfish
- Don’t expect them to have emotional abilities
- Try not falling in love with a narcissist
- When making a request, make sure you are doing that in a manner that reflects how a narcissist will benefit
VII. Safeguard Yourself From Victims
People in victim mode will always drain the energy of empaths with their victim mentality. They make a special case out of themselves and portray that the entire world is against them.
Further, they never take responsibility for the difficult times that come their way. Therefore, it’s easy for empaths to act as their caretaker and help them solve their problems.
As an empath, you can use the following strategies to protect yourself from such people.
- Set clear boundaries
- Let them know that you support them but at the same time can listen to their issues only for a few minutes
- Listen to their problems and say no in a polite way
- Use body language to set boundaries. For example, breaking eye contact to send across the message that you will not involve yourself in the given situation
VIII. Save Yourself From Passive-Aggressive People
As the name suggests, passive-aggressive people showcase their anger politely. They candy-coat their aggression and try to confuse the empaths.
However, empaths can easily make out the feeling underlying such a passive-aggressive behavior.
Thus, as an empathic, you can use the following strategies to save yourself from such people.
- Always trust your intuition
- Identify the pattern and deal with the behavior
- Concentrate on one issue at a time so that your passive-aggressive friend does not feel as if he is being condemned