The Original 7 Signs You're an Empath
What Is a True Empath?
A true empath (we're talking about someone who is empathic, not just empathetic) can literally feel what others are feeling. Most people are empathetic to one degree or another, but a rare few are so sensitive to others' pain and emotions that it can even become debilitating, especially if they don't understand and don't know how to deal with those feelings.
When I first wrote this article, it was the only internet site that said much about the topic. These are the first, original seven signs that you might be an empath.
Signs You're an Empath
- In public spaces, you feel overwhelmed with inexplicable emotions.
- You physically experience other people's physical ailments.
- You feel overwhelmed and incapacitated when watching something horrible... even if it's only on television.
- You always know what someone really means, even when they're lying.
- You feel compelled to care for anyone in pain, no matter who they are or what they’ve done to you.
- People open up to you—even if you don’t want them to.
- You have a calming, soothing, restorative affect on people. You might even be able to heal them.
Below, you'll find a full description of each sensation, plus a longer list of signs and abilities to look out for.
1. When in public, do you constantly feel overwhelmed with inexplicable emotions for which you can find no reason?
Example: It's Saturday morning. You feel great. You drop by the mall, walk past a crowd of people, and start feeling strange—very down, very angry, very sad, or very excitable. The key word here is very, and you won’t have any explanation for it, you'll just feel it. In other words, you’ve had a mood swing so drastic that you feel bipolar. And what’s worse, you can’t stop it. You can carry on, trying to ignore it, but eventually it will be so overwhelming you'll have to go home and be alone.
This is the reality of an Empath—one who hasn’t yet learned how to block out other people’s emotions. Being in crowds is such a harrowing experience that most Empaths prefer to keep their own company, living the life of a hermit.
2. Do you experience other people's physical ailments?
This experience occurs mostly when you're with those you have an emotional connection with, but it can occur with anyone. After being around people who are not well, many empaths report feeling lethargic and fatigued and have to go to bed for a day or two. You’re not sick—not really. You’re not ill, yet you feel that you are. Profoundly. Symptoms can also manifest in the form of chest pains, cramps, migraines, etc. You basically experience it all, without contracting the actual illness.
3. Do you feel overwhelmed when watching something horrible... in real life or on television?
This may sound silly, but watching the news or seeing those depressing or guilt-inducing commercials can debilitate an empath for several hours. For example, while most people worry about strays, an empath who sees a wounded and homeless dog might feel like their heart has been lanced. The feeling is not something as shallow as sympathy or even ordinary empathy. It’s a feeling of profound guilt and moral agony that cannot be easily assuaged.
4. Do you ALWAYS know what someone really means?
In other words, can you always, always, always tell what it is someone meant to say, even when they're lying? More importantly, can you tell why they didn’t tell the truth?
If an empath has been lied to, they will know. And they will know why. They will know if the other person is trying to spare feelings; they will know if malice was involved. In other words, they will know the intent. You cannot lie in the face of an empath and not be caught. While they will sometimes be unable to suss the specifics of what you’re hiding, they will know if you mean them well or not. No exceptions. This is more than good intuition and this isn’t a hunch; this is knowing.
5. Do you feel compelled to care for anyone in pain, no matter who they are and what they’ve done to you?
A true empath cannot walk past someone suffering and not feel a need to stop and help that person. Homeless people can be particularly difficult, as they are everywhere and it's hard to make a meaningful difference in their lives. A true empath feels compelled to go to anyone who is in pain, be it emotional or psychological angst or something physical. And a true empath's compassion will usually be accepted on the spot: People in pain, regardless of how they might normally react to strangers, will receive an empath with open arms. They know instinctively that their pain matters to them.
6. Do people open up to you—even if you don’t want them to?
Some empaths are the new-agey peace-loving types who want to hold hands with everyone, but many just want to be alone because they have difficulty processing everything they absorb from other people. (This is usually because they have yet to realize their abilities or haven’t learned how to handle them yet.) For an empath, however, even if they're careful not to show any emotion, people they barely know will draw near, seeking compassion and empathy. The ill, the suffering, the weak: They are all drawn to the unconditional understanding and compassion an empath emits. And empaths emit empathy whether they want to or not. That’s not to say that empaths can’t be mean and nasty people—they surely can be, but those particular empaths tend to be those who don’t understand and have no control over their abilities.
7. Can you heal?
Most empaths have the ability to heal. Yes, that means physically. This isn’t about reiki or any other alternative modality, although those may be similar in concept. An empath heals instinctively, usually by drawing the pain or ailment out and accepting it into their own bodies. For obvious reasons, this is not recommended for anyone who doesn’t know how to keep from becoming ill in the process.
More Signs You May Be an Empath
- If people have always told you that you are a good listener—and you often find yourself listening rather than speaking.
- In relationships, you are often the giver, the listener, the supporter. People often want unload their pain and problems on you.
- If people have often accused you of being too sensitive or too emotional.
- Watching traumatic or violent programs is difficult. You might even experience physical reactions.
- You might often find yourself so profoundly moved by things that you start to cry.
- If you sometimes walk into a room or look at someone's face and feel an invisible, visceral wave of energy or emotion wash over you.
- Selfish, self-centered, or narcissistic people are particularly attracted to you.
- You have a hard time relaxing completely with others. When others are near, it's hard for you to focus on your own needs and desires. You might even prefer to sleep alone.
- Not offering help—and saying "no" to anyone in need—is extremely difficult. As a result, you spread yourself thin and experience a lot of guilt.
- It's sometimes hard to leave the house. Most empaths have introverted tendencies.
- If you are particularly susceptible to depression, anxiety, weight gain, and addiction, it may be a sign.
- You have addictive tendencies. For self-preservation, many empaths self-medicate to shield themselves from unwanted emotions.
- At some point, you've wondered if there's something medically, emotionally, or psychologically wrong with you. You may have even sought treatment but could not find a cure.
To learn more, read All the Traits and Signs of an Empath: Are You One?
Frequently Asked Questions About Empaths
Is It Rare to Be an Empath?
While many people are empathetic, a true empath is relatively rare. It's difficult to discern the difference between everyday empathy and a clinically heightened sensitivity to others, and very few clinical studies have been performed in this area, and there there is no scientific test to take to take to gauge empathic traits. This is why so many people claim to be empaths, even though the condition is not common.
Are Empaths Real?
There has been very little clinical research conducted in this field. For example, researchers have discovered a group of cells in the brain that are connected to and responsible for compassion, although no studies have been done to verify whether empaths have hyper-responsive mirror neurons. However, some clinical research does support the existence of empaths. For example, Dr. Michael Banissy and Dr. Natalie Bowling's studies in mirror-touch synaesthesia offer support for the existence of empathy. Their findings are summarized in Super Empaths Are Real. Researchers have also studied highly sensitive people and found that the areas of their brains which are involved with awareness, emotion, and empathetic feelings showed significantly greater blood flow than was seen in individuals with low sensitivity. To read more, check out this article in Psychology Today: The Science Behind Empathy and Empaths.
Are There Different Types of Empaths?
Usually an empath will embody both or all of these types, but some people have strengths in certain types of empathy.
Emotional, Psychic, or Intuitive Empath: This is a person who has an unusual capacity for sensing and understanding other people's feelings. Not only do they know and feel what others are feeling without needing to be told, but they can often tell if someone is being truthful or not.
Physical Empath (or Medical Empath): This is a person who physically feels things that other people are physically experiencing: Someone else's physical sensation is felt in the body. Touch is often required for this, but sometimes physical proximity is all that is needed.
Am I an Empath or a Clairsentient... and What Is the Difference?
The term "empath" is not simply another name for a clairsentient, although many clairsentients are indeed empaths. The difference is that empaths receive feelings, and clairsentients receive mental impressions. Clairsentients can often discern what others are feeling, but do not actually suffer—which is a good way of telling which you are. That said, most of these signs will apply to clairsentients as well. Read Clairsentient Traits: The Signs of Clear Feeling for more information.
Once you've figured out that this is what you are, you can then learn how to deal with, and eventually prevent, this kind of thing from overwhelming you.
Are You an Empath? Final Thoughts
In today’s day and age, everyone seems to want to be special: empathic, psychic, etc. Many people reading this want to call themselves empathic. That’s probably due human's evolution of consciousness. But being an empath is not something most would really want, so don't get upset if some of this doesn't apply to you. Everyone's got "otherworldly talents" and you needn't be an empath to excel in the realm of conscious endeavors.
I cannot stress the following enough: There is nothing fun about being an empath. It’s often a very draining and miserable existence in which you feel like you have to be entirely alone in order to survive. It is not glamorous, it is not exciting, and it is painful more often than not.
If you *are* an empath, you will know this is you. You will not be saying “Hmm.. maybe… hmm….” If you feel (without hesitation!) these apply to you, then also know there are ways of coping. With a little self-awareness you can turn your curse into gift, especially when it comes to being able to ease the emotional and physical pain of others. For now, take consolation in the knowledge that you are not crazy!