The Original 7 Signs You're an Empath

Updated on June 6, 2019
Isabella Snow profile image

When I wrote this information about empaths, it was pretty much the only internet site that had anything written on the topic at all.

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.

Seven Signs You're an Empath

  1. In public spaces, you feel overwhelmed with inexplicable emotions.
  2. You physically experience other people's physical ailments.
  3. You feel overwhelmed and incapacitated when watching something horrible, even if it's only on television.
  4. You always know what someone really means, even when they're lying.
  5. You feel compelled to care for anyone in pain, no matter who they are or what they’ve done to you.
  6. People open up to you—even if you don’t want them to.
  7. You have a calming, soothing, restorative effect 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.

How does an empath feel in public spaces?
How does an empath feel in public spaces? | Source

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.

Can an empath heal?
Can an empath heal? | Source

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 to 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 is no scientific test 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 to humanity'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!) that these apply to you, then you should know there are ways of coping. With a little self-awareness, you can turn your curse into a 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!

What about you?

Are you an empath?

See results

© 2007 Isabella Snow


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Petra Sophia 

    13 months ago

    Thank you so much for this article. I'm 32 and have struggled with ALL of these signs for a long time. I was so glad to come across this particular article because I have read ALOT of them on the subject and this one didn't just generalize the signs but it spoke directly to me in detail. I now can put to rest the question for good. Thank you again. I have spent most of my life angry/stressed/frustrated and feeling exhausted around other people. Some days I do better than others but it has been a painfully lonely and emotional existence. People just think I have a short fuse or I'm a spaz and can't handle an ounce of stress but I'm si sensitive. Noise, lights, smells. It can make me feel like I'm going to explode inside. It is awful sometimes.

  • profile image


    17 months ago

    I dont heal like that but i can spread the pain and reduce where the actual pain is, and another thing should i talk about it with others in real life ? I mean they will definetely think i m crzy

  • Fayleen profile image


    19 months ago

    Hiya Isabella yeah I've got it the article gave me some clarity as I am extremely sensitive to any physical pain experienced by others and others emotions. I am close with my immediate family but I can't connect well with most females at the moment as they seem blocked of or even annoyed at me. I want to open up and enjoy friendships better but it's a struggle just now. When someone is getting physical pain I feel it not in the same way as they do but it's so uncomfortable. When someone is emotionally sad I feel so sorry for them. If there is any tips for me to help with the negatives and channel it into healing ability that would be great. Fay

  • Mary English profile image

    Mary Englishi 

    23 months ago from HUGHESVILLE

    All my life I have been told I'm too nice I need to get mean I can't let people push me around I felt like something was wrong with me

  • profile image

    Emp Crystal 

    2 years ago

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was born like this I'm pretty sure i rem bringing my mother's dogs puppy ( still born ) to life at age 4 at my father's request.

    I found myself on here tonite because I had anxiety out of the blue happen to me after getting off a two hour phone conversation with my sister. She was very down on herself, I reminisced awhile and pep talked her back up. But, When I hung up the phone it hit me so hard this "vibration" if you will, that I had no rhyme or reason then severe scared anxiety began. Its strong! I feel the need to protect and prepare but don't know what or why so first instinct lock down the apartment. Which I did, But I can't shake this. Every little noise aggravating loud and I'm jumpy.

    So I'll back up...

    I had these feelings in the past that came as a warning of some life changing, heart breaking event took place the next day as it got closer the vibration and strength of the magnitude of it hit harder, till I was shaking and didn't know why till it happened. So this is really scaring the shit out of me tonite. Cuz it wasn't a building of vibration this time it was just automatically strong and hard.

    I had another attack like this once went to my room to try to calm down I laid back on my bed, and found myself out of my body standing in the Livingroom looking at my 12 year old daughter coloring w her oldest brothers girlfriend, and I freaked, and immediately came back to in my body in my bream bedroom! I jumped up to warn them something was happening or coming, just then my teen son came in drunk and obnoxious and landed on top of them on the sofa... it went bad after that. Why is this happening to me?

    I knew immediately this was all me you were talking about here. How did you come about knowing how and what this all is about? Sorry lots of questions no bullshit I've been trying to embrace all this instead of run. But I'm worried.


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