Are You an Empath? 10 Empathic Traits
What makes someone an empath? Discover what's it's like to be an empath—the good and the bad—and learn what you can do to better manage your empathic emotions.
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Do you often feel that other people’s actions and emotions affect you more than they should? Are you able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and evaluate a situation from their perspective? Do people always say that you’re too sensitive? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, then you’re an empath.
Empathy is the ability to relate to and understand other people’s feelings. An empath usually has a good reputation because he always wants to care for and help others. However, you need to understand how to process your emotions to make sure that you’re not hurting yourself or making an irrational decision.
In this article, we’ll explore 10 traits that empaths have. Understanding these traits will help you more easily deal with your complicated emotions. Keep on reading to learn if you're an empath.
10 Empathic Traits
As an empath, you care about people and understand how they make decisions. But empathy can sometimes be too overwhelming, and you might suffer from depression or chronic fatigue. You might even deal with physical pain. However, as an empath, you don’t have to be under so much pressure. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself or suffer because of what others go through. Once you understand the traits of an empath and the best way to channel your feelings, you’ll be able to process your emotions and redirect your energy.
So, are you an empath? Here are 10 empathic traits.
1. You Experience Other People’s Emotions As if They’re Yours
Whatever the person near you is feeling--sadness, anger, worry, even happiness—you will immediately pick it up and experience it. Even if the other person is hiding their feelings, you can usually figure out and feel what their genuine emotions are.
You pick up cues from other people and just seem to know precisely what they’re going through. Even the slightest and most subtle change in someone’s tone of voice or body language will be easy to notice for you. Your brain cells will then start to display the same emotions, so you end up feeling the same. It’s like your mind acts as a sponge that absorbs other people’s feelings.
Because you have mirror neurons that duplicate what the other person is going through , people usually enjoy talking to you because you actively listen to them. You can comfort people or offer advice when it’s most needed. You also feel more positive emotions when people around you are happy or excited.
Although being an empath can be seen as an exceptional gift, you might also suffer a lot of emotional distress. You accidentally experience other people’s negative emotions like anger, anxiety, or stress. This can be overwhelming, exhausting, and confusing.
2. You’re Highly Sensitive
If you're an empath, you are highly sensitive and supportive. People love to be around you because you have a nurturing nature. You’re always available if someone needs help or advice. People trust empaths because they’re very open.
As an empath, you can become an excellent therapist or counselor. You understand what others go through and will always offer your hand when someone needs help. You have a strong vision, and will often notice the details that other people often miss.
You have a strong intuition, and some people might even think that you're psychic because you have the ability to read people.
You try to listen to your gut feelings because they tend to be right. But, as an empath, your feelings can easily get hurt. Some people might think that you’re too emotional or that you need to toughen up. You’ll probably go through a lot of emotions each day; some of them are yours while others are coming from others and you are just absorbing them like a sponge.
3. You Feel Other People’s Physical Pain
You don’t only get affected by people’s emotions, but you can actually feel their physical pain. When someone is sick, injured, has been involved in an accident, or has had surgery, you can actually feel that your body hurts. This pain can deprive you of sleep, work, and engaging in other activities.
Your empathic brain has neurons that mirror the emotions of other people and feelings of physical pain and discomfort. Visiting someone in the hospital may be a nightmare because you can actually feel your body hurt. At the same time, explaining what you're going through is quite difficult because people see that there’s nothing wrong with you.
This ability to feel for others can actually make you a great healer. Most empaths will excel as doctors, nurses, or elder care providers. You don’t take other people’s pain lightly, and will actually help them deal with it.
As an empath, it's important to pay attention to what you feel. Detach yourself from situations that feel too strong or too painful. And be sure to focus on giving yourself time to rest and relax.
4. You’re Excellent at Detecting Lies
It’s very difficult to deceived you because you don’t only listen to what people say. You actually focus on how they say it and what it means. As an empath, you’re likely very talented at picking up subtle cues, and you have a strong intuition, so you can usually detect that someone isn’t telling the truth. Even if they’re very good at lying, you can still feel that something is wrong or "off".
You need to listen to your gut feelings because sometimes people will try to abuse your good nature. If something feels off or wrong, then it probably is. First, you need to separate yourself from their behavior and understand that their lying isn’t your fault. Check your facts and protect yourself if they’re trying to harm you.
In some cases, you might decide to bring their lies into the light. Even if someone is telling a white lie, they can still cause harm, and you need to make them know that you’re alert. Confronting them is often the best course of action.
5. You’re Probably an Introvert
If you're an empaths, you may become overwhelmed in crowds and start to experience multiple emotions that can cause confusion or discomfort. Your ability to relate to and experience other people’s feelings makes alone time extremely important because this is your chance to "be in yourself" and better understand your own emotions.
Even if you’re an extrovert, you’re likely very cautious about where you go and who you interact with. The room's vibes are crucial to you because you can literally pick up every feeling around you. In fact, the higher your level of empathy, the more you will be concerned about your environment. Good surroundings with positive vibes will have an impressive effect on your mood and productivity. Likewise, if you’re in a depressing or chaotic environment, you will likely feel more irritated and uncomfortable than might be expected.
6. You Might Struggle with Intimate Relationships
Intimate relationships can sometimes be overwhelming for an empath. You may get lost within the emotions of the other person, you might put their emotions first, and might even be unsure of which emotions are truly yours. Some empaths feel so much for the person they are in relationship with that they end up losing their true identity.
But you make a great relationship partner. You tend to understand where people are coming from, and this is why you might make excuses for your partner if they wronged you. You have to be careful not to let others walk all over you just because you understand where they are coming from.
When you share the environment with someone, their mood can affect you tremendously. You might also be triggered because you feel like the other person is invading your personal space. They are, in a sense, because your boundaries may be weak and you have a hard time protecting your personal space.
You shouldn’t avoid intimate relationships, but you need to set better boundaries. You must understand that taking care of yourself and ensuring your emotional well-being is just as important as taking care of the other person. You often have to put yourself first if you want to be there for the other person.
7. Tragic Stories or Violent Events on TV Affect You Tremendously
Even if you know that the story is fictional and it doesn’t affect your real life, you’re likely to experience pain and negative emotions related to a sad story or movie. Violence, killings, pain, and torture stories or scenes can affect you too strongly. Your mind allows you to live through the emotions that others experience, so you might actually feel the pain and discomfort displayed in a story or movie. After watching a sad movie, you might struggle to sleep or feel sad.
It’s important to remind yourself that your life is separate from what you read or see. If possible, be more selective of the material you read or watch to make sure that you won’t trigger any painful or uncomfortable emotions. Or practice emotion regulation skills so that when you're feeling bad, you can help yourself feel better.
8. Energy Vampires Are Attracted to You
Energy vampires are people who drain your emotional enegery. They take advantage of your caring nature, willingness to listen, and kindness. They may also be narcissists who don’t care much about what you’re going through. They just want to share their negative emotions with you, regardless of how you feel. Instead of working on their problems, they enjoy complaining, never taking responsibility for their actions.
Energy vampires love to be around empaths because of their nurturing nature. Because you listen to them, they will intentionally or unintentionally unload all their negative emotions and feelings, draining you and leaving you exhausted or overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid energy vampires if they’re family or coworkers. This is why you need to set your boundaries to ensure there are limits on how much of your energy they can take. Although you might like very much to help out, they need to be there for you too. Be on the lookout for guilt trips and codependency because they can also drain you and affect your overall well-being.
You can’t change an energy vampire, but you can limit their access to you. If you feel that the person doesn’t respect your boundaries, you might need to cut them off entirely.
9. You Can’t Contain Your Love
If you're an empath, you likely have heightened emotions because everything you feel is multiplied. Both positive and negative emotions feel strong for you. It possible that this may be because of particular genes that make emotions stronger, for example the COMT gene.
Some people might think that you show too much love or care. Whether it’s your love for nature, pets, children, your partner, or the whole world in general, some people might think that you’re fake. But your emotions are just strong and suppressing them or shoving them down is never a good idea.
10. You Offer Help
It’s difficult for you to see someone suffering or in pain without offering to help. Even if you’re walking on the street, you might stop to ask if someone is OK or if they need any assistance if you detect something is wrong. You can’t just ignore people who seem lost, in pain, or facing difficulties. Even if you have something important to do, you might put others first. As a matter of fact, failing to help someone in need might be painful for you. This is why you might go out of your way to make sure that everyone is doing well.
It's important to keep in mind that you’re not responsible for what others go through, and you might not be able to help, even if you want to. Although you have incredible healing abilities and you’re really willing to lend a hand, you have to realize that you can’t save everyone. Some people don’t want to get help, and although you offer your assistance, some may repeatedly decline it. So just remember, you’re only responsible for your actions.
Building the emotional skills you need to survive as an empath
As you have learned, being an empath can be tough. That's why it's important to keep in mind that you can learn skills that help you manage your emotions and situations. Here are a few skill-building activities to get you started:
An empath can step into someone’s shoes, know where they’re coming from, know why they act the way they do, and can even predict what they will do next. With this gift can comes pain and discomfort. Your ability to feel and experience everything can be too overwhelming.
As much as you would like to help others, you need to take care of yourself first. Try to detach yourself from situations that feel too painful for you. Try to also learn the difference between the events you can change and those that will always take place no matter how hard you try.
1. Gallese, V., & Goldman, A. (1998). Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2(12), 493-501.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.