Have you ever walked into a room and had a wave of negative energy wash over you?
Have you had a conversation with a stranger and could tell, without them saying a word about it, that they were deeply troubled or sad?
Do you ever feel so profoundly moved by something beautiful that you start to cry?
If any of these ring true for you, you might be an empath — an unusually sensitive person who has a more heightened awareness to subtle stimuli.
If you are an empath, you’ve likely known for some time you are different from most people around you.
You’ve probably been accused of being too sensitive or overly emotional your whole life.
You might find the tragedies and world suffering you see on the news almost unbearable and feel compelled to share in the pain of complete strangers.
As a child, you may have had a hard time adjusting to new situations. You may have cried easily, had unusually deep thoughts, or asked out-of-the-ordinary questions.
You may even believe there’s something wrong with you or that you have some kind of emotional disorder.
Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Being an empath isn’t something shameful or even very unusual.
What Is An Empath?
According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, Ph.D., a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, 20% of the population are genetically predisposed to be more aware and empathic.
She and her research team have found physical evidence in the brain that empaths respond especially strongly to certain situations that trigger emotions.
Says Dr. Aron, “We found that areas of the brain involved with awareness and emotion, particularly those areas connected with empathetic feelings, in the highly sensitive people showed substantially greater blood flow to relevant brain areas than was seen in individuals with low sensitivity during the 12-second period when they viewed the photos [of happy and sad faces].”
What Powers Does an Empath Have?
Being an empath is not a disorder — it is an innate quality you should never feel shameful about. Some view being an empath as a powerful strength.
Although some of the empath traits make it more difficult to operate in a world dominated by less sensitive people, there are many positive aspects of being an empath.
Says Dr. Judith Orloff in her New York Times bestseller, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life,”Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually attuned, and good listeners. If you want heart, empaths have got it.
Through thick and thin, they’re there for you, world-class nurturers.”Empaths feel positive, loving emotions deeply and appreciate the subtitles of beauty, art, and music.
They flourish in calm, loving, and peaceful environments. On the flip side, however, empaths feel all emotions keenly — even negative emotions.
Says Dr. Orloff, they are so in-tune to others’ negative feelings they become “angst-sucking sponges.”
As a result, they are vulnerable to emotional abusers who want to use and manipulate them. Stressful situations and people overwhelm them and often trigger serious issues like depression, anxiety, weight gain, and addictions.
29 Relatable Intuitive Empath Traits You Might Recognize
The characteristics of an empath can differ from person to person, but you’ll find many that are common with the empath personality type. You’re sure to recognize yourself in many of these descriptions.
1. People Point Out That You’re Highly Sensitive
You’ve been told all your life you are too sensitive, overly emotional, or wear your heart on your sleeve. People tell you that you pick up on cues or feelings they don’t even notice.
You may have been the peacemaker in your family — the one who tried to keep everyone happy and calm because discord was so upsetting and painful for you.
You might also notice that friends gravitate to you whenever they have a problem or they are dealing with an emotional challenge because you can intuit their emotions and help them feel better.
2. You Feel Other’s Feelings
You’ve noticed how sensitive you are to the emotions of others.
Even before they tell you how they are feeling, you already know. You can enter a room and have a sense of the general mood of the environment.
Sometimes this can be overwhelming because it’s hard to just relax and enjoy a social occasion. You feel too many emotional vibes to be able to tune out and just have fun.
3. Negativity Overwhelms You
Where others can tolerate raised voices, conflict, or anger, it sends you over the edge.
You almost feel physically sick or in pain as a result of the negative energy around you. You crave peace and calm.
You might find yourself being a “people pleaser” with your spouse and family in order to keep things calm.
But even an undercurrent of negative energy in your home is enough to make you anxious and disconcerted.
4. Being in Crowded Places Overwhelms You
One of the most common empath characteristics is disliking crowds. You don’t like being in malls, sporting events, airports, or other public places with groups of people. You feel suffocated and overly excited. You can’t wait to leave.
Being in these crowded spaces is like being in a vortex of emotional chum. It takes real effort to find your center and remain calm.
5. You Possess A Strong Intuition
You seem to know things without being told. You sense what needs to be done or what’s about to happen. Your gut feelings nearly always prove to be correct.
Often the phone will ring, and you’ll know who it is before you pick up. Or you’ll be thinking about a friend or family member, and they will call you within minutes.
Walking into an elevator or down the street, you know who to approach or avoid simply by sensing the energy of the person.
6. You Have a Low Threshold for Pain
More than others you know, you have a lower threshold for pain tolerance. You can’t stand getting shots, feeling nauseated, or dealing with a minor injury.
You may even have had a doctor tell you to stop complaining so much or act surprised that you feel pain with a procedure others find innocuous.
In fact, the entire vibe of a doctor’s office can send you reeling because you pick up on the discomfort and fear in the other people around you.
7. You Have Strong Physical Awareness
You are deeply in tune with your own body and the changes that occur. You might notice you’re getting ill before most people would.
You might also have physical responses to the emotions you feel so keenly — a headache, muscle pains, burning sensations, and gastrointestinal disorders.
You pay more attention than most to the signals your body is sending you. Sometimes this can make you appear to be a hypochondriac — but more often than not, your concerns have merit.
8. You Avoid Negative Media Images
You find it extremely disturbing to watch or read about tragic news events or see unpleasant images. It bothers you so much, you avoid looking at these images at all costs.
On the other hand, you may feel compelled to watch tragic events unfold because you feel such a deep sense of connection with those who are suffering.
You feel responsible for the suffering of others, and in your mind, it doesn’t seem right that you should be happy if people in the world are dealing with such tragic events.
9. You Can Easily Tell When Someone Is Lying
All you need to do is look at their faces or listen to their tone of voice, and you know instantly whether or not they are telling the truth.
This can be a very useful trait, especially when it comes to parenting your children. But other times, you can find yourself deeply disappointed in people whom you considered honest and ethical.
10. You Are More Sensitive to Stimulants/Medications
Caffeine, in particular, makes you more anxious and agitated than the average person. You can never drink caffeine in the evening if you want to sleep.
You often have reactions or side effects to medications. Other people can take the normally prescribed amount of a medication, but you can only tolerate a fraction of it.
11. You Often Show Up with the Symptoms of Those Around You
If someone close to you is sick or depressed, you will develop the same ailments. You aren’t trying to “out-do” them with your own pity party.
You just feel so close to this person and so sympathetic about their ailment that you develop it as well.
12. You Can Attract Narcissists
Because of your sensitive, compassionate, and empathic nature, you may find yourself in the company of insensitive, selfish, and even narcissistic people.
These type of people often troll for empath types who will serve them freely without having to give them back anything in return.
A kind and loving empath feels compelled to give more and more in the hopes that he or she will eventually be rewarded with love and kindness.
With all of the empath’s intuition, it can take a long time for them to figure out that these narcissists are only out for themselves.
13. You Are the Dumping Ground for the Problems of Others
People around you seem to gravitate toward you and unload all of their pain and problems on you. Because you are an empath, you feel compelled to help, even to your own detriment.
It’s not until you feel exhausted and even used that you recognize what’s going on.
Your friends and family may not mean to take advantage of you, but because you are so intuitive, it just feels natural for them to come to you.
And it feels natural for you to help them. You have to be careful to protect your sensibilities and create boundaries to manage your energy.
14. You Often Feel Fatigued
Speaking of energy, because others take so much from you, you often feel drained of energy and extremely tired. You might even have chronic fatigue syndrome.
With all of the demands on your psyche, it’s no wonder that you’re tired. Your brain is on overdrive processing everything that is filtering through to your inner world.
That’s why alone time is so important for you. It gives you the opportunity to recharge and nourish yourself.
15. You Have a Very Vibrant Inner Life
You are highly creative, imaginative, and loving. You might spend a lot of time in your head pondering important things, like the meaning of life.
You also spend a lot of time thinking about the plethora of emotions that you are processing constantly. You need to figure out how to make sense of a world that often feels overwhelming and intense.
You may be involved in the arts or other creative pursuits as an outlet for your active inner world.
You feel a close kinship with animals, as they share your intuitive nature. You more than most especially enjoy your relationship with your pets.
16. You Are Sensitive to Sounds and Sensations
Loud noises or sudden dramatic movements startle you.
Restaurants with lots of ambient noise are distracting and irritating. Going to movies that are action-oriented, loud, and fast-moving are not your cup of tea.
You feel overwhelmed by bright lights, rough fabrics, and strong smells. You may notice very delicate smells, touch, and sounds.
You are the one who can’t stand the tag in the back of your shirt, the subtle perfume worn by your seatmate on the airplane, or weird aftertaste of something you eat.
17. You Don’t Like Too Many Things at Once
When you have to multi-task or have too much coming at you at once, you feel rattled and overwhelmed.
You are already trying to manage the sensory overload of everyday life, so adding in more tasks than your brain can handle at any one time is like torture for you.
Once task at a time with plenty of time to complete it is your ideal. You like to process, ponder, and feel your way through your work without feeling rushed.
Read Related: 10 Reasons Highly Sensitive People Are Highly Valuable
18. You Manage Your Environment
You try to create your living and working environment to accommodate your sensitivities.
You arrange your schedule and commitments to avoid unpleasant, chaotic, or overly stimulating situations.
Most empaths recognize their “special needs” and work to harmonize their environments to support these needs.
You especially need time every day with no sensory input. You want to withdraw to your room or another quiet place to recharge.
19. You Don’t Like Showboats and Selfish People
You are particularly bothered by those who put themselves first all the time and aren’t sensitive to the feelings of others.
Because you are so sensitive, you find it deeply upsetting that others can be so cavalier about the pain or feelings of people around them.
Show-offs and ego-driven people who have low emotional intelligence are not your favorite people to be around, as you have little patience for their lack of empathy.
20. You Can Almost Feel the Days of the Week and Months of the Year
Each day of the week has a specific “feel” to it. You may notice when a Wednesday feels like a Saturday.
You might feel particularly heavy at the start of the workweek or discombobulated when you’re asked to do a Friday project on a Tuesday.
Even months and seasons have a particular feel and certain emotions attached to them — beyond any seasonal event or holiday that falls in a month.
It’s almost as if days, months, and seasons have a distinct personality that you tune in to.
21. You Are a Great Listener
People tell you this all the time. You listen consciously and know the right questions and comments to draw people out and make them feel heard.
You don’t just listen to what’s being said. You pay attention to the emotions behind the words. You notice body language and subtle signals that communicate volumes.
You have an intuitive sense of how to respond so that the speaker feels truly heard.
22. You Get Bored Easily
As an empath, you need to focus on work and activities that stimulate your creativity and passion.
You need an outlet for all of the emotion you have stored up inside of you, and your work is often a reflection of your values.
If you get bored, you resort to daydreaming, doodling, and sometimes letting your active mind ruminate about your deep and sometimes painful feelings.
However, you are still very conscientious and try hard to avoid making mistakes. Doing a good job and performing your best is part of your value system.
23. You Tend to Be An Introvert
Empaths tend to be introverted personality types. Because you easily get overwhelmed in crowds, you prefer small group interactions and being by yourself.
Since being around people and their draining energies can be exhausting, you tend to reenergize by being by yourself.
Even extraverted empaths need time to themselves to recharge and protect their sensitive natures.
24. You Might Avoid Intimate Relationships
As an empath, you might fear being engulfed by another person who is a romantic partner.
Fear of losing your identity is big for you because you can so easily become enmeshed in your partner’s needs and problems.
For an intimate relationship to work for you, you must be clear on your boundaries with your partner, and your partner needs to have a clear understanding of your empath traits.
25. You Are Replenished by Being in Nature
One of the best ways for you to regain your energy is by spending time in nature.
A walk in the woods, a long hike, relaxing by the ocean, or just sitting in your backyard under the stars can bring you back to center.
By getting away from the high stimulation of crowds, city noise, traffic, and technology, you can soothe your frayed emotions and reconnect with inner peace and equanimity.
26. You Have A Huge Heart
You are compassionate, attentive to the needs of others, caring and giving. You will go out of your way to help others.
You might take home stray animals, find a shelter for a homeless person, or become a foster parent. You may be the first one to volunteer to give your time and energy to someone in need.
But this big heart of yours can drain you of energy because you have a hard time saying, “No.” You also feel the pain of these people and animals you help, which takes a toll on you.
27. You Are a Truth Seeker and Knowledge Seeker
Empaths feel a strong affinity for the truth. That’s why liars are so abhorrent to you.
Anything that feels inauthentic, false, or untruthful gets under your skin and even makes you angry.
Even half-truths and white lies that are innocent seem wrong to you.
In your quest for truth, you are always seeking to expand your knowledge.
You want answers to your big and small questions, and you may spend a lot of time researching and reading to learn more.
You don’t accept ideas and information at face value. You need proof and clarity to confirm or dispel your opinions and beliefs.
Read Related: The Problem With Having Too Much Empathy For Others
28. You May Be Prone to Mood Swings
This isn’t a surprise, is it? With all of the emotions and stimulation coming at you, and with all that you give to others, it’s not possible for your own moods to remain stable 24/7.
Too much negative energy can make you withdraw into your cocoon, leaving others to wonder what’s wrong with you.
It’s nearly impossible for you to pretend to feel happy and upbeat when you are in this state of mind.
Being in social situations can be tricky for you if the mood of the room is off. You just want to go in a corner by yourself and nurse a drink. Or better yet, just go home.
But just as soon as an emotional storm blows in, it can blow away with proper self-care and solitude.
29. You Tend to Tell It Like It Is
You care about other people and their feelings — that’s the compassionate side of you. But you also hate pretending or telling lies because it’s more expedient or socially acceptable.
People come to you when they want the truth about a situation, and you aren’t afraid to be honest in your own sensitive way.
For some people you encounter, this is a blessing, but for others, it might be offensive.
Not everyone can handle the truth, so you need to use that strong intuition of yours to discern when to keep your mouth shut.
So You’re An Empath — Now What?
If you are an empath, know that you have an ability to use your sensitivity for your own good and the good of others.
To protect yourself, mindfully manage your environment and screen out people who drain you or take advantage of your sensitive nature.
Acknowledge that you have the benefit of feeling positive experiences more profoundly, and accept that your reactions to pain, anger, stimulation are normal — but not universally understood.
You are certainly not alone as an empath. A fifth of the population understands you completely and appreciates your special characteristics.
People who aren’t as sensitive and empathic can appreciate your unique qualities if you share this information with them.
If you are reading this, and you aren’t an empath, perhaps you recognize these traits in someone you know and love.
It is through understanding and awareness that empaths and non-empaths can live and work together in mutually supportive and thoughtful ways.