How To Tell If You're An Empath

About 15% of the population is thought to be highly sensitive - and a good chunk of those are empaths. So, what is an empath? These highly sympathetic, intuitive people are unbelievably perceptive to other people's emotions. Not only can they imagine them, but they actually absorb them. This means your bad vibes can ruin a perfectly happy empath's day.

Having an enormous sense of empathy is a blessing and a curse. It's an almost psychic-like power that allows you to be so perceptive you can pick up on what people will do before they do it. It allows you to understand the world in a way other people cannot, but it comes at a price. It's exhausting - really, really exhausting.

Being an empath is complicated, and empaths tend to gravitate towards difficult relationships with narcissists and those who suck their energy dry. One of the major signs you’re an empath is that your friends rely on you to talk them through their issues. You're a natural-born listener and fixer. It often feels like a thankless job, but someone's got to do it.

These facts about empaths can help you tell if you're one of the sensitive few.

  • You Prefer Spending Time Alone Or In Small Groups

    Have you taken the Myers-Briggs personality test? Most empaths fall on the introverted side of the scale (the I at the beginning of your personality type). This is often because crowds are overwhelming for these sensitive souls who absorb the energy of others. It's a like a sponge - if you soak completely in water, it can get really, really heavy.

    According to Psychology Today, empaths generally prefer one-on-one engagements or hanging out in small groups. Even if an empath exhibits some extroverted characteristics, they probably still need a lot of time alone to recharge from a loud party or a busy social gathering.

  • You're Highly Sensitive

    Are you sometimes told that you're "too sensitive" or that you need to "toughen up?" As an empath, sensitivity isn't your weakness - it's your strength. Empaths are notoriously thin-skinned, but don't confuse it for a fragile ego.

    It's true empaths may have their feelings hurt pretty easily and get down on themselves after being given a small piece of constructive criticism, but it's this trait that allows you to understand the emotions of other people and pick up on it when no one's paying attention.

  • You Feel Sad When Your Friends Are Sad - Even If It Shouldn't Affect You

    Does your best friend's bad mood bring you down? Do you feel yourself mourning the loss of your co-workers grandparent when you've never even met the person who died? Are you overjoyed when you watch a family member talk about something they're excited about? You could be an empath because empaths absorb the emotions of other people - for better or for worse.

    On one hand, empaths may find themselves overwhelmingly anxious when dealing with a loved one's hard times. On the other, if the people around you are beaming, you absolutely flourish, and it feels like you can achieve anything. Feeding off the energy around you does have its benefits if you surround yourself with positive-thinking people, but you may find it a little hard to handle life's hurdles if they also affect those around you.

  • You Date A Lot Of Narcissists

    You Date A Lot Of Narcissists
    Photo: Takmeomeo / Pixabay / CC0

    How many narcissistic ex-partners do you have? Does it feel like it's impossible to find a nice person to date? This could be because you're an empath, and empaths are notoriously attracted to narcissists. It's a dangerous trap because empaths generally exude compassion and understanding - they simply don't understand that a narcissist is incapable of feeling it. Because of this, they constantly forgive them, insisting they can show their narcissist the light.

    "What narcissists see in empaths is a giving, loving person who is going to try and be devoted to you and love you and listen to you," Dr. Orloff told Business Insider. "But unfortunately empaths are attracted to narcissists because at first this is about a false self. Narcissists present a false self, where they can seem charming and intelligent, and even giving, until you don't do things their way, and then they get cold, withholding and punishing."

  • You're The Resident Therapist In Your Group Of Friends

    Every group has that one friend everyone turns to when things get complicated, whether it's venting about some guy who didn't call back or agonizing over a job interview. If you're that person in your group of friends, you might just be an empath.

    People find empaths easy to talk to because they understand emotions and they're highly sensitive. Unfortunately, this sometimes means they're taken a bit for granted as a fixer, and it can feel like no one cares unless they needs to vent. Be careful because surrounding yourself purely with negative energy is exhausting.

  • You've Got An Addictive Personality

    It's not easy to constantly be flooded with the emotions of others. For this reason, many empaths struggle with addiction. This could be anything from drugs and alcohol to sex and love - as long as it helps you block out that constant flow of passion.

    “It’s very common - being an empath is often a missing piece to addictions," said Dr. Judith Orloff, who penned the book The Empath's Survival Guide.  

    In the case of an empath, addiction could very well be a form of self-medication for the anxiety, anger, and depression they soak up from those around them who are suffering. Fortunately, therapy and medication can help if you find these symptoms too difficult to endure alone.