The trademark of an empath is that they feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms. They filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings.
As a psychiatrist and empath myself, I know the challenges of being a highly sensitive person. When overwhelmed with the impact of stressful emotions, empaths can have panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, food, sex and drug binges, and many physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis.
But an empath doesn’t have to feel too much and be overloaded once they learn how to center and ground themselves. The first step is to acknowledge that you are an empath.
Here are the top 10 traits of an empath from my new book The Empath’s Survival Guide. See if you can relate to them.
1. Empaths are highly sensitive
Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually open, and good listeners. If you want heart, empaths have got it. Through thick and thin, they’re there for you; they are world-class nurturers. But they can easily have their feelings hurt. Empaths are often told that they are “too sensitive” and need to toughen up.
2. Empaths absorb other people’s emotions
Empaths are highly attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme. They take on negativity such as anger or anxiety which is exhausting. If they are around peace and love, their bodies take these on and flourish.
3. Many empaths are introverted
Empaths become overwhelmed in crowds, which can amplify their empathy. They tend to be introverted and prefer one to one contact or small groups. Even if an empath is more extroverted they prefer limiting how much time they can be in a crowd or at a party.
4. Empaths are highly intuitive
Empaths experience the world through their intuition. It is important for them to develop their intuition and listen to their gut feelings about people. This will help empaths find positive relationships and avoid “energy vampires.” Read Five Steps to Develop your Intuition to learn more.
5. Empaths need alone time
As super-responders, being around people can drain an empath so they periodically need alone time to recharge their batteries. Even a brief escape prevents emotional overload. Empaths like to take their own cars when they go places so they can leave when they please.
6. Empaths can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships
Too much togetherness can be difficult for an empath, so they may avoid intimate relationships. Deep down they are afraid of being engulfed and losing their identity. For empaths to be at ease in a relationship, the traditional paradigm for being a couple must be re-defined. For strategies, see my article Relationship Tips for Sensitive People.
7. Empaths are targets for “energy vampires”
An empath’s sensitivity makes them particularly easy marks for energy vampires, whose fear or rage can sap their energy and peace of mind. Vampires do more than drain an empath’s physical energy. The especially dangerous ones, such as narcissists (they lack empathy and are only concerned with themselves), can make them believe they’re unworthy and unlovable. Other vampires include The Victim, The Chronic Talker, The Drama Queen and more. To help you deal with the drainers in your life, read 4 Strategies to Survive Emotional Vampires.
8. Empaths become replenished in nature
The busyness of everyday life can be too much for an empath. The natural world nourishes and restores them. It helps them to release their burdens, and they take refuge in the presence of green wild things, the ocean or other bodies of water.
9. Empaths have highly tuned senses
Empaths have an enhanced startle response and are super-reactive to intense sensory input. Strong smells and chemicals such as exhaust and perfumes, make them feel queasy, allergic, or suffocated. They’re sensitive to temperature extremes, and may dislike air-conditioning.
10. Empaths have huge hearts but sometimes give too much
Empaths are big-hearted people and try to relieve the pain of others. A homeless person holding a cardboard sign, “I’m hungry” at a busy intersection; a hurt child; a distraught friend. It’s natural to want to reach out to them and ease their pain. But empaths don’t stop there. Instead, they take it on. Suddenly, they’re the one feeling drained or upset when they felt fine before.
As an empath myself, I use many strategies to protect my sensitivities, such as fierce time management, setting limits and boundaries with draining people, meditation to calm and center myself, and going out into nature. Being an empath is a gift in my life, but I had to learn to take care of myself. Empaths have special needs. It’s important to honor yours and communicate them to loved ones. Then your sensitivities can flourish and you can have all the happiness you deserve.
Judith Orloff, MD is the author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which this article is adapted. In the book she educates readers about empaths, highly sensitive people, and offers strategies for anyone who wants to avoid narcissists and transform difficult emotions to positive ones. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist and an empath who combines the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice.
To learn more about Dr. Orloff’s book tour schedule, and to sign up for her Empath Support Newsletter visit www.drjudithorloff.com.
Join her for talks at East West Bookshop in Mountain View, CA on April 5th, at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA at April 6th at 7pm, and at the Academy of Intuition Medicine in Sausalito, CA on April 7th at 7pm and April 8th at 10am.