9 signs you’re a genuine empath, according to psychology

Tina Fey by Tina Fey | March 27, 2024, 11:48 am

Being an empath is more than just being sympathetic to others’ feelings.

It involves a deep sense of understanding and connecting with their emotions on an intimate level.

Psychology defines an empath as someone who absorbs the emotions of others and feels them as if they were their own.

This doesn’t just mean being in tune with how others feel; it means actually feeling their joys, their pains, and everything in between.

Here’s the thing about being an empath – it’s not something you choose, it’s something you are. And while it can be overwhelming at times, it’s also a beautiful gift that allows you to connect deeply with others.

Want to know if you’re a genuine empath? Here are 9 tell-tale signs, backed by psychology, to help you find out.

1) You feel others’ emotions as your own

Have you ever found yourself feeling sad because a friend is going through a tough time, even if you’re not personally affected? Or maybe you’ve felt a surge of joy when someone shares their good news, even if it doesn’t directly impact you.

This is a common experience for empaths. They don’t just sympathize or understand what others are feeling – they actually feel it themselves.

Psychologists refer to this as emotional empathy. It’s the ability to share and understand the feelings of others on an emotional level.

But here’s the catch – it’s not just about feeling what others are feeling. Genuine empaths often absorb these emotions so deeply that they can’t distinguish them from their own feelings.

If you often find yourself experiencing the emotions of those around you, you might be an empath.

However, it’s important to remember that this is just one sign – true empaths usually exhibit several of these traits.

2) You’re often overwhelmed by crowded spaces

I remember the first time I realized that crowded spaces affected me differently than others. I was at a bustling shopping mall during the holiday rush, surrounded by people hustling and bustling, their minds filled with shopping lists and holiday plans.

Suddenly, I felt a wave of exhaustion wash over me. It wasn’t just physical tiredness. I felt emotionally drained, almost as if I had taken on the stress and anxiety of everyone around me.

This is something many empaths experience. The intense energy and emotions in crowded places can be overpowering. We aren’t just navigating our own feelings and experiences – we’re also picking up on the emotions of those around us.

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed in a crowd, or needing to retreat from social gatherings to recharge, it could be a sign that you’re an empath.

But remember, being an empath is not about a single trait or experience – it’s about a consistent pattern of such experiences.

3) You have a strong intuition

Empaths often have a sixth sense, or intuition, that allows them to sense things before they happen. This ability goes beyond just having a ‘gut feeling’ about something. It’s almost as if they can tune into the frequency of the universe and pick up on subtle signals and cues that others might miss.

Interestingly, a study published in the journal “Frontiers in Psychology” found that people with high levels of empathy are more likely to report experiencing ‘paranormal’ phenomena, such as premonitions or vivid dreams that seem to predict future events.

If you often find yourself knowing things without understanding how you know them, or having strong gut feelings that turn out to be accurate, it could be a sign that you’re an empath.

Being an empath is about more than one single characteristic – it involves a combination of traits and experiences.

4) You need regular alone time

Being an empath can be energetically draining. Absorbing the emotions of others, while a beautiful gift, can also leave you feeling overwhelmed and depleted. That’s why many empaths crave time alone to disconnect and recharge.

This isn’t about being antisocial or not enjoying the company of others. Rather, it’s about the need for solitude to process and decompress from the emotional energy they’ve taken on.

If you find yourself craving alone time after social interactions, or feeling a strong need to retreat regularly to recharge your emotional batteries, it could be a sign that you’re an empath.

Being an empath is not just about one or two traits – it’s a combination of characteristics that make you uniquely sensitive to the emotions and energy of those around you.

5) You’re a natural healer

Empaths are often drawn to healing professions, such as nursing, therapy, or social work. This isn’t just a coincidence. Empaths have a natural desire to help others and alleviate their pain, making them perfectly suited for roles that involve caring for others.

But you don’t have to be in one of these professions to be an empath. Even in everyday life, if you find yourself drawn towards people who are hurting or in need of support, and if you have an innate ability to soothe and comfort those in distress, you might be an empath.

It’s important to note though, being an empath is not just about being helpful or caring. It’s about feeling a deep connection to the emotions of others and wanting to help alleviate their pain.

6) You connect deeply with nature and animals

There’s just something about the serenity of a forest or the rhythmic sound of ocean waves that soothes an empath’s soul. For many empaths, nature is not just a place to escape, but also a source of comfort and rejuvenation.

Similarly, empaths often share a profound bond with animals. They understand and connect with them on a deeper level, sensing their emotions and needs intuitively. The unconditional love and simplicity of animals provide a respite from the complexities of human emotions.

Being an empath is not about one single trait. It’s about the unique combination of these characteristics that allows you to perceive and interact with the world differently.

7) You struggle with boundaries

I’ve always found it hard to say no. Whether it’s taking on extra work or helping a friend in need, I often find myself overextending, even when it leaves me feeling drained. It took me a while to understand that this struggle with boundaries is a common trait among empaths.

Empaths have a deep-seated desire to help and heal, which can make setting boundaries challenging. We often feel the pain of others so intensely that we’ll go to great lengths to alleviate it, sometimes at the cost of our own wellbeing.

If you often find yourself giving too much of your time and energy to others, or struggling to set healthy boundaries, it might be a sign that you’re an empath.

Being an empath is about more than just one characteristic – it’s about a unique set of traits and experiences that make you deeply attuned to the emotions of others.

8) You’re highly sensitive to noise and stimuli

For many empaths, a loud environment or a chaotic situation can feel like sensory overload.

This heightened sensitivity is not just about having a lower tolerance for noise or crowds. It’s about the way an empath’s brain processes information.

Research suggests that empaths have hyper-responsive mirror neurons — the part of the brain responsible for empathy.

This means they react more intensely to stimuli, making them more susceptible to the energy and emotions in their environment..

9) You have a rich inner life

Empaths often have a vibrant and complex inner world. They daydream, ponder, reflect, and feel deeply.

This rich inner life is a reflection of their deep connection to their emotions and their ability to feel and experience life on a profound level. It’s not about being introverted or shy – it’s about the depth and intensity of their emotional landscape.

If you often find yourself lost in thought or caught up in deep feelings, it could very well be a sign that you’re an empath.

Final thoughts: The power of empathy

The ability to deeply connect with others’ emotions is a beautiful, albeit challenging, experience. But being an empath is not just about feeling deeply – it’s about understanding and experiencing the world in a unique way.

Renowned psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “When someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good.”

Being an empath allows you to offer this profound understanding to others. You hear them, feel their pain or joy, and understand their perspective on an intimate level.

But remember, it’s also important to take care of your own emotional health. Set boundaries, take time to recharge, and embrace the beautiful gift that is empathy.

So whether you’ve recognized yourself in all of these traits or just a few, take a moment to appreciate the depth of your emotional landscape. After all, the world needs more empathy, now more than ever.

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