Jessica Booth
January 18, 2018 10:23 am

One of the defining traits of narcissism is a lack of empathy, aka the ability to both understand and feel what others around you are feeling. Having a certain amount of empathy is imperative for a healthy emotional life.

However, having too much empathy can cause problems of its own. Those on that side of the spectrum are called “empaths,” and empaths are technically the opposite of narcissists.

An empath is someone who has so much empathy for those around them that they intensely understand what others are feeling. Empaths aren’t just aware of someone’s unhappiness or joy — they actually take on those emotions themselves. For example, if a close friend feels miserable about something, there’s a good chance an empath will too. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, told Business Insider that, “an empath is an emotional sponge.”

But how do you know if you might be considered an empath? Orloff told Psychology Today that empaths share many of the same traits as a highly sensitive person, so distinguishing between the two can be confusing. Here are a few specific signs that you yourself might be an empath:

You have trouble saying no to others.

One of the defining traits of an empath is their love of helping other people. This is a good thing, of course, but it can also sometimes be a negative. Empaths have trouble setting boundaries and saying no, because they don’t want to disappoint other people. And unfortunately, this means they are often easily manipulated or taken advantage of. If you find it nearly impossible to say no to any kind of favor, it could be a sign that you’re an empath.

You like socializing, but it exhausts you.

Many people assume that an empath is also introverted, but this isn’t true. In fact, Orloff has pointed out that one of the big differences between a highly sensitive person and an empath is that highly sensitive people are often introverts, while empaths can be introverts or extroverts.That said, empaths and introverts do share some traits; one of which is that socializing can exhaust or overwhelm you. Empaths typically feel stressed out after being in a big crowd because they are so sensitive to noise, touch, and even smell.

You love your alone time.

Empaths generally need time to themselves to recharge, especially after being out in public for a while. Being super close to someone else can feel draining for an empath, and they often need their own space and time throughout the day to relax and gain more energy.

People often tell you that you’re too sensitive.

Again, there are many similarities between a highly sensitive person and an empath, and if you’re the latter, you have probably been told that you’re too sensitive before. But there’s a difference between intense empathy and sensitivity.

Orloff says, “Empaths take the experience of the highly sensitive person much further: We can sense subtle energy (called shakti or prana in Eastern healing traditions) and actually absorb it from other people and different environments into our own bodies.” According to Orloff, “This capacity allows us to experience the energy around us, including emotions and physical sensations, in extremely deep ways.” As an empath, you might find it hard to distinguish between your emotions and someone else’s.

You have great intuition.

Empaths are known for being extremely intuitive. They get gut feelings that they feel compelled to follow, and these can often help them through life. Empaths also feel spiritual and intuitive connections with nature and animals.

Think you may be an empath? Let us know.

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