How to Know if You’re an Empath


Are you an empath? To learn coping skills, get my PDF “Life Strategies for Sensitive People” here.

Purchase Download >


Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme, and are less apt to intellectualize feelings. Intuition is the filter through which they experience the world. 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 Survival GuideThe trademark of empaths is that they know where you’re coming from. Some can do this without taking on people’s feelings. However, for better or worse, others, like myself and many of my patients, can become angst-sucking sponges. This often overrides the sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions and all that is beautiful. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive, exhausting. Thus, they’re particularly easy marks for emotional vampires, whose fear or rage can ravage empaths. As a subconscious defense, they may gain weight as a buffer. When thin, they’re more vulnerable to negativity, a missing cause of overeating explored in my book The Empath’s Survival Guide. Plus, an empath’s sensitivity can be overwhelming in romantic relationships; many stay single since they haven’t learned to negotiate their special cohabitation needs with a partner.

When empaths absorb the impact of stressful emotions, it can trigger panic attacks, depression, food, sex and drug binges, and a plethora of physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis from fatigue to agorophobia. Since I’m an empath, I want to help all my empath-patients cultivate this capacity and be comfortable with it.

Empathy doesn’t have to make you feel too much all the time. Now that I can center myself and refrain from shouldering civilization’s discontents, empathy continues to make me freer, igniting my compassion, vitality, and sense of the miraculous. To determine whether you’re an emotional empath, take the following quiz.


Ask yourself:

  • Have I been labeled as “too emotional” or overly sensitive?
  • If a friend is distraught, do I start feeling it too?
  • Are my feelings easily hurt?
  • Am I emotionally drained by crowds, require time alone to revive?
  • Do my nerves get jarred by noise, smells, or excessive talk?
  • Do I prefer taking my own car places so that I can leave when I please?
  • Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
  • Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships?
  • If you answer “yes” to 1-3 of these questions, you’re at least part empath. Responding “yes” to more than 3 indicates that you’ve found your emotional type.

    Recognizing that you’re an empath is the first step in taking charge of your emotions instead of constantly drowning in them. Staying on top of empathy will improve your self-care and relationships.

     How An Empath Can Find Find Balance

    Practice these strategies to center yourself.

  • Allow quiet time to emotionally decompress. Get in the habit of taking calming mini-breaks throughout the day. Breathe in some fresh air. Stretch. Take a short walk around the office. These interludes will reduce the excessive stimulation of going non-stop.
  • Practice guerilla meditation. To counter emotional overload, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. This centers your energy so you don’t take it on from others.
  • Define and honor your empathic needs. Safeguard your sensitivities. Here’s how.
  • If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”
  • If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing–even if you adore the people–take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded.
  • If crowds are overwhelming, eat a high-protein meal beforehand (this grounds you) and sit in the far corner of, say, a theatre or party, not dead center.
  • If you feel nuked by perfume, nicely request that your friends refrain from wearing it around you. If you can’t avoid it, stand near a window or take frequent breaks to catch a breath of fresh air outdoors.
  • If you overeat to numb negative emotions, practice the guerilla meditation mentioned above, before you’re lured to the refrigerator, a potential vortex of temptation. As an emergency measure, keep a cushion by the fridge so you can be poised to meditate instead of binge.
  • Carve out private space at home. Then you won’t be stricken by the feeling of too much togetherness.
  • Over time, I suggest adding to this list to keep yourself covered. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you’re on emotional overload. With pragmatic strategies to cope, empaths can have quicker retorts, feel safer, and their talents can blossom.

    Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People (2017 Sounds True)


    Judith Orloff, MD is the New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her new book Thriving as an Empath offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people along with its companion The Empath’s Empowerment Journal. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA and has a TEDX talk. Her other books are Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive HealingExplore more information about her Empath Support Online course and speaking schedule on

    Connect with Judith on  Facebook Twitter and Instagram.


    13 thoughts on “How to Know if You’re an Empath

    1. QUESTION!?!
      After reading this article not only is all of that true but I have one question. I have the tendency to literally take on other people ailments (pain, conditions whatever) example I now have physical problems in my hands, back, knees, and even one could consider an emotional disorder. That people close to me have and now I have developed the same. I had even at one point developed a cyst on my finger in the same exact spot my sister had one removed.

      Would I still be considered an Empath or does this go deeper?

    2. Hi!! Just wanted to say to you that being an empath is a gift not a disorder at all and I want to tell you this because since you are new to the realization and finally have a label or name of who/what you are…ACCEPTING that you are different is the real challenge and that what you have been given in a gift because with all you will go through (and I say this because it will break you down but only to build you up) my advice is to simply allow it to happen… but when you finally ACCEPT your purpose you will have a clearer understanding than you do know!!

    3. I was eating my dinner and I felt a surge of butter sadness flow through me to the point of almost crying, my chest felt tight and I dont quite know why. It was like I was feeling someone else’s emotions.Usually I am a person that understands people quite well at first glances and I am good at reading both animals and people. Is it possible I could be an empath?

    4. Empath, ADHD, and PTSD. Welcome to my very aware, hypervigilant, Dagwood Bumstead kinda world! Haha! Sometimes you just have to laugh at everything then withdraw to a room all by yourself and rest.

    5. It’s only been brought to my attention 2 days ago that I may be an empath.
      After having a good read of this, it has opened my eyes to my confusion with what happens to me all these years.
      A little lost on where to go with this though.
      Fabulous read and looking forward to finding out more 😃

      1. Nicola, I also just put these pieces together and also feel my eyes have been opened to things and feelings that confused me for years. I have a wonderful therapist who I went to for anxiety and in going through almost 2 years of therapy, I have come to realize that while I might be anxious, I don’t have an anxiety disorder, but that the anxiety arises because I am an empath. But I also wonder, what made me this way, genetics, environment, is it an adjustment disorder or a disorder at all? I am also a little lost on the path forward, but having a better understanding and tools is helpful.

    6. I have found the perfect definition of my personality. My answer. to questions above, was “yes” to all. Some of the coping mechanisms mentioned are things I have been doing for yrs. But putting a name to it, helps me understand myself a little better. In times of great stress it can become very problematic.

      1. I could not believe it as I read through all the signs as each one applied to me . It described my personality to a T. I need to read more.

    7. Interesting, wondering if you have found a connection between empaths and forms of mental illness as bipolar disorder ?

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Scroll Up