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 a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her 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, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

    Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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

    1. emotional empath questions to answer yourself 6 out of eight of your questions that you had there apply to me so can you tell me what that means exactly I’m new to this and I don’t understand it I don’t understand me half the time.
      People are always telling me how kind I am unbelievably kind they haven’t seen such kindness and people what exactly could this means going on.

    2. I have never heard the word “emparh” before. I do think about empathy often, and the lack of it. If each of us as humans possessed a healthy dose of empathy and a lot less entitlement; we could potentially reduce the levels of anger, anxiety, and depression. Perhaps even reduce the # of covid infections. Just a thought.

    3. Excellent article.. a lifelong empath thankful to know I am not alone..feeling the pain and sorrow of others unknown to me is overwhelming for needed.. also I forgot Nd peace in quietness, being in my garden or with my dog.. sometimes I am troubled by feeling another’s pain although I am unable to ease it.. have learned that prayer to God for these people alleviates this pain. Also have found that as you get older the power of this gift increases as well as your ability to understand it

    4. Interesting. I have been told by several that I’m an Empath. I have always attributed my intuition, perception and deep feelings of compassion to the fact that I’m a Libra with a Virgo Ascendant. I also always just thought that I have a highly attuned olfactory sense as well–although there are those who seem to have a penchant for using the entire bottle of scent, phew!
      Now I want to educate myself more on this topic. Thank you!

    5. Ohhhhh, so all the years I’ve been scolded for being too sensitive, or too emotional and more recently experienced anxiety over other people’s choices and situations now make sense…… I’m not faulty, I’m an empath. I can work with that.
      Thank you

    6. So .. I’ve been a research patient in Ohio at The James Cancer and Research Center for a few years now .. my body mimics viral infections at extremely high numbers in my antigens .. especially EBV but not active viral load in blood ..
      My Dr is going to do a genetic test based off the WES technology in November.. I’ve been able to feel .. sense my entire life .. but I’m incredibly tired .. my inside battle of sensing is taking a toll .. it’s like I know something that’s to heavy for me , I think I’ve learned to live with it but I’m not sure what to do with all the energy always coming at me .

    7. Hi I’m Ben and I’m 15 but i will sometimes make eye contact with a sad kid or angry or sacred but then i will feel this emotion that i don’t know how to describe its like half of me is that said emotion and the other is me and i feel normal but the other half is going crazy with anger or fear I’m in control but i feel like someone else. Pls tell me what’s wrong with me. Thx for reading

    8. Revelation at last.
      I am in a poetry forum, and a girl who has just had a bereavement I was trying to help,for unknown reasons!
      She asked if I was an Em-path?
      I had never heard the word before she said it.
      I have since read a few bits and pieces,and WOW! all the answers are there to years of confusion.
      It has been a curse at times, but also a great help,,when to step in,when to back off,but it has taken a lot to learn this.If I knew what I know now about it,at least I would have understood better the reasons why.
      Thanks everyone for enlightening me,Now I must go off and read up a lot more.

    9. Yes, I can love the song but sometimes I triggers me into a grouchy anxiety attack and I get upset if I can’t turn it down. I have always had sound issues, I smell things others don’t. I call it super pregnant nose. People come to me for everything…things that they could figure out on their own. I am always tired because I am on over load all the time. I didn’t realize I was an empath until one day I had a client in my chair (hairstylist) I gently touched her shoulders to put at ease( it’s a comforting thing I did for my clients to let them know I was listening) long story short she told me I have powers and ignore them. She told me everything about my life. There was no way she could have known that stuff. Somethings I never told another human being.

    10. I have always felt others emotions, both good and bad, and even feel actual physical pain whenever I encounter someone else in pain or hurt. I cry every time I see someone hurting, even if it is just a movie! I always seem to attract people who are needy or in difficulty because I listen to them and try to help them and is it the way I look that attracts them? Or do they feel some sort of vibe? I have ended up in multiple abusive/ borderline abusive relationships over the course of my life because I felt bad for these people, wanted to help/ nurture them. I was told already many years ago that I have a very strong maternal instinct, but maybe that was their way of describing an empath?
      Any help in dealing with this/understanding this would be wonderful!

    11. kind of hard to see any of the upside to being one but definitely working on those strategies. was wondering if music impacts anyone as well?

    12. Great article, thanks for the post x
      I am definitely an Empath
      And like most , it comes with pros and cons.
      Last year I want through an existential crisis that led to drug addiction and was quite a rough journey, however I was able to find balance. Kinda…
      It was difficult for me to reach out to people for help as I always play the other role. I am usually the listener and I find it difficult to express my own emotions and this often just leads to excessive thinking and anger. I tried meditation, but couldn’t get into it at all! I hated it ! It made me even more angry or made me over think things even more , personally I found that just having someone around that would listen to me helped me become more in control of my emotions, simply getting your raw thoughts out in the open air or writing down my emotions, in a poem or journal. This helped me let go (surrender)
      I usually take a back seat when it comes to crowds and this led to many superficial relationships with people as I often just stuck around people because I felt sorry for the them or I was desperate for connection.
      Iv now learnt to walk away from people, it was difficult as I was afraid of being alone , but I began to like my own company and prefer my smaller group of more deeply connected relationships.
      Learn to channel your empathy to best suit your lifestyle xxx

    13. Did any other empaths out there suffer a certain level of anxiety throughout the second half of 2019 with the recurring thought that change was coming? Is there any way that our sensitivity could have picked up on the impending pandemic?? Any way, I hope you are all keeping safe. Sending lots of love and positive vibes from Madrid, Spain.

      1. I had the same feelings a couple of months before 9/11. the sensation of serious upheaval was very strong.

      2. Hi Carly, I had prolonged episode of depression and anxiety, this started in December and remained for another 3 months. I was terribly overwhelmed. I am working within one of the hospitals in UK and unfortunately, no matter how difficult this situation is, I can not allow depression to kick back in. I think that what you are describing is highly possible as I did not really had any reason to suffer from any of the above. Hope you are safe and sound.

    14. For a very long time I knew I was different from every one else. Now that I’m 38 I have started feeling all of these feelings and I knew they weren’t mine. I hurt sometimes for feeling others feeling. It’s so hard for me to say no and even when I do I feel as if its hurt them so I give in anyways. I always said I put myself in other shoe and I can actually feel their pain or happiness. I never thought about been a empath until I read up everything I read about I was like thats me. i want to know how I can control it. I give and give even when I dont want too. I just want to understand what is going on.

      1. I am the exact same way! I always have felt other feelings. Literally to the point I feel it more than they are even showing it. I will literally always put myself in their shoes. Its exhausting and literally takes over my life. I am not in control and always help help help even when I do not have.

    15. it statet when i was 18 years i feel people as the years have gone by i just feel people bad intention, today i am 45, liveing in the farm land , to many people drains my enegy. prefer to stay home, if i have togo to conference with alot people , i need to carge my batteries up.

    16. Hello I’m soon to be 49 years old on March 29th, anyways I’m a empath and I also am clairvoyant, I figured out I was special or different from most people around me at a very early age, my great Aunt and my mother told me that we are special that we are gifted, but we also have to be very careful not to give to much of ourselves to people who have a bad vibe or kismet about them that people like that will drain us of energy because they usually are surrounded by negativity.. I’ve found this to be so true but unfortunately most of my life consisted of a lot of negative things happened around and in my life, I knew people always was drawn to me and would literally tell me everything about themselves and I didnt understand why but I started researching what my gifts ment and what I should do, it’s taken me a very long long time to really figure my gifts out an excepting them is the first thing I had to do, and I had to learn about listening to my energy, my life force, myself. If I enter a room a I start to feel smothered then I only stay a very very little while then excuse myself, because if I don’t i will become very drained, depressed, for awhile and that’s what I’ve had to learn, but I also know that my gift allows me to be able to be the compassionate person or sympathetic ear that a person needs but I’ve learned I can handle that usually one on one, and I know my gifts have been given to me to help if I’m able to, but when I was young I couldn’t deal with it and wanted to turn it off anyway possible by any means possible… but I’m not around any negativity at all anymore I’m in a wonderful relationship with my soul mate and he understands me very well and we dont allow drama or any negativity into our home this is our safe haven and if people don’t respect this then quiet simply they are cut out of our lives, we cant allow ourselves to be pulled back down when we are finally uplifted… I can’t anyways I never have been surrounded by positivity till now but I also realized that I had to take a step back and take a long look at myself and I dudnt like what I seen and I had to change myself and everything else has fallen where it’s supposed to in a wonderful and beautiful place… much love, stay positive, and remember always be kind and respect each other.. as it is so shall it be. €♡£

        1. Check out Dr. Elaine Aron’s website. You can get more info on her at

    17. A wonderful article.
      I believe we know, to varying degrees or ways, but I came to the conclusion that we DO know in ourselves – deny it or not.

      And whether or not it is our duty to help (perhaps like an Angel), it is of course nice to know that we have.
      But I don’t think it is the right thing, to go out looking for people or animals to help (or ambush), whether they’re willing or not. Nature or something will make it happen. Sometimes, it will just be obvious.

    18. This article and others have helped me tremendously. I’ve been in denial about my empathic ability because I didn’t know how to address it or even what it meant. But, because I have been drained by my neighbors who have a domestic violence situation, others who are angry, others who live a lifestyle that causes them to be depressed and defeated I am suffering from the stress of taking on all their issues unknowingly. FYI: Empaths should own houses not live in apt buildings! I’ve had this ability since childhood and let me tell you not everyone appreciates the wisdom behind this gift. My life has been a real roller coaster ride because I didn’t understand how to cope with taking on other people’s emotions. Many are drawn to me but lately I’ve been more reclusive and now I understand why; too much is happening around me, my peace is in a compromised state. Now I understand why I long for rural settings.

    19. Everything that I read encompasses me as a person. I am also clairvoyant. So you can only imagine how difficult my life has been trying to tell someone how a situation is going to go and they look at you like you’re crazy. But the astonishment on their face afterwards it’s something that you never get used to. And yes I was told to grow a thicker skin stop being so sensitive I would always feel rage when nothing angered me. But I knew someone around me was angry. I’ve also been able to approach people at bus stops and talk them out of situations when they said not even a word to me. Not to mention people come to me with a lot of issues that they have and I do my best to try to help them. Needing time to be alone is crucial. It’s good to see I’m not alone that there are people out there like me I felt like an alien for a long time.

    20. From childhood to the present, I have attracted people and animals. I to have suffered from anxiety all my life when around a lot of people. The energy is hard to swallow when in mass proportions. With being an empath it feels like you know no strangers. People you don’t know will come up to you as if they have known you all your life. It was in my adulthood with guidance from a psychic that i started to understand what and why things were happening to me. I have other gifts on top of being an empath. I see angel numbers all the time, intuitively know things, also I am a lightworker (healer, earth angel some say). With being a lightworker I am in tuned with the person who is seeking advice and also with the help of my other gifts can help them with what ever the issue may be at the time. My gifts continue to grow, more rapidly now than in the past. With the proper guidance and understanding of what is happening to you. the anxieties can and will be lessened. blessings to all

    21. It has been brought to my attention a couple of months ago that I may be an empath and who told me was not sure on what kind. I wasn’t sure what she meant after that I started reading a lot into. I am confused on how sometimes I feel and would like to know how to handle this. I remember from age 7 I have had anxiety problems not able to breath. My mom took me to doctor and they said I had asthma. I never knew why I felt like that. I still till now have anxiety. I would like some guidance to be able to understand what is happening to me.

    22. Im 37 and I figured out I was an empath probably around 32. I always felt different like I was wierd. When I was younger in school I thought everyone could feel each other’s emotions so I put up a wall so no one could read me. I’ve always been the person everyone wanted to tell there problems to even people I just meet. Large crowds are hard for me, all the energy blends together like being trapped under a waterfall. In my 20s I went threw a stage of drug abuse trying to escape which only increased my ability to absorb the negative. Then I ended up with a narcissist for the past 10 years.. 7 months ago I met my soul mate and a new indescribable emotion I never knew existed which gave me the strength to break free from my ex’s abuse 2 months ago… I’m kind of confused now I don’t how I feel or what I feel or why it’s so intense… I’m so in tune with my soulmate the pressure from their energy is so overwhelming I can’t even approach them like I’m going to disappear.

      1. hi….i experienced many of the same things… as a child and since then i have been told i am an empath.. even a few strangers have come to me and said the same thing…seems to “run” in my family….one grandmother, and my daughter,have the “gift”..the key to surviving this is to have a home that is free of “negative energy persons” or an aggressive spouse/partner/girlfrien/boyfriend …my home is my “nest”, a place where i feel safe from everyone’s’ problems.. husband is very easy going…he understands that i can’t handle crowds for long periods of time…too many emotions swirling around me… to help with feeling overwhelmed by others emotions i turned to meditation…I have been practising meditation for over 50 years…it takes time to learn to slip into a meditative state quickly, but with a little time and practise anyone can do it …now i can even meditate for a few minutes when i am feeling overwhelmed in a store, or other places with strangers around…no one is aware that i am meditating outside of the home, except my husband…it doesn’t take hours, just minutes, of meditation to calm down and get centred(canadian spelling)….and it helps calm any “racing” thoughts/feelings i might be experiencing when i retire to bed…instead of being restless and frustrated that i can not sleep, I meditate….i hope this helps?

    23. Many years ago (about 45) I told my Gestalt therapist that my feelings often changed a lot after I entered her room for an appointment. For example, I could be feeling fine and then want to cry after coming into her room. She said that’s because I am ‘picking up’ the feelings of her other clients who leave the room by another door. I wasn’t aware anyone had been in there. We worked on my learning to check my feelings when I’m with other people to identify if they are actually mine. and then to learn to see them separately. That helps a lot. I’ve also developed most of the coping strategies mentioned here.

      The answer to all your questions is yes.

    24. Hi I’m only 19 and I answered yes to some of the questions and it kind of seem like me I’m just so lost right now I need a better understanding

    25. I have been an oddball for a while in my family, but we all are in a sense. I simply thought I simply aware of how people’s feelings which is normal to me. But as I got older it became more finely tuned. As now I am in the medical field, the different surges of emotions and feelings I get is overwhelming. Most of my patients say that I am an empath. Is is also the quality of an empath to dream of something and for it actually be happen, like a premonition?

    26. I want to help a depressed friend but im feeling overwhelmed by her emotions. How can i do this without being depressed or anxious .

    27. Yes to everything including ADHD. I’m 48 and realizing I have to figure out a way to survive the rest of my life without completely isolating myself. I just love being home alone with my precious dog 🙂

      1. Your dog may be the best friend you have ( know mine usually are), Sometimes, they are all the company we need. One of mine saved my life twice (A German Shepherd). All of mine help me to live alone, in between contact with others. I never force myself on other’s company, and usually assume it’s meant to be, when it happens. Isolation and/or silence are not bad things, but natural pauses.

    28. At 55 I am only finding out that I am an Empath. I am African and have been told that I have ‘Shamanic ‘ tendencies that apparently run in my family ( but have been vehemently rejected for various reasons) . I thought that I had missed the memo of how to do life . I have literally been on the wrong side of the tracks all my life . I believed that I was just plain stupid . Finding out that I am an empath is like Christmas has finally come to my house ! I can finally put the pieces of the puzzle together and come up with a credible picture rather than a jumbled up mess .

      I really appreciate that Dr Orloff has clarified that there are different kinds of Empaths because whenever I have tried to have support from the traditional tribal shamans ( of my tribe) none of them seemed to fit me . They are using a one size fits all approach which confused me no end . Through listening to Dr Orloff’s books I can clearly see that I am an emotional empath. All my life I have always said that I think with my heart .i describe my heart as my organ of perception. Everything finally makes sense . I am very new to this realisation so I am reading everything that I can . Funny enough , I have been doing all of the self care strategies with no help from anyone .

      I am so glad to have people like me in this world . I don’t feel so lost and alone anymore .

    29. 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?

      1. Psychosomatic response is a very real thing.

        There is a condition now known as Functional Neurological Disorder that has been called many things in the past: Hysterical Blindness, Functional Weakness and Mimic’s Disease, amongst other names.

        These names have been cast into history as studies reveal deeper understanding of neurology and psycho-neurology, but essentially the mimicry was attributed because our medical knowledge presumed a level of psychological ‘involvement’ by the patient. Actually current thinking is that whilst there are many disorders for ‘perceived’ psychosomatic distress – FND symptoms are [almost] never contrived by the patient and are most commonly outside the patient’s knowledge, understanding or control. FND is now an officially recognised condition and help can be sought through charities and associations.
        Whilst I have no idea the cause of your symptoms, I am sure that you have valuable resource to investigate through the FND community & you will not be discredited for your unusual symptoms. Luck and love. [FND sufferer 30+years]

      2. Hi, I am an empath also with all the classic signs and I occasionally have that problem. When my uncle had his bypass surgery I felt like someone split my breastbone in half. A friend of mine had a salivary gland issue which i also felt but on the opposite side. A few days later he told me that the condition had switched sides and now was on the other side. The side I felt. The pain is kind of an odd sensation because I think it is more like phantom pain. I feel it but it but it feels different from my own pain. Hope that helps.

    30. 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!!

    31. 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?

    32. 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.

    33. 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.

    34. 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.

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

          1. I think the incoming stimulus of processing multiple emotions and thoughts from others around us mimics ADHD. Not that we have it.

    Leave a Reply

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