The Top 10 Traits of an Empath

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The trademark of an empath is that they feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. 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.
Empaths Survival Guide

But an empath doesn’t have to feel too much and be overloaded once they learn how to center themselves. The first step is to acknowledge that you are an empath. Here are the top 10 traits of an empath from my book The Empath’s Survival Guide. See if you can relate to them. 

 

10 Traits of an Empath

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, 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 emotionally 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 ever day 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
An empath’s nerves can get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talking.

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, 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.

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

 

 

Judith Orloff, MD is the New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her latest 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 www.drjudithorloff.com.

Connect with Judith on  Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

62 thoughts on “The Top 10 Traits of an Empath

  1. When i read the age at which poeple discover that they are empaths, it really makes me sad cos if we had known this all along, we would have been able to make better choices. i am only 40 but i have been with a nassissit since i was 19. I dont even know how i survived. But im here now, present in this moment, aware and empowered.
    We empaths rule the world.
    WE ROCK.

  2. I’ve always been connected to my family and feelings of them. I would call my daughter bawling bc I could feel she was upset! I call and she answer “I say what’s wrong?” She always says mom I been crying all day, how do you know?! Not a clue… my gardens are my life . And being around water soothes my mood etc… Saturday I had a panic attack only the feelings weren’t mine, anxiety i deal with for years.. I felt the grief of loosing a child, and was sducidal. Only had no clue why this hit me so hard? My grief was overwhelming, I found out today, that my daughters fiancé lost his best friend to suicide bc the grief of loosing his daughter 2 weeks ago was overwhelming……. wow I now I know bc well I hate crowds and even grocery shopping…. thank you I need learn more about this, at least I don’t feel like a NUT! Anymore .. god bless

  3. Hi, thank you for such valuable and helpful info…
    Does Co-dependency play into some of these
    reactions? I get a bit confused about this..

    B

  4. Just this article alone helped me so much. I always knew I had some sort of “extra” feelings that were different than others or a deeper level of intuition when it came to people and reading them like a book at times. Occasionally thoroughly but sometimes just what I called “a bad vibe”… I also contributed a lot of these odd feelings to anxiety which I’ve struggled with for 10 years. Like many of you posting here, I would not really consider myself an introvert to the fullest extent because large crowds don’t necessarily bother me. Or at least I thought they didn’t but later figured out it also had a lot to do with the people in that crowd and the reason I was surrounded by them in the first place. I enjoy concerts and large gathering with those that are like minded. But on the flipside my circle of friends I purposely keep very small and I will occasionally sit in my car in the parking lot of a grocery store and cannot go inside to save my life because of an overwhelming sense of anxiety.

    This book will be a must read for me! As well as the group.

  5. I’ve always thought it was so odd that complete strangers would just pour their guts out to me and tell me very personal things. I get physically ill around conflict and negativity. Being in nature is so soothing to me. I would rather be alone most times and I get very anxious and overwhelmed in crowds. Thank you for this article! I feel like I understand myself better and will definitely be checking out Dr. Orloff’s books now!

    1. All My life I’ve known I saw the world differently than most people so I tried to copy them so I would fit in & be accepted. I was still different & never really fit in no matter how hard I tried.
      The pandemic lockdown was a blessing to me as I finally had an excuse to be alone & do the things that mattered to me. I loved being by myself! But I was still missing the WHY.
      A healer took note of my rantings & asked if I knew what Empaths were. No, never heard the term before so I looked it up & discovered I was very normal (for an empath). My WHY was given to me so quietly and simply I am still amazed.
      How many of us are there in similar circumstances? All our lives our gifts set aside as weird, odd, abnormal. My mother raised me with love despite my being different. Bless her heart!
      Judith Orloffs book is helping me undo the damage a lifetime (80 yrs) of feeling abnormal has been. It’s never too late to try. We are the hope of the world! The next step in evolution!

  6. I’m crying reading this. I understand myself more now.i always knew I was different. Now I know I’m not a mental case. Thank you. I’ve been researching this for the first time

  7. I too am Aquarius as am I a full blown empath on every level it seems. This too has saved me from myself so I totally know what you mean. Love and light to every sensitive soul out there. Together we’ve got this 💗

  8. I came across this article. Very. Interesting. I think the number of people who are empathic can be combined with global community.
    We have global issues, a global lockdown, and ability to globally communicate. Together we are stronger than we are apart. Those law dogs and research rats need to look at laws. Ask yourself two questions. What’s wrong? What’s lacking. Network. Gather evidence.
    Global court hearings. We need to fix this, and as much as the vampires might try to zap us individually, we can carry tools to slay the vampires.
    Let no one tell you that you can’t do this. You don’t know what you can do until you are tested. Been there. Done that. Remember. Together we are stronger. Not apart. Anything that tries to pry that natural unity needs to made to understand that it’s not going to be able to work anymore.
    The Awakening has begun. Pass it on.

  9. True all of it but.. as an empath.. there is more.. u get dreams that come true later..but we wont realize wat that dream is about until it has happened.. and there are dreams that show u the eye visions of people who think about u deeply, through their eyes.. I have checked this lot of times.. and also you can absorbs emotions of your lover even if u are miles away, fear , euphoria, anger etc etc.. the heart rythm tends to align, let’s say he is at the gym, u are at ur home watching TV, yours tends to be unusually high cuz u feel his which is high from working out, but it’s very hard to realize

  10. I am a real bonafide empath..everything in there is all about me..noise, energy vampires zapping my energy..I am very happy when I am away from my wife..I love her very,very much..I hate crowds..I can sense people feelings while I am driving down the road..the whole nine yards is about me..

  11. O my stars. I just came across your article on 10 traits of an empath. It is like looking at myself through someone else’s mirror. Not too sure how to deal with this.

  12. As someone who can relate with everyone here, I am actually enjoying being forced to stay at home to recharge during this Corona Virus shutdown!

  13. A definite need to read for me . omg hit the nail right on the head here .but damn even if your not an empath as I am and just found out from this and a game on FB but it must b true because I just had a panic and anxiety attack and still having it been struggling with this for years made me homeless I’m glad that everything has turned around and I’m making better choices and building my life this virus crap were dealing with right now has made it even worse to b me but I’m figuring it out day by day

  14. So helpful. Sometimes I didn’t understand if it was a gift or a curse. I am a Capricorn and a FIREHORSE – being Christian I don’t know what that means to me – but I have tried to numb it with wine, Xanax and I tend to run.

    I have ALWAYS been this way but learned fast not to speak of it when I was very young – it scared my mom maybe and I was told to stop being silly and run along. It made me feel “embarrassed” maybe and learn it is not acceptable.

    I have just today prayed and come to terms with this. It is not a curse but a gift that needs to be controlled so you don’t take on the world’s problems – how can one do that? You can’t.

    I cannot wait to find my purpose in life.

    Thank you for this article.

    1. As a Capricorn and a Christian, I had to avoid watching or listening to the news as much as I can. I avoid excessive and narcissistic talkers if I can. (This includes narcissists using social media as well. I unfriended all political pushers.

      Just these two things have improved my entire life for 3 years now.

  15. This is very helpful, it is so me n helps explain why I’m drawn to and attract narcassistic ppl. I was aware of my sensitivity n that I absorb peoples energies but contributed it to me being an Aquarius. It seems the state have written me quite an interesting life. I’m an aquarius, fire dragon, empath….it explains so much, and knowing is half the battle right.

    I’ve self medicated this for years and have been working towards finding alternate, healthier ways to cope with the every day works, i like people because I’m social, but don’t like them because it can be overwhelming absorbing all the different sensors I get of them. I’ve had a not so pleasant life as far as abuse of every kind yet still found a reason to smile and believe that something good comes from everything no matter how bad. This gets hard to maintain when the world around you is so negative and depressing. But as Lil Wayne said in his song “all this bullsh*t just makes me stronger”

    According to my astrological ratings, this the year of my revelation, that I bc will finally learn my true purpose. So far it seems that it is right, between learning about narcassists n realizing that is basically every relationship I’ve ever had, n now becoming aware of my own empath nature, all the pieces are starting to come together and I find I am growing stronger with knowing that I’m ok, and that I’m not the only one that goes through this.

    I’ve spent my whole life (I’ll be 43 Feb 15, 2020) feeling surrounded by millions and totally alone. That u was the fairy godmother sent to fix everyone’s issue but that I could never have the fairytale ending. I know now that I can, I just need to listen. I’ve been fighting my intuitions n sensitivity this whole time but the universe is spreaking and I’m listening.

    Thank you again for sharing this and to all those who shared their stories. If not anything, know that each of you have helped me in some way so that I may save myself frommyself (if that makes sense). My mother always told me I was too smart for my own good (literally) and I finally understand what she meant.

    Thankyou all

    1. Could also be that you have Undealt with trauma with someone narcissistic and have a codependent nature, you normally attract energy that your used to

  16. Wow, this is Exactaly me!
    I have always felt like the square peg in the round hole. I just don’t fit.
    It was only very recent my son said to me, mum you are an empath. I had no idea what that meant until I looked here.
    I am 64 and never fitted in anywhere with anybody. Even if we go out I want to go home after an hour, I just can’t stand being with people for too long. The feeling I get from others just overwhelm me and I get anxiety.
    I hade a terrible childhood which is too painful to recall and I have buried that where it belongs.
    I met my husband at 14 and even though I find his personality too strong for me at times I love him so much as he helps me through everything.
    I hate trying to explain myself to anybody and that makes me feel so stupid, I just cannot relate at anybody.
    I have developed an external personal to the world but inside I just hurt so much.
    There really are times when I wish I could just crawl into a hole and disappear but I love my immedate family too much for that.
    So glad I found this on the web, I don’t feel so alone now.

  17. After 62 years of age, 30 years of a difficult marriage that is still stumbling along, I finally found two answers: first I found out my wife is a narcissist. Only half of the equation. Then I stumbled on Dr. Orloff’s article and completed my two halves of the equation. I am an empath.

  18. OMG…this is me all day long. I thought I was crazy. Nobody understands me. This book is a must have. It may help me be a better me!

  19. Needy, emotionally and physically damaged people desperately try to make themselves our dependants, because nobody else cares about them. Many don’t even care about themselves, and refuse to get their act together. This is EXTREMELY damaging to the empath who feels sorry for them, eventually leading to the empath lapsing into depression. We have to be careful. It’s not our nature to walk away from people we care about, even though sometimes that is the only option. Either way, setting boundaries is indeed absolutely vital, for ourselves and for those we care about.

    1. Thank you for posting this … I really was starting to think I was an alien dropped off a spacecraft.. I went against my father’s wishes and married my wife .. turns out she is bipolar opposite.. narcissist and manipulator …and at times I almost cant breathe trying to have normal conversation I’m 48 and I’ve been with her 31 years .. I do love her but I have been trying to get out of here for years but she know exactly what to say until I drop my guard then back at it .. she has taught my daughters to be vampires .. so 5 vampires right in my house .. sometimes I get the feeling of no hope for our relationship .. I cant stop helping people .. and I sure wish I can learn to limit these ppl in my life ..

      1. I just left a 27 year marriage to a manipulative narcissist. I feel so light I could float away. I’ve learned to set boundaries and when he repeatedly overstepped with no concern for MY feelings, I left. He still thinks I’ll be back. Yes, my mother warned me, too.🤦🏻‍♀️

        1. I too left my narc husband after therapy and fears I wasn’t doing the right thing for my children. What hit home for me, was someone asked me…does he have the best interests in mind for you and your children? I immediately knew the answer was no. He only had the best of intentions for himself. That was the turning point… I started educating myself on narcisism and quickly discovered I was an empath. It’s been an eye opening, life changing discovery. There’s no going back. Protect yourselves always.

  20. My entire life I been wondering why I felt certain ways and why I could sense things and I knew people so well . This gave me so much sanity it’s crazy . Because I thought I was crazy but I can do more . I was wondering if anyone else is the same …. I can touch a person and feel everything they’re feeling.

  21. Wow, thank you this helped me a lot and made me feel closer to sanity. But what if you have other abilities????? Im more than just you explained and i dont know what to do.

      1. Thank you for finding a group to help. I e been an empathy all my life and have a very hard time with other people’s negative emotions. I do find meditation helps but didn’t know until now that there are a few of us and I can talk to them and get help to understand and deal with feeling others. Again, thank you so very much, you’ve made my day!

  22. WOW , I am like that 100 but I also have the physical empath for years I didn’t know what it was and with your top 10 it described me down to the soaking in the tub or water, if I am sick or drained I go in the water and I feel 100% in no time . Thank you for this .

  23. Thank you so much for your wonderful
    insight. It is wonderful to know that
    I am not “too Sensitive or get over it”
    It’s not easy being green according to
    Kermit and he is right. What I would
    wish is that all people would take a breath
    and think before they speak. The world
    would be a much better place. Peace
    and Love to everyone

    Ben’s mom

  24. This has helped me so much. I feel so much better now! Short story, I went on a couple of dates with a woman and she told me that I was an empath. I had heard of the word before but never paid much thought. After a couple of weeks, I decided to look it up, and here I am receiving life-changing information.

    1. I can relate! It’s mind-blowing to read on exactly how you feel and what u experience. I feel so much confident and empowered knowing who I am as a person.

    2. I have always thought that I was just plain odd. A few years ago a work colleague had been reading about Empath personality traits and said they all matched things I had told her about how I felt. I now know that I am an Empath and have been all of my life
      I have had clairvoyant experiences that I know have come from Empathic connections with people suffering in a different time and place. (Hard to believe). The worst thing for me is not feeling able to tell anyone, because who would get it except another Empath. Over the years I have managed to cultivate a false persona to hide a lot of how I really feel. I don’t know how I would have coped just being me. It’s so nice just writing this little bit. I am going to get one of Dr. Orloff’s books. I will also join the group, when I find it.

  25. Dear Dr. Judith,. I wanted to say how much I was impressed by you & admired you from the first time I saw you on Oprah!
    A Dr. & a woman strong speaking of such things! With such intelligence & confidence!
    As I saw Dr C. Northrop as well, that is; your degrees gave weight to your subjects which back then were so, well? Woo Woo!
    If you will! Lol
    Modernity modestly closing minds till meeting ancient wisdom,.
    As many others have spoken of,.
    I was a painfully sensitive child & spent my first years developing such great fears & confusion,. Bilingual & a close knit Mediterranean culture caused great fear that I perhaps was “seeking communication” a big no no for a Greek Orthodox girl,.( if only I had known how to explain what I was feeling ) this leaving the only other alternative of feeling fine one min. & terrible the next? ( by the time I realized they were not my feelings) I feared I was disturbed ( & my dreams didnt help! ) So I kept my mouth shut!
    I wanted to let you know, you gave me the sense I may be ok,. I just hadn’t had any explanation! Frankly hearing you sooner would have been even better!
    And I’m sure there are many woman my age that not so long ago ~ yet ages ago,.
    Felt much relief your trail blazing intelligence from back in the days of,.
    ” if you dared utter the word spirit it best be preceded by holy! ”
    Thank you & most ~
    Sincerely,.
    Mary Farrell

  26. Every single one of these is who I am except for the one about avoiding intimate relationships…I feel the opposite in that I have a strong desire for intimate relationships but am only happy if I have enough “me” time…it has been a difficult challenge finding a balanced relationship…it’s difficult to explain. Every single other sign you described is who I’ve been since I’ve had memories…and I connect and am most satisfied around the elderly …particularly those with some type of dementia…I’ve always just known what they need as if I’d known them my entire life and have always instinctively understood each in their own individual ways…

    Never considered for a second there was a reason for all the things you described here…I just always felt odd and different

      1. I felt the same as Dana. Every rule matches but the “fear of intimacy” I long for intimacy or rather a connection.

  27. My understanding is that empathy can be further divided into two types:
    Cognitive Empathy – Can understand what others are thinking and feeling
    Affective Empathy – Experience others feelings themselves, also called Sympathy

    Why are they not called Sympaths?

  28. Thank you for this article. People tell me that I overthink everything and that I am too sensitive.
    The current environment of our country has me afraid to go outside because of the color of my skin. I believe my vulnerability and caring for everyone is a strength but it can be exhausting and hurtful.

    1. I agree with you. Not necessarily for myself but im beyond nervous everytime my teen sons (of color) walk out the door. I hate war, discrimination of any kind and truly wish that ALL races, religions n walks of life could just live peacefully. I don’t even watch the news from fear of seeing tragic images that would stay way too long in my mind.

  29. I am an Empath and just until recently I had no idea. Thank you for this article and I am on the path of healing myself and setting boundaries. I never knew why I was different from others and took on so much. Learning. Thank you.

  30. I know I am an Empath who has been married to a narcissist for the past 23 years. I have to get away at times and sometimes plead for him to stop talking. I am also a bit physic and have felt a heavyweight on my chest when something bad is about to happen.

  31. Yes, being an Empath can be interesting, fun and also a living hell. I have often joked about Jerry Lewis in the movie “The Disorderly orderly” as I am definitely the disorderly orderly depicted. Being somewhat psychic as well as an Empath it can be overwhelming having so much information being hurled at me and can be debilitating. Your comment about energy vampires is absolutely spot on. I was in a relationship with one of these narcissistic beings for many years, it has taken me a very long time to allow someone to get close. I am now in a long distance relationship and I have found that distance is not necessarily a deterrent or a shield and still need to be very careful and take care of myself to some degree. For the most part, it is much easier than one on one (face to face) situation as I can exit and take that much needed nature break. I make it a point to live near water, be it a river, lake or better still the ocean as well as to have the nature of the wilderness, trees, animals, land and space readily available to me. In addition being an artist is quite a blessing as I do not live in a constant fight or flight mode. Emphasis on flight, which took me a long time to get a grip on. I see that you are on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty and do not know if you were there when Dr. Bernice Lindo was at UCLA, which I worked with for some time. I’m sorry that I managed to miss you while I was a student at UCLA and lived and worked in the LA area. I will be reading your books and over the next few months I may well partake in your online course, now that I have found you. Knowing can sometimes be good, really good and sometimes it can be… well..not so good. Thank you for summing up much of what we go through each and every day in a very straight forward and easily digestible manner. I am on facebook as Samle, however, I do not Twitter. Most of my contacts on facebook are artists and photographers and an occasional friend

    necessarily

    1. I am 66 years old and not until last year when my daughter said she thought I was an empath. I looked it up and yep, there were my answers to many things I did not understand. If I would have known this 30 years ago, I wouldn’t have been married to a vampire. I started dating after five years a couple of weeks ago and told this person that I look to read on this topic so he could understand me better.

      1. I am 66 year old man. I was singled out by other men to be picked on and bullied. Married twice to very self centered women. Women have used me over and over. Now I now why. I am not going to change. I am a very strong man who loves deeply. I will only date highly empathetic women from now on and make my needs know. I feel empowered to be me. It is OK to cry

        1. Hi Ralph Anderson,
          You shouldn’t change for anybody.You are who you are.I just broke up with somebody who was using me emotionally.I am also a woman ,even though I’m a young 70 years old,who gets on with everybody,loves everybody deeply,as I don’t like to play games with people He told me that I was too affectionate for him.,after telling me that he loved me and wanted a life with me…and that hurt deeply as I was always there for him the 9 months we dated,and took great care of him.I do understand how you feel .I like the way I am, and don’t want to swap my good nature for anything else.You’re right…it’s ok for men to cry,as they have feelings like everybody else..

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