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 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.

21 thoughts on “The Top 10 Traits of an Empath

  1. 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 .

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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 ~
    Mary Farrell

  5. 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

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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


    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.

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