What Is an Intuitive Empath and How to Recognize If You Are One

intuitive empath

Intuitive empath is a person who has an unusual capacity for sensing and understanding the feelings of others. Could you be one?

Intuitive empaths know what others feel without needing to be told, and they have an unusually sharp sense for whether someone is being truthful or lying.

For this reason, many self-proclaimed intuitive empaths go into the healing professions. There’s a lot of reported evidence from psychologists for the existence of empaths, and it often seems to suggest that they are unhappier than others.

Empathy is present, in general, to a greater degree in women. A study from the journal of Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews stated that there are gender differences as regards empathic response from infancy. It has been suggested that females are more empathic as a result of neurological adaptation to the traditional role of child-rearing, as it requires a sharper understanding of non-verbal expressions.

The traits of an intuitive empath:

1. You understand where other people are coming from

When empaths are in interactions with others, they’re able to understand how the other person feels and why they feel it. This makes them excellent listeners and great friends. However, being able to put themselves in other people’s shoes and feel as they feel can be extremely stressful. Apart from having to deal with the stress and difficulties which arise in their own lives, they take on other people’s suffering as their own.

2. You are oversensitive

If you are extremely sensitive or have been labelled as being too emotional, you may be an empath. Empaths seem to have the ability to experience emotions at a greater intensity than the rest of us. This can lead to increased joy and pleasure in life, but when they’re exposed to negative stimuli, it can cause extreme anxiety and distress. It also means that they’re more prone to mood swings than others, as stimuli from the environment can change rapidly from positive to negative. Empaths are often very sensitive to noise and other disturbances, too.

3. You can’t stand witnessing the suffering of others

At one extreme of the empathy spectrum (the low end), there are people with disorders which cause anti-social and often violent, criminal behaviour. Empathic people are on the opposite end of the spectrum, not being able, in some cases, even to watch violent films. They also find things that many people laugh at, like the misfortunes of others, unbearable to witness.

4. You aren’t comfortable in large groups

Because of the intensity and diversity of stimuli in situations involving a large number of people, empaths tend to find being around big groups exhausting and anxiety-creating. It’s common for empaths to prefer being alone or with one or two people. If they have to be in social situations involving large groups, it’s often necessary for them to withdraw early and take time alone to recharge their batteries.

5. You have physical symptoms after emotionally intense situations

Empaths often find that they experience physical symptoms in response to high-intensity situations. Headaches are common as well as fatigue. Empaths may also be more likely to respond to the anxiety they feel by abusing their own bodies with drugs and overeating.

Scientific basis for the existence of intuitive empaths

Empathy is something that nearly all human beings have, with the exception of people who have psychological disorders that prevent them from feeling empathy. Empathy is, therefore, something which is found in human beings on a spectrum –  from high-empathy responses to low-empathy responses.

Confirming the existence of empaths scientifically is difficult though. Human neuroimaging is not at a level of advancement which would allow us to confirm that there’s something different going on in these people’s brains. Up till now, tests have had to, in most cases, consist of surveys and questionnaires about how subjects perceive their own responses. This kind of evidence is very difficult for the scientific community to accept as a solid basis.

Scientists do not currently accept the use of terms such as intuitive empath just as they don’t accept terms like ‘psychic’ or ESP (Extra-Sensory Perception). Scientific research currently divides empathy into the categories of ‘emotional empathy’ and ‘cognitive empathy’. Emotional empathy is the ability to respond emotionally to what another person is going through, and cognitive empathy is the ability to comprehend another person’s perspective or mental state.

Neuroscience, however, which has been dedicated to investigating empathy over the last decade or so, has found that there is a scientific explanation for how living creatures are able to empathise with others. Neuroscientists have called this phenomenon mirror-touch synaesthesia, where mirror neurons are activated when one animal sees another animal perform a particular behaviour. It has been suggested that in the case of empaths, mirror neuron activity is particularly acute.

It has been proposed that, like in the case of people with a very low empathic response, childhood trauma may be present to a greater degree in empaths than in the majority of the population. The ability to empathise with the unpleasant experiences of another person may come, to some extent, from having had similar experiences. However, having had similar experiences does not always mean that someone is able to empathise with others going through the same thing.

Do you think you might be an intuitive empath? Share your thoughts with us.

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Caroline Hindle

Caroline Hindle

Caroline Hindle is a freelance writer, editor, and translator living in Athens, Greece. She has an MA in Ancient World Studies, but has a wide spectrum of interests, including philosophy, history, science, literature, politics, morality, and popular culture.


  1. Kristine ParkGross November 16, 2016 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Very interesting article. You can tell you’ve done your research. I’ve been called an Empath since childhood. I believe my father’s Native American heritage left his mind more open to unexplainable phenomena like how if a dog from our neighborhood (one I’ve never met or been associated with) would be lurking around our yard, so he’d come get me, bring me outside and without him saying a word I’d find the dog & gesture for it to come over. Sure enough, without the hesitation it showed my father, it would come to me and let me show it affection & after touching foreheads with it(something I’ve always done and still do with any animal I meet, well maybe not the really big ones,lol) but after that I’d seem to know exactly what it needed. Some I had to bring things to it’s owners attention like a limp, others just got out & lost. One time I believe an old basset hound was just longing for adventure because after putting it in the car to drive around hoping it would acknowledge it’s home in some way, we got out back at our house it barked at us & trotted off wagging it’s tail, lol. Great memories but true to his word my father wouldn’t pay for any school that didn’t have me dealing with animals, children, or those with special needs (I’ve always gotten along great with all of those. Sadly I didn’t listen and regret it to this day. I do however have a small but wonderful group of very close friends, don’t go out often & prefer the company of my cat& quiet more than anything else. If that makes me empathic, I’m ok with that.

  2. Eva Rami November 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    I believe I am an empath if not more because I often sense the danger before it happens even though I can’t define it or I know deep down that street or that person or that new house will be lots of trouble..
    It is good when good events happen but when it’s fear I know I will wait for bad news..It is a bless and a curse at the same time I think..
    Nice article…keep up the good work

  3. Julie November 19, 2016 at 2:59 am - Reply

    I most definitely fall into this category and before reading this article often wondered if I was just feeling others pain and bad vibes to avoid my own troubles. But I don’t think that’s the case. I believe I’m more than empathic. Yes it does cause me anxiety and I need my own space. But the plus side is that i truly feel at home with nature and the natural world and see beauty in what most people just take for granted great article thanks for sharing

  4. Jae November 25, 2016 at 8:26 am - Reply

    I didn’t know there is this thing call intuitive empath that would describe myself since I cannot remember when I started becoming like this. All that was mentioned above was real and true. I always have these experience. I though I was just introvert person not until I read about this article. True, people like “us” — being intuitive empaths are undergoing distress and frequent mood changes depends on the situation of the person we are interacting with. Especially I work as a nurse, and I noticed my colleagues feel different towards our patients. I don’t know if they care less or I just care more. Or they sympathize or I just empathize. Or they are too stressful to understand deeper the feelings of a patient. Or I just overfeel the feeling of a patient. I don’t know — but I am always exhausted everytime I over sense people. 😩

  5. Jeffrey December 16, 2016 at 10:37 am - Reply

    I have never understood how once you have felt pain you can inflict it upon another. I become physically ill when faced with the hurt of others. Causing deliberate harm to another whether emotional or physical for FUN is one of our cultures greatest deficits.

    • Rebecca April 23, 2017 at 3:30 am - Reply

      I become physically ill as well when I have to see others in pain.

  6. nightingle February 4, 2017 at 9:07 am - Reply

    That’s really me.

  7. Gennifer cseak April 17, 2017 at 5:09 am - Reply

    I’ve been like this my entire life. I am not sure if my native American Indian blood has something to do with why I’m this way. I feel things. Peoples emotions. If they mean me harm
    I freaked my aunt out. She was staying with me after my uncle had passed. I could feel she was truly upset over something. She tried to cover it up and act like nothing was wrong. I just asked her what was wrong she said nothing. I told her I could feel something was bothering her. She looked at me and said what do you mean by you can feel something is wrong. She is the only person I’ve told about my secret.

  8. Luigi Provencher April 22, 2017 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    I’m pretty sure that I’m an Empath, too but how do I find out for sure? Are there any tests that I can take online?

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What Is an Intuitive Empath and How to Recognize If You Are One