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

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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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About the Author:

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.

42 Comments

  1. Tammy Blake May 13, 2018 at 12:36 am - Reply

    I am so blown away right now. I have felt all of these things my whole life and for some reason I was “told” to go searching online today when I woke up tired again. I finally understand SOOOO MUCH more about myself than I did just hours ago. And I am so thankful for all of your posts! It will make everything so much easier to understand and cope with now.
    Thank you all and good luck to you.

  2. Catherine May 16, 2018 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Yes! This has been me throughout my life…I’m overly sensitive and it cripples me with anxiety, I hate loud noises and feel really drained and awkward in large groups. All of these describe me, thank you for this ! 🙏❤️

  3. StevenNodlehs May 26, 2018 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    I came to terms with being a super-empath a number of years ago – mainly to cope with the pain the natural world is feeling because of the human race and its unnatural place on this planet.

    I no longer put myself in the human species – my only wish is for the collapse of mankind, the planet will heal and like a forest fire, we will be reborn, back in equilibrium again, free of the anthropocentric effects of man.

    Oh could you imagine the peace?!?

  4. michelle a schlund June 2, 2018 at 3:16 am - Reply

    I believe I am an intuitive empath, introvert all of my life (54y.o.) which has always made me feel like an outsider, different. anxiety,depression, panic attacks, judgement from others, always told I am “too sensitive” or “too emotional”, yet they are more than happy to pour their hearts out to me, as a “free therapist” I always prefer to be alone , with my own thoughts than in a crowd- noise, and superficial chit chat, easily sends me running home to my “nest”

  5. Natalie Miller June 2, 2018 at 5:13 am - Reply

    I am so glad I found this! I have always wondered why I can’t seem to get a normal amount of sleep and be well rested. People I barely know will come to me with super personal problems and I somehow feel like they just put all there emotions and anxiety on me and I just keep it. I’m I cry almost every night for almost absolutely no reason. The only reason I can think of is that I just need to so I can unload all of the emotions I have taken in trough out the day.
    This explains so much

  6. Tuey Roberts June 21, 2018 at 3:00 am - Reply

    It’s hard for me to watch embarrassing, tense or confrontational situations. I’ll change the channel quickly if simple examples of these are shown on tv. Everyone else in school would run toward a fight at school, but if run the other way. Violence toward others, specifically their crying is absolutely terrifying. All this, and I’m a freakishly fantastic fighter. Finally, this world lacks the ability to love, and it makes me physically weak/sick. I’m not tolerant because I’m to feeble to be assertive, rather I celebrate others right to be themselves.

  7. Sue Hill June 29, 2018 at 4:57 am - Reply

    Of late, I have been incessantly exhausted, but I didn’t put much thought that it could be due to my empathic nature. Many years ago I stopped watching/listening to and reading the news. It makes me a very ignorant person in regards to whats going on, but not knowing about the atrocities in the world helps keep me sane. The old phrase ” ignorance is bliss ” speaks to me so well. All my life, people would tell me that I’m too sensitive or I take things too personally. I could never understand why people think it is hysterical to watch slapstick comedy or video shows of others falling or otherwise getting hurt. When they laugh, I cringe. No wonder i have depression and anxiety that seems incurable by psychotropic medication. There is no cure for being an empath.

  8. Karen July 10, 2018 at 4:13 am - Reply

    Wow! No wonder I’m called crazy weird not normal. I’m a mess.

  9. Yomi July 22, 2018 at 8:22 am - Reply

    I was told I was an empath by my yoga instructor. I had never heard the term “empath” before. I quickly cam home and looked it up and was completely blown away.

  10. Iezzi August 4, 2018 at 1:46 am - Reply

    Empaths, I highly recommend learning how to meditate and how to ground yourself. Learn shielding exercises to protect yourselves. Learn the differences between narcissists (male and female) and empaths and how to recognize them. Stay safe and protect yourselves.
    Peace.

  11. Anna September 29, 2018 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    This is me to a tee. All my life I thought these traits somehow labeled me as different, odd, over sensitive. anti-social and so on. Thank you for your detailed article!

  12. KJ September 30, 2018 at 8:59 am - Reply

    I’m glad I found this site, feels like reading about myself! What professions could suit an empath?

  13. Bruce October 15, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    I was raised by an abusive narcissist who beat my Mother, my Brother and me. He stopped beating me when I was six because I stopped crying. Instead he concentrated on my Mom and Brother. I have been an empath for as long as I can remember, although I had not heard the term empath until about 20 years ago. As much as my Father lacks in compassion, I am supercharged with it. People have always confided in me die to my ability to make them more at ease in their grief, Dottie or other troubles. I’ve found that I have to limit my emotional interaction with others who overwhelm me emotionally. Although it’s great to be able to truly emphasize with others this is not always a gift. Keeping myself emotionally grounded requires a lot of time being just by myself and using distractions such as hobbies to help me cope.

  14. Kimberly October 18, 2018 at 5:58 am - Reply

    Now I understand … the past 5years have been a huge evolution of finally understanding what I thought was “wrong” with me … as a child, everything made me “cry” … super sensitive … Move forward 50 years and it’s now making sense… I (either) “feel” things about a person …. or “know” things about a person without them saying a word … sometimes a person walks into a room and I will “bristle” (a shiver comes over me) … the energy is soo overpowering (negative) I have to walk away! I’ve gently learned to “pluck” out the negatives in my life (huge survival skill) and ONLY surround myself with positive energy (people) … it’s OK to give Empathically to positive people … but the negatives will suck you dry — learn the difference … I worked for a psychologist and clients would confess/share very tragic/abusive/sad details about their lives … once home, I would need to lay down, meditate “remove/purge” everything from my day before I could cook/care for my family … it was emotionally exhausting… I’ve learned how to achieve a better balance now by working from home and also by not making eye contact when I fell negative energy walk through the door … some people just refuse to help themselves (and like to point fingers at others in an effort to deflect attention from themselves) … … … when faced with an unavoidable crowd (weddings, reunions, large get togethers) I always need to “nap” to clear my mind and “refresh” before dealing with what may come my way, energy wise!!

  15. D.woods November 5, 2018 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Excellent..

  16. Karen November 14, 2018 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article I have been on a journey of trying to figure this out for years. Years ago, I was leaving for lunch with a co-worker when another said, “Be careful when you go with her. Strange things always happen.” I never thought about it until years later when my pastor was doing a sermon that I could feel in my bones. He was so emotional and in so much pain that I began crying and couldn’t stop. How could I know that? Why didn’t anyone else feel it? And yes, I always know when someone is not being truthful. Too many instances of just knowing and feeling that have been accurate. Complete strangers often tell me things and feel comfortable doing it. I have learned that if I am in a hurry to not make eye contact. My daughter and husband sometimes refuse to go shopping with me and my son (he is just like me). We both do our best to just go with it!

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