Before we get started, I do feel the need to point out that there is a difference between being empathetic and being an Empath.
Pretty much everyone is empathic to a certain degree, because welcome to being human. This being said, very few of us are so sensitive that they’re considered Empaths. More than that, Empathicalism can also be a huge fucking problem unless you know how to deal with it.
Empaths are basically those who feel what others are feeling. Within this, we have two main variations: Physical Empaths and emotional, psychic or intuitive Empaths.
If you think I sound crazy right now, there’s actually research behind this:
So I’m not going to go all scientific on you guys, but basically there’s an underlying cause of sensitivity that is the result of autonomic nerve dysfunction, or as the fancy science people call it: a Central Nervous System Sensitisation.
Some say that exhausted cortisol (the stress hormone) triggers these coping mechanisms and reactions by taxing our nervous system.
Dramatic, I know.
So if you’re an Empath or HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), that means you’re born with this sensitivity which means you grow up unconsciously absorbing all of the fucked up energy that goes on around you. Not only are you more susceptible to emotions but you also respond differently to the energy of environments as well as the substances you intake.
So yes, that friend of yours who’s not allergic to anything yet “intolerant” to literally everything, might just be an Empath.
Here are some of the major signs that you’re an Empath or HSP.
You get overwhelmed in public
The main reason Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are at higher risk of being diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder is because of the overwhelming feeling that arises when being confronted by large groups of people.
Obviously it’s difficult for an individual to differentiate Social Anxiety and Empathicalism, as they share many of the same symptoms, but trust me there is actually a difference.
The biggest difference is that Empaths will feel any emotion, to an overwhelming extent, while those suffering from Social Anxiety will continuously experience purely negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety.
If an empath is to enter a room where everyone is in a comfortable state then they will in theory end up with an overwhelming sense of comfort.
The problem, however, is that most groups of people will not share the same emotion, so empaths will usually end up with a mix of many different ones which they, in turn, cannot distinguish from each other and end up being interpreted as simply “overwhelming” and subsequently exhausting.
People have a natural tendency to open up to you
…even when other people’s shit is the last thing you want to deal with.
As an Empath, you’ll often just want to be alone due to the difficulty of processing everything you’re absorbing from your environments and the people around you, yet people will often feel instinctively drawn to you because they’re seeking compassion and empathy.
Then you’ll be the one stuck with feeling better because you’re making a positive difference, yet worse because you’re fucking exhausted.
I know, it sucks.
You have a healing and restorative effect on people
If you’re an Empath, chances are you have what we call “the ability to heal”. Yes, even physically. It’s similar to the concepts of Reiki and other alternative medicines, but not quite.
For you it’s going to be more instinctive, but usually by drawing out the pain from someone and accepting it into your own body.
This can be emotional pain, psychological pain or physical pain.
Ever had a friend who’s been devastated over something happening in her life, you’ve helped her through it only to end up overwhelmed by devastation yourself?
Yah, welcome to Empathicalism.
Note: The practice of healing people is not recommended for obvious reasons, unless you know how to release the energy you’re taking in and keep yourself from becoming sick.
You feel compelled to help people, no matter what they’ve done to you
As an Empath, it’s extremely difficult for you to stay away from the toxic people in your life, and it’s in turn, extremely easy for people to take advantage of you. Narcissistic, self-centered and selfish people are particularly attracted to you because you continue to cover their needs in terms of attention and understanding, and you’re not exactly one to blurt out judgemental comments.
You’ll often find yourself in the situation of connecting with strangers on the street, unable to walk away, yet frustrated over the fact that you can’t seem to make a meaningful difference in their lives. You have a tendency to give away more than you should, knowing it won’t be enough, which can be exhausting in itself.
Then there will also be the people in your life who can bully, harass and lie to you, yet as soon as they mention something difficult they’re going through, you’ll be the idiot running back to help, hoping that it’s an explanation for their behavior.
Note: Empaths will often be met with an acceptance that other people don’t. Those who usually react defensively to strangers will feel different and accept Empaths with open arms, which is why you’ll end up making a strong impact on them before you even begin talking.
You know what people really mean
Have you always been able to tell when people are lying?
More than that, do you always have a strong sense of why they’re lying?
Whenever Empaths are met with lies, they will usually have a strong sense of the underlying intention. But because of their equally strong need to keep the peace at all times, they’ll rarely point it out or confront the person, instead choosing to make a mental note of the intent and acting accordingly.
This probably sounds like a great ability to have when it comes to strangers or old men offering drinks at the bar, but it can definitely become a problem when it comes to friendships.
As an Empath can be exhausting to listen to a friend lie and know there’s a good intent behind it, due to their constant need to get involved and help. This situation can quickly become a source of worry and concern that they’ll often internalize and ruminate on for days and weeks until the truth eventually comes out, at which point they can try to offer help again.
Note: This is not a matter of heightened intuition or a gut feeling, this is a matter of knowing, and it’s pretty much impossible for you to ignore.
Physically experiencing other people’s symptoms
Ok, this one is by far the worst.
Obviously it’s awkward to tell you friend to stop treating herself like shit because you feel like shit, but it is what it is.
When you have a deep connection with someone, the chances of physically experiencing their symptoms will be stronger, but it can happen to anyone depending on how sensitive you are.
As an example, I began working in the same office as one of my close friends last year, and ended up having to deal with her migraines for three months until I moved onto another job.
She, however, has been dealing with it her entire life and would always call in sick, but this time she made the “fantastic” decision of just working through it instead.
After months of doctors appointments with no results, I quit the job and the migraines went away. Ugh.
The physical symptoms will often manifest in the form of chest pains, cramps, migraines or just general exhaustion and fatigue.
So obviously there are many more signs of being an Empath or HSP, but these are definitely the major ones. I’d also like to note that, as with any sensitivity, it is a spectrum, and no two Empaths are the exact same.
But if you feel like the majority of these points relate to you, then there’s a good chance you are one.