Calling all sensitive souls: are you prone to sensory overload, experience discomfort with large crowds and fight the overwhelming urge to spend hours, if not days, completely and utterly alone? These are all signs that you might actually be an empath.
The literal definition, however, has an almost psychic element to it. Essentially, an empath is someone with an uncanny ability to recognize the mental and/or emotional state of another individual. Not only that, an empath might take on some of that mental anguish as their own. Some psychologists might trace it back to previous traumas or unique neural pathways, but in essence it’s a heightened level of sensitivity to the plight of others.
So, if you find yourself wallowing under the covers wrapped up in the angst of others, you just might be an empath. We break down 10 of the most common signs that will help you reach a verdict.
See also: 10 tips for coping with social anxiety.
People tend to confide in you
We all like to think of ourselves as caring, trustworthy friends, but upon reflection have you noticed that a lot of people in your life — and maybe even strangers — have the tendency to reach out to you for support? If you find yourself to be the keeper of many (many) secrets, this could be a sign you’re an empath.
Because empaths are highly intuitive, many people pick up on that energy and turn to them in times of need. While it can certainly be touching and flattering to be so highly regarded, empaths should keep in mind how essential it is to their own self-care that they don’t fall down the proverbial rabbit hole and absorb too many emotions. There are even some who might take advantage of an empaths empathy, resulting in a lack of respect for ones boundaries.
If you find yourself drained by certain conversations, consider reevaluating how much time and energy you spend on helping them work through a problem. As hard as it might be to walk away sometimes, empaths need to prioritize themselves and set aside time to recharge.
See also: 10 signs you need to be a better friend.
You need a lot of alone time
Speaking of setting time aside to recharge, it’s an inherent desire in most empaths to be alone for prolonged periods of time. It make sense, though: if you’re spending an inordinate amount of time helping others and taking on their emotional energy, you’re probably craving a little TLC yourself. This is because empaths are highly-sensitive people with reactive nervous systems who quickly become overwhelmed by the needs, desires and emotions of others.
Alone time can include taking a day off work, unplugging from social media or bingeing a favourite TV show. If this is something you do (or crave) frequently, it could be a sign that you’re an empath.
You find comfort in nature
Think: forest bathing times 1,000. Many empaths love nature, absorbing the healing sights and sounds through long walks or bike rides. It’s the perfect way to step away from everyday responsibilities and the grievances of others. After all, there are few things more healing than peace and quiet to reflect.
You have a hard time not caring
Even if a situation doesn’t directly relate to you in any way, you struggle to turn your mind off. That’s because empaths care — a lot. Whether it’s something going on in the life of your friend or something you saw on the news, do you find yourself consumed (and even exhausted by) all your feelings? This might mean you’re an empath.
We all hang on to cringeworthy moments in our lives or disparaging remarks directed at us, but empaths cling to these things a hundred time over and replay them in their minds. Even the smallest disagreement with a coworker can send an empath into a tailspin for days, if not weeks.
You feel like you don’t always fit in
Even when you’re surrounded by loved ones, do you often feel a bit of a disconnect? That’s because empaths tend to feel as though they’re always one step behind the crowd — an outsider who doesn’t quite fit in the world. Although they’re picking up on (and processing) the emotional pain of others, empaths may find themselves wondering why they still can’t connect with someone on a deeper level.
It’s believed that, because the empath takes on so many emotions, they tend to neglect their own. As a result, they never feel entirely rooted in this world. Empaths tend to struggle with 9-to-5 jobs, homesickness and structure, while embracing experiences over money and creativity over a the average career.
Related: How to survive a job layoff in 2021.
You’re prone to sensory and emotional overload
There can be a lot of emotional “noise” when you’re an empath. In many cases, highly-sensitive individuals may find themselves overstimulated to the point that they turn their back on the world (hence that inherent pull towards spending time alone). So, does this sound like you?
The only way to combat the issue, in this case, would be to set up healthy boundaries with the people in your life. Therapy sessions, guided meditation and redesigning your living space for a more Zen vibe are all ways you can go about reworking your boundaries so that they feel right for you. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first for once.
You really, really love babies and/or animals
Sure, lots of people love babies and pets, but if find you’re drawn to them more than the average person (to the point where you’re devastated when they’re not happy), this could be another sign that you’re an empath. For many, the pull to help others and ability to absorb feelings isn’t restricted to adults — it easily extends to kids and furry friends.
In some cases, babies and animals could even be a welcome reprieve for an empath who is typically more overwhelmed by the complex emotional anguishes associated with adults.
Large crowds throw you off
Picture this: you’re at a concert with hundreds, if not thousands, of other people. Instead of enjoying yourself in the moment, you find yourself overwhelmed by the chaotic vibe and various energies you’re reading off of everyone around you. Everything is loud — the show, the venue and everyone’s emotions. It can be a lot, and that’s OK.
If this sounds like you, it could be yet another sign. Large crowds often leave empaths drained, sad, anxious and riddled with muscle tension and headaches. Instead of enjoying the moment, they experience burnout.
See also: 12 natural remedies to help relieve anxiety.
You’re highly intuitive
Many highly-sensitive people are also intuitive — not only to their own feelings, but the feelings of others. They can read the energy of a room almost instantly. In fact, there are intuitive empaths that have an even higher degree of intuition than average. In these cases, you might be able to not only see and understand their feelings, but will also catch a glimpse of the reasons behind the actions of others. This ability to take a step back and look at things with a broad perspective allows empaths to find the links between cause and effect.
As a result, you not only become a confidant to many who respect and appreciate your viewpoint on their situation, but you could even have (or want) a career in counselling or psychotherapy.
You go out of the way to help others
Do you feel a sense of obligation or guilt when you say “no” to someone? This could be one of the most important signs that you’re an empath — but it’s also imperative that you set your own boundaries. Fact: you can’t help everyone. And you certainly can’t do it all the time. Even the most guilt-ridden of intuitive empaths need to take a time-out for themselves to recharge, even if that means saying no to another person in need of some TLC.
Just remind yourself that you are also in need to love and care, and prioritize yourself without the guilt.