Empath Definition: Discover what It Means To Be An Empath?

If you have ever wondered “Am I An Empath?” this post offers you our definition and what it may mean for you and your life! Get the information you need, the Empath definition.

This post offers you our definition and what it may mean for you and your life. The term “empath” is often misused and little understood. They are hyper-sensitive to the emotions and emotional states of others. Life can be tricky for empaths, but for those who are unaware or never try to understand their nature, it can be truly difficult, bordering disastrous.

By the end of this post you will have a full understanding, not only of the empath definition, but also the common traits, triggers and characteristics.

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who is an empath?

The urban dictionary definition states:

A person who is capable of feeling the emotions of others despite the fact that they themselves are not going through the same situation. 

Urban Dictionary

Dictionary.com’s definition is:

A person who has a particular tendency or ability to enter into or psychologically identify with the emotions, thoughts, or attitudes of others: 

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what does it mean to be an empath?

If you are looking for answers about empaths this post provides all the information you need to know. It offers invaluable insights and evidence that you can use to determine if you, or someone else, personality would match the empath definition.

You can also take our quiz to find out! We have one at the end of this post! We provide you with a list of common traits and characteristics, as well as triggers that may indicate if you are one or not. Understanding your empathic nature can be a game-changer in navigating your life and relationships. You can take it as an online quiz, or if you prefer to do it as a paper exercise, we have included the questions, answer choices and assessment score cards. This assessment is used clinically and is modelled on the Empathy Quotient (EQ). Don’t miss out on discovering what it means to be an empath and how it can impact your daily experiences.

1. Emotional Energy Shifts And Transfer

If you are an empath you will be affected and influenced by other peoples desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. And at times without you even knowing. This is much more than being a sensitive person. It is more than just being able to understand the emotional state of others. It means you have the ability to perceive and actually experience the emotions, mental state and spiritual urges of others. If intuitive you will also sense and know the unspoken motivations and intentions of others.

The main trait of all Empaths is an ability to absorb, shift and transfer emotional energy. You feel and sense the exact emotion of those around you. And may start to reflect them as if they are your own. You absorb emotions in the same way a sponge absorbs water. This is known as energy transfer, and means you can share positive emotion and absorb negative. This is why other people tend to track you down when they want to discuss emotional matters.

When comforting others, you transfer your positive and loving energy to whoever you are consoling. This results in the person you comforted feeling much better, gaining relief and finding emotional balance. However you need to be careful. Too much sharing can lead you to become drained and will leave you physically and psychically weakened.

It is important that you remain aware of the way you transfer energy, and start to set boundaries. Otherwise you will be constantly affected by others emotions. Once aware you will have much more control. You will understand your ability and why you are feeling and perceiving the emotions of others. You will also understand why emotions are having such an impact on you.

2. Lessons, Traits and Personalities – what is an empath disorder

Don’t panic, its not a disorder as we know it, this term simply means being an empath is hard wired into your DNA. You are one. And always will be. Others can not learn how to become one, just as you cannot stop being one. This can make life a difficult journey.

One of the first lessons that you need to learn is how to “feel you”. This might sound strange but you may have a hard time emotionally until you can recognize which feelings are yours, and which feelings and emotions belong to others. This is critical! Because you constantly sense, feel and absorb the emotions of those close by you need to know which is which. This allows you to know which you need to address, and which need to be released.

You will also have an innate desire to help, whether that’s to heal or to soothe others. This instinct is powerful. You may find that you have offered assistance even knowing that it poses a risk to you, physically or emotionally. A part of learning how to feel means you need to place your own needs, wishes and desires at the front of your thoughts. Not at the back.

When you take on the emotions of others you can develop an imbalance of energy. It may lead to your natural flow becoming blocked. Blocks are caused by an imbalance within the chakras and subtle bodies . If you want to know how to balance your energy centers you can read our chakra guide. Imbalance and energy blockages will usually manifest as emotional or physical symptoms. You may find you fall ill more often. Or you may struggle with tiredness and fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, and even develop stress or anxiety.

If left unchecked this can lead to developing depression. These emotional and physical symptoms do not mean your lifestyle is wrong, or that the foods you eat are unhealthy. Your personal health is being affected because of the negative emotions you have unwittingly taken from others. Simply put, if you continue to absorb from others you are getting all of their “emotional baggage”. You need to make sure you take time to replenish your reserves and take time to experience what it is like to just feel you! You should also learn how to clear your aura and chakras from no longer wanted or needed energy.

an empath definition and meaning

As an empath you are probably known for being an achiever. Most often quietly achieving while giving the credit to others. You likely do not like public praise or compliments. If you do receive praise it probably embarrasses you and so you will point out the positive attributes and qualities of someone else. You probably don’t ever get the chance to talk about your own feelings. This is because the people you tend to associate with, don’t ask about your feelings. They are too busy talkin about theirs and draining you in the process.

However underneath the mysterious, quiet exterior you show the world you are likely to be highly expressive. And if you are asked to discuss things that you care about, or that move you emotionally, you will captivate others with your intense fire and passion. You will be known for being very open about the aspects in life you feel deeply about, and always honest. Sometimes brutally honest.

Some empaths remain unaware they are one for years, and for some their entire life. For those people the above is probably not true. They may display behaviors that are the polar opposite of what is normally expected. Some will become reclusive, finding it easier to keep away from people and the emotions that being around others bring. Others may be see this as them being aloof, ignorant or unresponsive. 

Reclusiveness is not a natural part of an empaths nature. It is however a normal an understandable reaction for anyone who is struggling to cope with the constant barrage of emotions and feelings being absorbed from others.  It is also understandable for those who are still trying to uncover which feelings and emotions are their own and those which are not. At times isolation is a necessary self-imposed form of protection.

3. External signs You’re an empath

Signs of being an empath will include the tendency to focus on others emotions rather than your own. This means you will often take on the role of peacemaker and are constantly looking for people who need to be soothed and calmed. Being highly sensitive you will be non-violent, non-aggressive and dislike tense emotional situations. Confrontation is not natural to you and probably makes you highly uncomfortable. The problem is that you will try to settle any dispute you find yourself in quickly, even if it means sacrificing your own beliefs and needs.

At times you will not have the patience of a saint. The problem is on those rare occasions that you do lose control, or speak harshly after a few minutes your natural instincts kick in. You realize you have hurt someone feelings and you start feeling guilty. And then the resolver empath arrives, and this side of your personality means you need to resolve the situation.

The problem is because you feel so bad about upsetting someone else, you try to resolve the issue almost immediately. For others this is confusing. Your sudden change of attitude seems strange or suspicious. And because you don’t behave like anyone else you will push on with your apology. This often makes things worse and often the other party will not accept the apology offered. You need to learn that most people don’t want to resolve an issue immediately, they need time to think and to deescalate.

You on the other hand, will continue to beat yourself up. Whether the argument or conflict was your fault or someone else no longer matters. You will focus purely on the fact you caused someone else emotional pain and resent yourself for your actions. You will most likely continue to mentally self punish yourself until you are assured that you are forgiven.

4. Emotional Release And Empaths.

When you are constantly absorbing the emotions of others you can sometimes start to express them as your own. This can be resolved if you understand why. However for those who are unaware of their empathic nature this can be very confusing. Imagine how it must feel to suddenly be overcome with desperate sadness. You know that there is no good reason for these feelings, yet they are real and you do feel it, deeply. This can lead to anxiety, because you are not sure if the emotion you are feeling is real or “it’s all in your head.”

When this is the case it can lead them to shut down, and not express any emotion at all. When emotion is bottled up and not expressed it makes matters worse. It prevents you from learning and understanding how to recognize your own feelings and thoughts, and your development and life stagnates.

This is a major lesson. You must learn not to be an emotional mirror. It is crucial that, rather than ignore emotion, you focus on ways to recognize which are yours and which are not. You need to practice releasing emotions that do not belong to you and to start expressing your own. You need to consciously test that what you express is what you feel and stop reflecting or mirroring those of others.

When you do this you will gain a greater sense of peace and deeper understanding of your empathic nature. This is a critical step in your personal development. Another key lesson is you accept that withholding your own emotion is detrimental to your health. The longer that your thoughts and emotions remain contained and bottled up without being expressed, the more damaging they can become. These trapped thoughts and bottled up emotions can make your normally peace loving personality a thing of the past and turn you into an emotionally explosive, ticking timebomb.

Empaths must learn, that it is Ok and actually necessary to express your emotions openly and honestly. This is a form of self healing. It enables your energy to flow naturally throughout your body. When you avoid expressing your emotions it becomes mentally crippling and can lead to emotional instability. It can also lead to physical illness and disease.

5. The Struggles and Challenges Empaths Encounter

The life of an empath is a challenging one. Because you feel so deeply you will find it impossible to understand or abide seeing physical or emotional pain being inflicted upon others (adults, children animals etc.) You will struggle to comprehend cruelty in any form. Even watching scenes of violence or disaster on the television news and broadcasts may cause severe emotional reactions. When you do see these things occur, it may bring you to tears and can even cause you to experience physical symptoms similar to nausea..

Because an empath cannot understand or accept the suffering they see and feel when pain is inflicted upon others it often leads them to work with animals, people or in jobs that relate to the natural world.  They are often recognized for the devotion and dedication shown to helping those they work with, and work for.

You will deep down ne an incurable romantic, believing in fairytale like love, romance and commitment. You are likely to be a naturally gentle soul with an excellent imagination, inquisitive mind and a love of learning.  You will be a natural storyteller and likely to be the person in your family that will listen to others and pass along the stories of your ancestors.

6. Music And Its Impact On Empaths

Music however can play havoc with your emotional state, even though you probably love music. It likely that you listen to a wide range of music and have difficulty answering when someone asks you what your favorite genre or song is. That’s because you probably like it all. Your choice in music will be driven by your subconscious, it will need to match your current feelings and how you wish to express yourself at the time. Others cannot comprehend how you can be listening to classical Beethoven one minute, and then Heavy Metal the next. For you, the music must match the mood!

Lyrics within a song, especially if they remind you of a prior experience, can have very powerful and often extreme impact. Lyrics of lost love and emotional pain can cripple empaths. You may become lost in music, almost to a trance like state. Its like you become one with the music. You are highly expressive with your body language and movement, and likely have a love of gesturing, body movement, dance and acting. You need to practice being as expressive with your words, thoughts and feelings.

You will find people and animals are naturally drawn to you. This is due to your genuine warmth, compassion and love. People find it very easy to speak to an empath, even complete strangers. The people who you find connecting with you will find themselves talking about the most personal of things. They will pour out their heart and soul to you, without consciously intending to do so. Subconsciously they are aware that you will listen to them with compassionate understanding.

You are a listener of life. This doesn’t make you bland and doesn’t mean you have nothing to say. It means you know when to listen and when to speak. You probably have a very dramatic personality and a distinct unique style. When your energy is balanced and you have learnt to be aware of your emotions you will be the life and soul of the party, humorous, outgoing, enthusiastic and positively optimistic. You will be a joy to be around and others will love your quirky, and at times, irreverent humor.

an empath definition and shadow traits
empath definition

7. The Darker Side Of The Empath.

Empaths who have not learnt to understand and express their own feelings and emotions can display some very dark shadow traits. One of these is that you may find you are subject to terrible mood swings. This alienates others and drives people away.

The thoughts and feelings you absorb from others can be so overwhelming, if they are not understood, that your mood can fluctuate with lightning speed. One moment you will be delightfully happy and the next completely miserable.

When an Empath feels abandoned, especially in the midst of mood swing, it can be incredibly detrimental to their emotional health and self esteem. You could never contemplate abandoning someone in need, and are likely to blame yourself for the other person leaving you. This can compound matters and make things worse. It becomes even more unlikely that you express your emotions.

You need to learn to give to yourself what you so happily provide others. Comfort, love and caring without bias, judgment or condemnation. For those who live with, or have close friendships with, an empath it is important to remember that they may not understand what is occurring within them emotionally at the time. They may have no idea that they have absorbed, and are now reflecting, the emotions and feelings of someone else.

In this situation you are likely to be just as confused about your mood swings and changes in emotion. You will equally question how one moment all is well, and the next, you feel so depressed and alone. Sadly this is why so many empaths end up being incorrectly diagnosed with mental health issues and why so many in the medical profession cannot understand why they are unresponsive to prescribed pharmaceuticals and antidepressants.

These drugs may mask feelings but they do not stop you being an empath. To make progress and live a happy and fulfilled life you must learn to understand your connection to emotions and those of others. Often once you gain this understanding you will find that it is enough ad you can more easily control your mood.

8. thriving as an empath.

Once you have learnt to recognize your own emotion, you can thrive and will truly come into your own. You are a born problem solver. You believe that where there is a problem there is always an answer. And you will, often to the annoyance of others, search until you find that answer. This is usually to bring you peace of mind, particularly if you feel you have caused a problem.

Your continual search for answers works to your benefit in both your relationships and in your professional life. You are seen as a person who always comes up with an answer or solution. You live by the motto, “Where there is a will, there is a way”. If there is a way you will find it. What drives your need for finding answers is your potential for highly developed intuition and accessing Universal Knowledge.

As an empath you are naturally receptive. While you may be unaware of, or may not even believe in, universal knowledge and guidance you subconsciously are a receiver of it. It is this insight that you use when seeking answers and solving problems.

Vivid and Lucid dreaming is usually common. You are likely to have highly vivid and detailed dreams and probably spend time trying to interpret them. You will often feel, and not necessarily know why, that your dreams are a reflection or a link to your current emotional state. You don’t accept that dreams are a mere jumble of irrelevant and meaningless images.

As well as night time dreamers you are probably a vivid and detailed daydreamer also. If an interesting thought or concept enters your thoughts you will spend large amounts of time exploring this in a daydream state. In the same manner, if you get bored and what you are engaged in is not stimulating you will find yourself detached and swept away by more exciting daydreaming.

To others this may come across as you being detached. In reality you are just off somewhere, in your own little world, exploring your thoughts and living them as vividly as if they were reality itself. However if the situation changes with a person or subject appearing that arouses your interest or stirs your emotions you will be alert and receptive, even when lost in a daydream. You are a captive audience if a subject reminds you of a lived or shared experience. If it is also intellectually challenging an empath will become focused 100% and fully engaged.

It is likely that you frequently experience déjà vu and are likely to have had some form of paranormal experience, possibly many throughout your life. Empaths are likely to be among those who have OBE (out of body experiences) through astral projection and they are usually highly intuitive. When aware of your empathic nature you will embrace the paranormal experiences and this is likely to trigger your interest in developing your psychic perception and spirituality.

Now you have all the information do you still think you may be an empath? If so, below you will find the assessment, along with the paper based version. Remember to let us know your result!

9. Take The Empath Definition Assessment

Empathic Self-Assessment

Question 1 – Have you ever been told you are too sensitive or shy?

  1. No, the opposite.
  2. Very rarely.
  3. Maybe once or twice.
  4. Occasionally
  5. Often.

Question 2 – Do you often become overwhelmed or anxious?

  1. Almost Never.
  2. Rarely.
  3. Occasionally.
  4. Sometimes.
  5. Very Frequently.

Question 3 – How do you feel when you or those around you argue or yell?

  1. I’m usually the one who starts. I love a good argument.
  2. Fine at the time, not great after.
  3. I prefer not to argue but I know it happens occasionally.
  4. I don’t like it and tend to just give in or leave.
  5. I feel physically ill and shut down

Question 4 – Do you feel comfortable in the world and feel that you fit in?

  1. Absolutely
  2. Nearly all of the time
  3. More often than not.
  4. Usually, but struggle some days.
  5. I usually feel I don’t fit in

Question 5 – Are you drained by crowds or need a lot of alone time to revive yourself?

  1. Never, I am the crowd and love to party
  2. Nope, I like being social
  3. On occasion.
  4. Sometimes.
  5. Absolutely, all the time

Question 6 – How do you feel around noise, odors, or non-stop talkers?

  1. Lol, I am the noise
  2. I’m fine with it
  3. I’m fine with it most of the time.
  4. Depends on the day and the situation.
  5. I am hyper sensitive to all of them

Question 7 – Do you have chemical sensitivities or are sensitive to scratchy clothes?

  1. None that I know of
  2. None that I know of
  3. On rare occasions.
  4. Sometimes.
  5. Yes

Question 8 – When you go out do you take your own car or happily share a ride?

  1. I take my car and pick up everyone on route
  2. Usually share
  3. Depends on the occasion.
  4. Tend to make my own way, but am flexible
  5. Travel by myself so I can leave early

Question 9 – Do you get anxious or stressed and then over-eat?

  1. No
  2. Very rarely
  3. On occasion.
  4. Sometimes.
  5. Often

Question 10 – How do you feel about intimate relationships?

  1. Love them, all of them
  2. I enjoy them.
  3. I enjoy being in a relationship.
  4. I take it slow and build up.
  5. I feel suffocated.

Question 11 – Are you more city or more country?

  1. City for me.
  2. Mostly a city person.
  3. Happy in either.
  4. Like the country but not all the time.
  5. Country for me.

Question 12 – How do you replenish yourself?

  1. Friends, family, night on the town.
  2. Spa with a bunch of friends.
  3. Chill night at home with the extended family.
  4. Alone time for me and my partner.
  5. I take time to myself and dream.

Question 13 – How do you feel about crowds of people?

  1. They invigorate me.
  2. Mostly fine.
  3. Depends on the reason for the crowd and my state of mind.
  4. Not a huge crown fan.
  5. They exhaust me.

Question 14 – How do people share emotionally with you?

  1. We all talk about my feelings all the time.
  2. I share and listen, mostly share.
  3. I share and listen.
  4. I’m more of a listener. And I like that.
  5. People seek me out to tell me how they feel, I always listen but it can be exhausting.

Question 15 – How do you make decisions or judgements

  1. I think things through, do research and talk with others.
  2. I speak to a few close friends and think it through.
  3. I think about it and then decide.
  4. I usually can make a decision straight away
  5. Gut instinct, I make my decisions immediately.

Question 16 – What impact does music have on you?

  1. It’s always about the party and makes me feel like dancing
  2. I love to listen to my playlists, it helps me chill.
  3. It depends on my mood.
  4. I like music to center and balance me
  5. I avoid highly emotional music as I get caught up in the lyrics and meaning.

Question 17 – Are you a tactile touchy person?

  1. I’m a hugger, and hug everyone, touch is the way I express how I feel about people
  2. I am fine with hugs from people I know.
  3. Depends on who and when and why.
  4. I’m more of a smile and wave, hugs are for very close friends
  5. I avoid hugs, and prefer people not to invade my personal space.

Question 18 – Are you a sharer?

  1. I share everything, that’s me, people love it
  2. I share, but mostly with known friends and family.
  3. Depends on who and when and why.
  4. I probably listen more than I share.
  5. I can share, but I am cautious about who I share with.

Results . What did you score?

For each answer you gave take the associated number (1 – 5) and add them up to find your total.

If you scored 80- 90 you are a true Empath (and probably either knew that or had a feeling about it)

Scores 70 – 79, you may well be an Empath, but may need to do some learning about yourself and possible indicators

Scores below 70. You are no doubt loving and sensitive, but are not what would be defined Empath.

I hope this post has helped you discover the empath definition and if you are one. If you wish to know more I recommend the next chapter in our common traits guide.

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Educator and International Leadership Consultant with over 20 years experience, and still loving it! Qualified and Licensed Reiki Master Teacher, Hypnotherapist and Chakra Energy Health Body Worker. A traveler, a foodie and a knowledge seeker with a passion for all things healthy, herbal and energy holistic!

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