Are you a sensitive person? Do you empathize quickly, even with people you don’t know? And do you quickly feel whether someone is not feeling well? You have probably heard of high sensitivity and HSP, but the chances are that you are (also) an “ empath “. What exactly does this term mean?
What does it mean to be an empath?
When you’re an empath, you absorb other people’s emotions like an “emotional sponge,” explains Dr Judith Orloff, a pioneer in the field. She wrote the book ‘Living with high sensitivity – tips for the empathetic personality ‘.
In it, she describes that empaths don’t have the filters most people use to protect themselves. They cannot help but notice and absorb surrounding emotions and energies, whether those emotions are good, bad or somewhere in between.
Differences HSP and Empath
When you read this, you might think: hey, I recognize myself in this. But this also sounds a lot like high sensitivity. What is the difference between a High Sensitive Person (HSP) and an empath? The two are indeed very similar because many HSPs are also empaths. That doesn’t mean there aren’t differences.
HSPs are not only sensitive to emotions but also all kinds of other stimuli. Empathy is just one of the four traits that make someone HSP. According to Women’s Health, most empaths are highly sensitive, but not all HSPs are empaths.
Signs that you are an empath
Do you ask yourself if you are an empath? Then pay attention to these 10 signs.
You take over the emotions of others
You probably already noticed that the word “empath” is derived from “empathy”. That is the ability to understand and share the emotions of another. When a friend is grieving, you understand what she’s going through.
An empath takes empathy to the next level, as it were. You feel her grief and pain as if you were experiencing it yourself. This is not only in real life with friends and family but also in tragic or violent events on TV. As you understand, that can be pretty overwhelming.
You don’t like crowded places
If you can quickly feel how others feel, it becomes very overwhelming when you are in a crowded place. You hear, as it were, emotional noise, which you have to deal with. It is therefore only logical that empaths (consciously or unconsciously) avoid these places.
You like to help others
Because you experience emotions as if they are your own, you would inevitably like to help others with negative emotions. You have to be careful not to lose sight of yourself.
People come to you for their problems
Sensitive people with a lot of empathy are often great listeners. Friends and family often turn to you when they have problems. This is an honour, but here too, it is important that you set boundaries. Their “emotional dumps” also have a huge impact on how you feel.
Empaths love nature
Nature can boost everyone’s mental health, but empaths are even more attracted to the forest and the beach. It ensures that you can let go of the overstimulation of stimuli for a while.
You have a good intuition
Do you always have a strong gut feeling? Do you know when something is a good or bad idea? Or when someone lies? That’s a clear sign that you’re an empath. You can then pick up subtle signals that others don’t even notice.
Intimate relationships are overwhelming for you
Close contact is problematic for an empath because spending a lot of time with someone leads to stress. As an empath, it is also very easy to lose yourself in a relationship. This makes romantic relationships difficult.
Too much touching and conversations can make you overstimulated and make you need time alone. But when you let your partner know, you absorb the other person’s hurt feelings, which only makes you feel worse.
You need time alone to recharge
Empaths, especially as children, often feel isolated because others don’t seem to feel the same. In addition, it is often necessary to isolate oneself because contact with others can be overwhelming. They are, therefore, often introverted; they need time to recover their energy levels.
You hate conflict and quarrels
If you’re an empath, you probably hate conflict and actively avoid them. But being so sensitive makes it easy for someone else to hurt your feelings. Even superficial comments touch you deeply. You take criticism more personally than others.
When you argue, you experience the emotions of yourself and someone else. Even a small disagreement is, therefore, difficult for you.
You find it hard to set boundaries
As an empath, you find it difficult to set boundaries. You often help others at the expense of yourself. That’s also because you don’t know how to ‘turn off your skills. That is why your mental health needs to learn to step into an “observer “role.
It is important to get to know yourself (and your needs and pitfalls) well. Only then can you learn how to deal with it and make life easier for yourself.