I can’t pinpoint when exactly I started realizing that the emotions I was experiencing weren’t always my own. I thought it was normal to be happy when others were happy, and sad when others were, too. It is of course, to an extent, but more and more I was feeling like I felt others’ emotions more than my own. Sometimes when I was truly sad, I couldn’t help but be in a good mood when I was with someone who was experiencing joy. Whenever someone felt a little uncomfortable or nervous, I immediately felt it too. This was something that I never paid too much attention to and would put off until I eventually couldn’t.
In college, I became more aware of each time it was happening, but couldn’t really put a name on it. When my friends would be excited about something I would automatically be in a good mood and happy. On the flip side, my roommate was always very anxious and negative about everything. After living with them for 2 years, I started to become super anxious about things I normally never would have. Little things were stressing me out that wouldn’t have in the past, and I was experiencing slightly depressive behaviors. I was picking up on all of the moods and actions that my roommate projected. As a usually very confident and relaxed person, I knew this wasn’t me, and for my mental health decided to eventually move out. After a couple of months, I felt like myself again.
Another time, almost a year ago, I was sitting with my best friend who had just broken up their boyfriend. They were obviously extremely sad, upset, and crying into my shoulder. In that moment, I could feel everything — so much so that tears started coming out of my eyes. I had nothing to be sad about, but still couldn’t stop myself from crying. Can you even imagine? I was supposed to be consoling and supporting my friend, and there I was uncontrollably crying with her.
I would look back and wonder why I struggled to separate my own emotions from those around me. When I talked to my mom about it, she explained to that I was probably highly sensitive, just like she and my great-grandmother are, and that it was a gift. I still wasn’t sure what it meant. It wasn’t until I came across the word “empath” online that it began to make more sense. Apparently, there are people out there that can literally feel what the people around them are feeling. I started to understand why I couldn’t always explain why I was feeling a certain way, or why constantly talking and being around a lot of people would easily drain me. Lately, I have been extremely sensitive to noises and smells, to the point where people have questioned me about it, which I now know are all symptoms of being an empath.
It’s not some weird magic, and it’s not just being considerate of others feelings either. It is having a strong intuition that allows you to pick up on other’s moods without meaning to and take on their emotions.
Keep reading to learn more about what an empath is and if you might be one, too.
What exactly is an Empath?
We all know that empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others. Empaths are highly sensitive individuals that can feel and absorb others’ emotions and physical symptoms, sometimes to an extreme. They pick up on these emotions by being highly intuitive and having strong gut feelings about people. Having highly tuned senses is another trait of empaths, such as being sensitive to noises, smells, and excessive talking. They can even be unconsciously influenced by the decisions, wishes, and thoughts of others.
Could you be an Empath?
Almost everyone is able to emphasize with others on some level, but to be labeled as an actual empath takes a certain level of sensitivity. Do you easily have your feelings hurt? Do you like to drive your own car places so you can be by yourself and leave when you want to? If you already think you might be an empath then you probably are!
Dr. Judith Orloff, New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, made a quiz to determine if you’re an emotional empath.
- Have I been labeled as “too emotional” or overly sensitive?
- If a friend is distraught, do I start feeling it too?
- Are my feelings easily hurt?
- Am I emotionally drained by crowds, and do I require time alone to revive?
- Do my nerves get jarred by noise, smells, or excessive talk?
- Do I prefer taking my own car places so that I can leave when I please?
- Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
- Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships?
If you answer “yes” to 1-3 of these questions, you’re at least part empath. Responding “yes” to more than 3 indicates that you’ve found your emotional type.
What to do if you are an Empath
If this all sounds similar to what you experience, and you took the quiz and realized you are in fact an empath, what now? There are many strategies to use to manage and find balance with this gift. First, identify the individuals who drain you, and the ones that energize you. Spend more time with the ones who bring you energy and flourish you — they are most likely the ones full of love and happiness. Set restrictions with the energy-drainers, such as time limits and conversational boundaries. Know how long you can be with these individuals before being completely exhausted and drained. Also, when you are with them, avoid negative thoughts and feelings, and identify if those are your feelings or emotions you are absorbing.
It is also important to allow time alone to emotionally decompress. Whether it’s a walk around the block or a whole weekend off, take time to yourself to release any unwanted emotions. Empaths are replenished in nature, so get out and take a hike or sit at the beach — you’ll feel so much better. Meditation and yoga will also give empaths the coping skills needed to deal with being overwhelmed by these emotions. Don’t forget being an empath is also a great gift that allows you to read others and your environment to better adjust your interactions and to connect with people on a deeper level.