Are you an Empath or HSP?


The definitions between an Empath and a highly sensitive person (HSP) are so similar that some may question as to which camp they fall in. Hopefully, after reading this you may have a better idea.

Here are some of the type of questions Elaine N. Aron uses in her book, ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’, to decide a HSP:

(The stronger you relate to the questions is an indication of your Sensitivity.)

  1. Are you aware of subtleties in your environment?
  2. Do other people’s moods affect you?
  3. Are you sensitive to pain?
  4. Do you need to withdraw if you are having a busy day?
  5. Are you sensitive to the effects of caffeine?
  6. Are you easily overwhelmed by strong smells, bright lights or loud noises?
  7. Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  8. Are you conscientious?
  9. Do you startle easily?
  10. Are you aware how to make others feel more comfortable?
  11. Do you get frustrated if you are made to do too many things at once?
  12. Do you avoid watching violence on TV or in films?
  13. Do you become uncomfortable when a lot is going on around you?
  14. Do you avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?

See more known traits of a HSP here.

Here are 14 questions used to decide if you are an Empath:

  1. Do you become overwhelmed when you walk into busy places?
  2. Do some people make you feel inexplicably uncomfortable, finding you stumble over your words or have uneasy sensations in the pit of your stomach when with them?
  3. Did you experience any strange phenomena as a child?
  4. Do you have strong intuition?
  5. Do you sense different energies in objects, buildings, places or countries?
  6. Do you get easily drained when in social situations?
  7. Have you got an active or creative mind?
  8. Do you notice things others don’t?
  9. Can you easily read others and just know what type of person they are without spending much time with them?
  10. Are you a good listener and find others want to offload and open up to you?
  11. Are you highly sensitive?
  12. Would you say you have an addictive nature?
  13. Can you feel others emotions?
  14. Do you pick up physical symptoms off another?

So how did you do? Chances are if you identify with being a HSP or an Empath you will have answered yes to most of the questions on both of the lists.

The definition of an Empath is a person who is capable of feeling the emotions off others despite the fact that they are not going through the same situation.

The definition of a HSP is a person who processes sensory data much more deeply than others. They are oversensitive to sensory aspects of their environment/world. For instance, HSPs may dislike harsh bright lighting, get irritated by loud background noise or find they cannot wear certain materials.

Although the definitions above are brief, they could be misleading and suggest that a HSP has only heightened senses and an Empath feels only emotions off others, when in fact there is so very much more to their traits. For example both the Empath and HSP will experience the following:

  • Sense other people’s emotions.
  • Project their emotions, feelings and thoughts onto others.
  • Experience profound synchronicities.
  • Have heightened senses.
  • Feel emotions and pain very deeply, their own and others.
  • Get hurt easily.
  • Get easily over-stimulated.
  • Feel drained by being in social situations.
  • Are aware of many subtleties around them that others aren’t.

Even though some will disagree, I believe Empaths and HSPs are the same. They may experience different levels of Sensitivity and have some traits stronger than others, but overall they share the same attributes, in that their senses are extremely heightened, especially their sixth sense, and they feel energetic vibrations off people, places and objects powerfully.

Those who veer more towards being Empath may be more open to metaphysical matters than HSPs and are more aware of their ESP abilities (even if they don’t engage them). That said, both HSPs and Empaths can be similarly receptive to the unseen world and are equally able to tap into the Universal Consciousness. It mostly depends on their background. How they were brought up and what beliefs they have has a major influence on their receptivity towards their traits.

At some point, both the Empath and HSP will find themselves thrust onto a ‘spiritual path’ by either a stream of mystical or synchronistic events, a need to better understand themselves and all that they feel or a desire to discover the meaning of life.

Those who may turn away from anything of a ‘woo-woo nature’ may do so out of a fear of judgement. Many of a Sensitive nature are very aware of when they are being judged and will understandably go out of their way to avoid it.

Hopefully this will help you better understand the labels of the Sensitive folk. I am not too keen on labels myself and believe they should only be used to assist us in understanding our traits, which in turn will help us navigate our way through life. I feel any label can dismiss our own individuality and anyone who is Sensitive is indeed profoundly unique and should always bear this in mind on their journey of life!

Until next time…


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©Diane Kathrine at Empaths Empowered

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23 thoughts on “Are you an Empath or HSP?

  1. Reblogged this on Free Tarot Universe and commented:
    This article is very helpful and therapeutic in helping those of us who are sensitive to put words to what we experience everyday and to know it also has been recognized by science. Hopefully, it lead to more awareness and acceptance. Thanks Diane!

  2. Dear Diane,

    I thank you so much for your article.

    It made me very happy to read that somebody shares my opinion on that subject and that I am not alone with the theory that being an empath is scientific explicable within the fact that they are HSP who are combining their highly sensitive sensual perception and their specialized cognition to figure out what is “going on” in an other human being and/or a situation in which humans are involved. For me Elaine Aron’s researches on HSP, helped me a lot to cope with myself being one of a kind and finding out that it is not just solely a matter of an intuition alone but a circumstance nature invented to create diversity, like people having physiological characteristica. I think between being a HSP and being an empath there is still a development a human being has to undergo, like being born with the capability to be an athletic runner, it takes a lot of “training” to become a pro in order to run races.

    So, I would love to speak out the theory that bring highly sensitive is the basic to become an empath.

    • Hi Mary,

      I agree with you, it does take training and work to understand and “hone” our abilities. And we have to work with mind, body and spirit in order to find balance. I believe being Sensitive is like having sensory processing disorder. But it is our empathy, intuition and emotional processing which is heightened (as are a number of the senses in many). I write about this in my book which is due for release next month.

      Thanks for sharing.🙂🙂🙂

  3. Ahh, this explains many things. I have an early childhood memory of entering a room and of adults whispering ‘what’s wrong with her’. Well, nothing is, apparently; I possess traits of an Empath.

    Regretfully, my sensitivities were not recognized or nurtured and I expect I often seem odd at best, anti-social at worst. Conforming to expectations, I married a man with a big family and raised three children. Of course I love them but the energy drain is profound and leaves little room for me.

    I have battled my share of emotional turbulence complete with physical ailments, anxiety and depression and have endured a life-long state of sheer exhaustion just being alive. However, now in my late 50’s, I have learned to navigate the rocky seas reasonably well.

    Years ago, upon expressing that the world is too loud for me, an art teacher handed me Elaine Aron’s book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ which resonated completely. But now, finding that I am in the company of Empaths is a welcome piece of the puzzle.

    I will write again with some strategies that have helped me over the years.

    • Yes, that would really be enjoyed by many of us. I only had one child and knew that one was all I could handle. When my son had playmates over to play though……..I was so exhausted from noise and just being around them. I never liked throwing parties either OR being invited to them. I was always a person that needed a lot of alone time and don’t need a bunch of friends to occupy my time.

  4. Thanks so much for this! I have struggled with certain relationships my whole life. I’ve always been told I am “too sensitive,” so I thought there was something wrong with me. (Needing to leave the room during a violent TV show, feeling uncomfortable in crowds and overwhelmed in stores, craving large chunks of alone time, prone to complex daydreaming, constantly worrying about what other people think, soaking in emotions like a sponge, having my feelings hurt easily, etc.) I recently came across Elaine Aron’s work and was blown away. That’s ME! How freeing to discover that there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s just the way my brain works. And now this blog. I’ve been in counseling and on medication for anxiety and depression, but I don’t want to continue down that path. I want to find more natural ways to deal with certain aspects of life that are overwhelming to me. I hope I’m finally on the right path.

    • You’re very welcome, Karen

      There are lots of posts on this blog that will hopefully help you with finding a more holistic approach to staying in balance. All written with the Empath/HSP in mind.

      Next year I am bringing a guide book out which goes into greater detail of how to overcome Empath insecurities, stay in balance and live a happy, healthy life. So keep a look out.

      Thanks for sharing.🙂

  5. Thanks for this one. When I saw your post I thought couldn’t one be both? I was just recently researching the “Covert Narcissist” because I suspect someone I know to be something of the kind, but it’s like no one around me can feel how far it goes, and I end up feeling crazy. Have you written anything on How to deal with these types as a HSP/Empath. I usually just cut those kinds of people out completely but its not always possible to do for a while. Again thanks I like what you write I’ll have a look at your other articles! Be well

  6. I would like to know how ofter born people like this. I am a HSP and I’ve had very problems when I was young, I dream to save everyone from their own problems. I like to solve problems and that’s way I’ve became a software developer, it’s a way to build something that will improve someones life. It’s weird because I could enjoy anything that can improve people’s life. Hopefully I can become an inventor some day.

    Thank you for the posts.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Generally, most are born this way. However, not everyone will recognise they are an Empath until adulthood. Then when they look back on their life everything makes sense. It is a case of ‘Ah, that’s why…’

      Thanks for sharing.🙂

  7. Pingback: Are you an Empath or HSP? | CinnamonAndSparkles

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  9. I am definitely both and I do agree with you, Diane. I believe most empaths are highly sensitive people. I always thought something was wrong with me when I was younger because of who I was. I would generally be disappointed or sad because of how I was feeling but the majority of the people wouldn’t. Now, I know there are many of us in the world and I feel good about being ME! Thank you for posting these wonderful articles so we can all relate to! Bless you and have a wondrous, glorious and loving Christmas, my friend, indeed!

  10. Hi Diane, a great article, I have read Elaine N. Arons book and was really insightful, there is also another fantastic book by UK Author Heidi Sawyer called Highly Intuitive People: 7 Right-Brain Traits To Change The Lives Of Intuitive-Sensitive People which I found very helpful and her regular online webinars. x

      • Thank you for the article, Diane. I do not believe that there is a difference either, but rather perhaps a spectrum.

        I spend my days merely trying to retain my balance, as more often than not, I become depressed or stressed for no reason. What is your favorite technique, if I can ask? I picture myself surrounded by the shield of light or being purified by the violet flame, but I still often become drained and tired if my concentration lapses.

      • Hi JJ,

        I use different techniques for different life circumstances. But I do have to work to stay in balance (mind, body and spirit). There are many things that can throw me out of sync, so I have to stay vigilant.

        The shield of white light is an old fave and one of the techniques I first learnt and used.

        Thanks for sharing 😀

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