How do You Know if You are an Empath or Simply Sensitive?

Do you ever wonder whether you are an Empath or not?

Over the years, I have often been asked the question: ‘How do I know for sure if I’m an Empath?’

My answer always tends to be the same: Generally, if you’re an Empath when you discover the term and the traits it encompasses, you just know whether it applies to you or not. It is like a light bulb moment. You finally have an explanation for all that you feel and have experienced throughout your life… But, there are always exceptions.

In this post we will look at two traits that truly define an Empath.

What does it matter?

Although I don’t like to get too caught up in labels, I do think knowing and understanding who you are can help you on your journey. Also, knowing your defining traits can help you find balance in life.

There is also the fact to consider that what might help an Empath, might not help the sensitive person. For example: dealing with emotional pain you are picking up from another is different to dealing with emotional pain caused by past trauma.

Ultimately, we all want to live the best life we can. We want to be happy and find stability and we want to leave these bodies in the hopes we did little harm. Knowing who we are and what strengthens or weakens us can help us achieve this.

The reason I think some sensitive people get confused over whether they are an Empath is because they feel things so strongly and share many of the Empath traits. But there are two traits that sets the Empath apart:

  • An ability to feel/read the emotional energy of others.
  • Heightened empathy.

Feeling emotions and the energy of other people

The chief trait of an Empath is feeling other people’s emotions, moods, buried pain and energy, but they also have incredible emotional intelligence and empathy for others, even if they don’t actually like spending time with people.

We will now look at how these traits work:

As already noted, when an Empath first discovers the term, it is the moment their life makes sense. Everything they have experienced finally has a reason. But still, there are many more layers to uncover…

If you have spent a lifetime feeling the emotional energy of others, without realising, it may take a while to differentiate these emotions from your own.

The Eating Plan For Empaths

As humans, we are very good at hiding our true feelings. Just because someone has a smile on their face, does not mean they are not experiencing emotional pain. But an Empath will always feel what another doesn’t show.

There are a number of ways in which you may experience another’s emotional energy:

  • You might suddenly feel insecure when in the presence of someone who has low self-esteem, social hang-ups or has worries of what others think.
  • You may experience waves of sadness or you may want to burst into tears, if someone near you is grieving or emotionally low.
  • You could suddenly fill with rage or annoyance or get stabbing pains around certain chakras when the person in close proximity has hidden anger.
  • You sense a heaviness around the pit of your stomach when with people who have buried issues they refuse to deal with.
  • When there is a clash of energy (the other person carries similar traits to you) you might feel anxious or constricted around the chest, you could also experience palpitations.
  • You may start to act differently or take on personality traits, of the person you are with, especially if they have a dominant personality. (Read more about this here).

There are many other ways an Empath can interpret the emotional energy of people. They don’t even have to be in their presence to sense certain people’s strong emotions. (Read more here)

Heightened empathy

This trait is a very obvious but not much talked about way of an Empath. But nevertheless, heightened empathy is a prominent trait and a very big part of Empath life, which goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence.

Because an Empath knows how it feels to be hurt by another’s words or actions, they will go out of their way not to do it themselves. But they are still humans. They can still suffer anger or may occasionally lash out when in emotional pain.

Empaths often consider how their words or actions may be interpreted and are careful not to cause offence. They are often conscious of not hurting people, either through the written or verbal word. Which has to be said, is near impossible in a world of varying opinions and beliefs.

Again, we are all human and we can still unintentionally do or say something that offends or upsets. But if an Empath realises they have done or said something which hurts another it will eat them up for days, weeks, months and even years.

Screenshot (266)

An Empath also experiences great discomfort if they see others suffer (human or animal). Even seeing suffering from afar can leave them emotionally broken.

They also hate to let others down. For example: they might go out, on a social event, even though they feel ill, overwhelmed or fatigued, so as not to risk hurting anyone’s feelings.

That said, if another repeatedly hurts an Empath, they will eventually walk away and not look back, regardless of how it hurts the other.

I am by no means suggesting that a sensitive person does not have empathy or emotional intelligence. What I am saying is, in an Empath it is incredibly heightened. So much so, it can take them a long time to understand why others don’t have the same level of consideration.

(If you know that you are an Empath but your empathy has all but gone out of the window, after a lifetime of let-downs, you may find the following posts beneficial: here, here, here, and here.)


I was also going to add heightened intuition to the traits that truly define an Empath. But as someone can be intuitively savvy and have an ability to read someone, but not be an Empath, I decided against it. That said, it is still a defining trait, which most Empaths use to navigate life.

All humans have intuitive senses, just as they also have the ability to sense emotions in others and feel an atmosphere. In Empaths, however, these traits are incredibly heightened.

So, there you go. If you were not sure if being an Empath applies to you, I hope this helps you decide. Or if you are an Empath, I hope it helps you understand your traits a little better.

For more traits of an Empath click here

Until next time…


©Diane Kathrine

11 thoughts on “How do You Know if You are an Empath or Simply Sensitive?

  1. There was me just thinking I have just been dealing with anxiety and depression all this time! Which may be true but this makes sense as to WHY! I do steer away from negativity as much as I can and am acutely aware of the effect others and my environment has on my mood and general mental well being hence why I avoid watching the news and reading papers. Also the reason why I came off all synthetic medicine a few months ago and just use oils. But I am also fiercely loyal and protective to the close to me and genuinely feel upset/angry when they are suffering with things in their life. I thought my anxiety flare ups (my whole body physically shaking) in public places or when socialising were odd as I had no reason to be feeling anxious at the time but the build up of energy from others could explain this. I equally shut down and walk away and ‘go quiet’/loose interest in some people. But others I can keep the connection going for hours! I can’t walk past people who I know I can help that are in need. People who know me describe me as an intense but inspirational. Although I have had, in particular past employers, who have taken an instant dislike to me. But all this is making me feel confused as I thought I had finally started to understand my mental well being (although not fully there) and roughly how to deal with it. I had put my heightened emotions and constant fatigue the last few weeks down to the change of season and that of the task of trying to move to New Zealand in a few months time. At 1st I felt elated that this all made sense and now I’m just confused as hell lol 🙈🙈🙈

  2. I think you feel harassed by followers like me, so farewell.
    It’s a great pity because finding out where I fit in has been a wonderful experience.
    Thank you for giving me peace of mind Soul sister.
    Sibyl X

  3. Thanks Diane, I found this article enlightening. I am just trying to figure out what, who I am. I am finding life more and more difficult to cope with. I am told I’m over sensitive, over react, but I cannot help it. I am driven and played by everyone’s ( including animals) thoughts, feelings, sufferings in this world. I want to hide. It’s exhausting. I need to try and harness this because it’s out of control and it’s making me sick. I don’t understand how people can say “oh that’s sad” and go on with their day. I can’t. When I say “that’s sad” I mean it, like it’s happening to me.

    • Thanks for sharing, Amanda.

      It is often when we start looking for the answers to why we feel such pain in others’ suffering that ‘the journey of an Empath’ really unfolds…

  4. thank you so much for your time. u never thought of myself as a negative person. and maybe her inner feelings are right about me. I’m working on it as I have made it to my 48th and 13th year sober I hope this can help me be a truer self.

      • hello diane was curious what do u do if an empath hates you and is protecting themselves from you?

      • Hi RD,

        Not knowing the situation here this is a difficult question to answer, but if an Empath steps back from someone it doesn’t mean they hate that person. They could just be doing it for self-protection.

        Over the years, I have had to back away from those I love for the reason they spew such negativity or continue to do mean or nasty things.

        Empaths can be very forgiving, but they don’t forget. If someone has repeatedly hurt them, they don’t often get another chance. The damage takes too long to heal and the memory to deeply imbedded.

        Hope this helps 🙂

  5. Den ons. 2. mai 2018, 09:57 skrev Empaths Empowered :

    > Diane Kathrine posted: ” Do you often struggle to know where you fit in or > wonder whether you are an Empath or not? Over the years, I have often been > asked the question: ‘How do I know for sure if I’m an Empath?’ My answer > always tends to be the same: Generally, if you’” >

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