Empath Traits: How to Spot One

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Eleven Identifiable Traits

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Empath Traits. Getty Images / Canva

Empaths are highly sensitive individuals who "feel" what other people near them are feeling and experiencing. Being empathic can be problematic for anyone who cannot discern the difference between his own suffering and the pain of others. It can be taxing to the emotional and physical body to take on the symptoms of others without the knowledge of how to release pains that do not belong there.

If you have ever wondered if you might be an empath, review these traits to see if they fit.

The empath has many identifiable traits which I will illustrate and describe in this pictorial. Knowing these traits will help you spot empaths among your family members, friends, work associates, and others.

What you may discover is that a few of the traits shown in this pictorial are at odds with one another. For example, how can the empath be communicative AND be reclusive? Short answer: Why Not? All humans (empaths or not) have different moods. Somedays you may enjoy socializing with your friends, other times you choose to lay low and stay out of the mainstream.

For empaths (male and female) mood-swings are more EXTREME than the norm. They can feel perfectly happy-go-lucky in the morning as they head out to work, yet come home feeling emotionally distraught. Nothing has changed in his own life, it's still good. But on his way home he bumped into an acquaintance who wasn't having such a good day. They had a brief exchange and the empath unknowingly absorbed the other person's not-so-good feelings and carried them home as if they belonged to him.

Being out in the world among others can be quite energy-draining to the empath due to her feeling the emotions of others so deeply. Self-preservation will prevail in the empath who is aware of his personal needs. He will instinctively know when he needs to pull back, purge emotions that don't belong, and replenish his own energies. Sadly, for the the less-aware empath, she will struggle living in a world that feels like swimming in a cesspool full of erratic emotions.

Note:  Christel Broederlow outlines these characteristics in detail in her article Traits of an Empath: Basic Empathic Characteristics

Empaths and Empathy:  What Does it Mean to be Hypersensitive? | Being Highly Sensitive | Joys and Pitfalls of Being an Empath | Empath Remedies | Empathic HealerQuiz: Are You an Empath? | Support for Empaths

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Empaths Come from All Walks of Life

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Empaths from Many Cultures. Jon Feingersh / Getty Images

Empaths are everywhere--in your family, in your workplace, neighborhood, and township. They are living within all cultures across the globe. Not sure who they are? Consider your ultra-sensitive sibling, a reclusive neighbor, the passionate church-lady, or the helpful social worker. Your plumber might be an empath... did I mention they are everywhere!

Empath traits are inherited, so if you are an empath yourself it is likely others in your family are as well.

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Empaths Are Artisans

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Empathic Artist. Mordolff / Getty Images

Empaths are plentiful in the art community. Actors, painters, sculptors, and writers are very adept at feeling the emotions of others. Empaths are creators.  It is through their crafts that they are able to express themselves emotionally. Their actions and talent serve as an outlet to release any emotions they have absorbed. The emotions expressed are multi-faceted. Joy, sadness, agony, delight, despair... the list goes on.

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Empaths Are Good Listeners

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Empaths are Good Listeners. John Rensten / Getty Images

Empaths are commonly found in careers that require listening and showing compassion. Among these are healers, clergy, counselors, social workers, caregivers, etc. You might be surprised (but I'm not!) that hair stylists and bartenders are often empaths, their jobs require listening. Not everyone in these positions are empaths.... but these are the paths that many empaths choose to take.

A healer with empathic tendencies can use his abilities to feel/sense as a diagnostic tool, helping him to better relate to the symptoms and pain of his clients. An empathic healer is trained to recognize the pain he takes on is temporary and will quickly release it once he has gathered the useful information.

It is easier for the empath, someone who tends to soak up energies of others like a sponge to spend time with one person at a time. It would be unusual to see an empath behind a podium speaking to a crowd of people. Not that it doesn't happen, a rare empath could manage it. In general empaths are listeners, not talkers.

Outside of the workplace the empath can be found off in a corner somewhere having a quiet one-on-one conversation with someone needing a shoulder to cry or advice. If you are the lucky one being listened to this is what you might expect: a gentle squeeze of your hand, caring eye-contact with you, and intently listening to each word uttered as you pour your heart out.

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Empaths Can Be Overwhelmed by Media and News Broadcasts

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Report of Terrorist Attack on Television. Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

Empaths are very susceptible to feeling hurts and pains of others. For this reason, they will often refrain from turning on news or reading newspapers. When horrific things are reported, such as terrorist attacks, destructive weather  (floods, hurricanes, tornados, etc), car accidents, killings, child abuses, they can become overwhelmed. Their pain is the result of absorbing the mass emotional turmoil these events produce... and it can be unbearable. 

I wrote about this identifiable trait (empaths experience overwhelm) in my article, Katrina, Enough Already!, about the struggles an empath can experience when the world is in a state of chaos. 

Article Clip: "My concern is with the empath who is struggling to stay focused and grounded when there is so much bad news in the airways. It is not advisable to openly expose our vulnerabilities to all the negative elements. There seems to be no where to hide except under a rock of self-isolation during these dark days. This is not a great solution since isolation can be a difficult burden to sustain." read the full article

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Empaths Are In Tune with Nature

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Man Walking Nature Path. Tim Graham / Getty Images

Empaths are naturally drawn to nature. They appreciate the smells, sounds, sights, and overall beauty of the outdoors. Empaths love to take walks along beaches or woodland paths. They thrive being among the trees, water, mountains, etc. These are the places where they can draw energies from to restore balance within.

For me personally, I am drawn to water when in need to discharge emotional turmoil. Sitting by any body of water (pond, river, stream, or ocean) calms me. Taking bath or shower, as well as walking in the rain, are restorative, bringing about balance.

Energy medicine practitioners who are empaths are wise to wash their hands throughly after doing hands-on healing. Water as a element washes/clears any energies that may have been absorbed from the client.

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Empaths Are Lovers of Animals

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Girl Communicating with Rabbit. Michael Weber / Getty Images

The crazy cat lady may be a stereo-type empath who lost her way. She didn't know how to stop taking in strays, unable to turn her back on a living thing. Animal communicators are natural empaths... they listen and care for animals, fulfilling their life purpose. They do not consider animals to be possessions, but equals that need to be heard and loved. And, they do LOVE them.

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Empaths Can Be Open and Expressive

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Expressive Empath. Westend61

Empaths feel deeply, so deeply that it can be difficult for them to contain these emotions. Empaths are often quite open and expressive about how "THEY" are feeling. Telling or explaining about feelings help them to get a handle on why they are feeling what they are feeling.

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Empaths Tend to Be Reclusive or Loners

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Reclusive Empath. DElight / Getty Images

Reclusive natures that are often associated with empaths is the result of having experienced overwhelm in the past. It could be due to a single episode that caused the empath to run for cover. Or, it could be from repeated assaults of emotional overload. It is just easier to retreat. Doing so is a protective stance. Until the empath learns how to discharge emotions that "don't belong" becoming a reclusive character is the best defense against his vulnerabilities, much like a suit of armor is for the warrior.

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Empaths Are Peacemakers and Problem Solvers

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Problem Solver. JGI / Getty Images

Can't we just get along? Empaths don't like to be in the midst of chaos or conflict. It makes them very uncomfortable For this reason, rather than retreating they are known to step outside of their inner turmoil and will allow themselves get in the fray.... but only as a means to bring about resolution. This peacemaker characteristic of the empath becomes apparent at a very early age... can you remember a child on the playground at school urging everyone to play nice?

Natural problem solvers, empaths are keen at recognizing when something is wrong and willingly roll up their sleeves to do whatever is needed to turn wrong into right. 

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Empaths Are Trusted Confidants and Safe Havens

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Trusted Empath. Image Source / Getty Images

Because of all the traits bestowed on the empath, especially their loving and compassionate natures it should be no surprise that empaths are individuals who you would feel safe sharing your secrets with. This is the type of person you would reach out to when feeling hurt or lost. Have you unwittingly unburdened your troubles onto a stranger on the bus or in an elevator? That person was likely an empath. They are like emotional magnets that way...  attracting the forlorn and needy.

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Empaths Have Compassionate Souls

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Empath Showing Compassion. Maskot / Getty Images

The empath has a huge heart. Their love for animals, humanity, and our planet earth is enormous.They do not understand actions of cruelty or the desire to harm others. Our souls have the capacity to love purely without judgement or restraint. Unfortunately, being in physical form, many souls feel depressed or constrained, unable to allow compassion to flow freely. Not so for the empath... showing and feeling compassion is one lesson (among many) that they teach others here on the physical plane.

Empaths and Empathy:  What Does it Mean to be Hypersensitive? | Being Highly Sensitive | Joys and Pitfalls of Being an Empath | Empath Remedies | Empathic HealerQuiz: Are You an Empath? | Support for Empaths