Am I an Empath or Just Sensitive? | Understanding Different Sensitivity Traits

Am I an empath or just sensitive? Many people usually confuse empaths, introverts, and sensitive people. These three groups of people share the same traits to some extent. However, they are different and have different qualities. But am I an empath or just sensitive? Let’s discuss them in detail to establish their traits, similarities, and differences and help establish which group you fall to.

Key Takeaways

  • A highly sensitive person has a low threshold for stimulation and needs lots of alone time.
  • Empaths have all traits a highly sensitive person would exhibit. However, they can absorb subtle energy from within their environment.
  • You can explain empathy in terms of a spectrum. The empaths are on one end, while the narcissists are on the back.
  • Highly sensitive person and empath traits usually overlap, and an individual can be both, highly sensitive and an empath simultaneously.

Am I an Empath or Just Sensitive: What is an Empath?

An empath is someone with overwhelming emotions, their own feelings, and those of other people within the same environment. Empaths intuit what others think and feel even before they speak out. Besides noticing other people’s emotions, they also absorb them and feel them alongside the said individuals. They have a high sense of energy within their environments, which significantly affects them.

Empathic people have a sensitive, emotional response and can internalize the physical sensations of people surrounding them. Therefore, they easily get upset and overwhelmed by emotions. That’s why you’ll hear most people refer to them as emotional sponges.

While empaths have a rich inner life, it can lead to mental health issues in extreme conditions, which may lead to emotional burnout. Like sensitive people, empaths have highly tuned senses, a sense of intuition, and need alone time.

In general:

  • While empaths mostly get associated with introverts, they can also be extroverts.
  • Empaths absorb others’ emotions unconsciously and internalize them, meaning they lack control over these processes.
  • Most empaths are highly likely to be highly sensitive people.

Signs You’re are an Empath

You’re most likely an empath if you have the following signs.

  • Feeling overwhelmed by emotions.
  • You feel exhausted easily after being in another’s company.
  • Your feelings get hurt easily.
  • Feeling someone else’s discomfort.
  • Having social anxiety in social places and functions.
  • You need more alone time.
  • You’re highly sensitive.
  • You’re highly intuitive.

Who are Highly Sensitive People?

A highly sensitive person is anyone with a high brain processing capacity for nearly anything around them. Their brains note every detail of events, emotions, sensory input, and thoughts. Doing so makes them more physically and emotionally sensitive to stimuli than others.

Like empaths, highly sensitive people are sometimes confused for a bad trait. Many people have gone ahead to use the word sensitive to express the bad behavior of another. On the contrary, the word sensitive has nothing to do with negative energy or emotions. It means the ability to process more information about feelings, thoughts, and happenings around our environment.

a woman sitting alone on the floor

Highly sensitive people have the following qualities:

  • They can process more information efficiently with close attention to every detail, something most people can’t do.
  • They absorb the emotional cues of others and feel empathy for them.
  • They can get overwhelmed by feelings, especially in crowded places or noisy environments.
  • They take note of subtle things that many others can easily overlook.

It is worth noting that most sensitive people may qualify to be empaths. They feel others’ emotions, something common with all empaths. Also, despite feeling others’ emotions, they are highly sensitive to all sensory input. That’s why they easily get overwhelmed in crowded and noisy environments.

In general, highly sensitive people:

  • They can be extroverts or introverts.
  • They are more likely to be empaths, nearly all of them.
  • With more studies, it can turn out that they are on the directly opposite side of empaths but with the same traits.

Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

You’re likely a highly sensitive person if you have any of the following traits.

  • You condone no act of violence or cruelty. No one loves to see or get involved in violence. However, highly sensitive people get unsettled when they hear of any act of violence or cruelty. They can’t watch scary or violent movies or scenes advocating cruelty.
  • You get emotionally exhausted absorbing others’ feelings. Highly sensitive people absorb other people’s emotions, just like empaths. They take subtleties seriously and may be affected emotionally by others’ tones, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues. Therefore, they get exhausted emotionally more easily.
  • You get rattled by time pressure. A sensitive person finds it hard to perform under pressure. If time limits are impounded on what they do, they become anxious and may fail to perform to their standards. Time pressure can also cause stress if you have a lot to do but limited time.
  • You withdraw often. If you are highly sensitive, you’re most likely to withdraw to quiet environments at the end of a busy day to lower the stimulation level and recharge.
  • You have deep thoughts. If you’re sensitive, you’re likely to process information deeply, closely looking at every detail. This trait allows you to reflect on your life experiences more often. However, you can subject yourself to negative overthinking, which may bring negative vibes.
  • You’re a conservative. Highly sensitive people love their routines and their way of life. They won’t welcome any change in their life willingly. For instance, when they secure a new job, they get overjoyed but at the same time stressed. They tend to take more time to adjust to change than other people.
illustration of a person with a heart in her hand

Empaths Vs. Highly Sensitive People: Which Side Am I?

Because empaths and highly sensitive people share most traits, it can be challenging to know whether you’re an empath or just sensitive. However, the following traits can help you differentiate between an empath and a sensitive person.

  • Empaths can sense subtle energy within their environment in extremely deep ways. They can also absorb this energy from others, energetically internalize emotions, and feel their emotions. On the other hand, highly sensitive people lack this ability.
  • A section of empaths has profound and intuitive experiences. They can, therefore, communicate with nature, including animals and plants. On the contrary, sensitive people lack this trait.
  • A highly sensitive person needs more time to settle down after a busy day. Their ability to transition from high stimulation to a quiet state is lower. However, empaths are not affected by the transition.
  • Most sensitive people tend to be introverts. However, while most empaths are introverts, some can be extroverts.

However, being an empath or a highly sensitive person is not mutually exclusive. A person can be an empath and sensitive at the same time. Also, many highly sensitive people are empaths. The Empath’s Survival Guide outlines the empathic spectrum where empaths are on one side, and narcissists and psychopaths with empathy deficit disorders are on the other. Highly sensitive people are inside, within the spectrum but near empaths. However, people who portray empathy but are neither empath or sensitive are in the middle.

a woman sitting by the window

The Overlap Between Empaths and HSPs

It is common to have overlaps between these traits: empaths, highly sensitive people, and even introverts. However, this isn’t always the case, as some people can have both traits.

However, it is seen that most empaths are highly sensitive individuals. They share most traits and act similarly. On the other hand, many highly sensitive people don’t absorb the feelings and emotions of others. Nevertheless, those who absorb others’ feelings into their own bodies can be referred to as empaths.

At the end of empathy, a special group of people is referred to as narcissists. They create chaos which needs empaths’ efforts to calm them.

Being highly sensitive is valuable. However, being less sensitive can also be beneficial, especially in loud, demanding environments. They are less affected by the emotional stimuli around them. Therefore, all traits, whether empath or sensitive, exist for a reason. A highly sensitive person or an empath will be more appreciated depending on the situation.

a worried man sitting alone


Are Empaths Overly Sensitive?

Yes, empaths are overly sensitive. They exhibit high sensitivity to external stimuli, including personalities, environments, and sounds. They care more about others’ feelings and what they think. Besides, they feel what others go through.

What Else Can You Be Besides an Empath?

Apart from being an empath, you can also be highly sensitive. This personality is similar to empathy in many ways as they have many similar traits. They show empathy to others, just like empaths.

Do Empaths Get More Sensitive With Age?

Yes, empaths get more sensitive with age. Your spirituality and intuition develop as you age, making you more sensitive to emotional and sensory stimuli.

What Are Empaths?

An empath is a person who absorbs the emotions of others into their own bodies and feels these emotions. They can sense and absorb what others feel or go through, even without being told. Therefore, they are more caring and compassionate than other people.

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