What is an empath? Expert explains the personality type and how to know if you are one.

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You may have heard someone, whether in your personal life or on social media, describe themselves as an “empath.” But what exactly is empathy?

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According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is defined as “The act of perceiving, being aware of, being sensitive to, and experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another, past or present, without the feelings, thoughts, and experience being communicated in a completely articulate way.”

You may also have increased awareness of the feelings of those around you, but does that make you an empath? Here’s everything you need to know about empathy, including the symptoms.


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An empath can be described as “a person who is deeply aware of and affected by the emotional states of other people,” said Ramani DurvasulaA clinical psychologist and author.

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Durvasula states that empaths can feel as though they are “absorbing other people’s energy”, taking on the emotional state of another person when they have not experienced the scenario or content themselves.

For example, an empath is more likely to pay attention to a story about personal suffering, elicit an emotional response and potentially intervene in some way and provide support to someone who is experiencing a time of difficulty.

On the other hand, Durvasula said, “When a person is going through a joyful experience, an empath will feel tremendous happiness for the other person, even if, at the time, the empathy itself is not in such a big place.”

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What are the symptoms of empathy?

Durvasula said, “Empath” is not a clinical term. “In psychology, I think it’s one of those popular terms that boils down to how people frame people.”

Some of the symptoms associated with empathy include:

  • consent
  • high awareness for the feelings of others
  • Higher awareness of one’s own emotions and how they affect others

Being empathetic is a continuum, so some people may experience more of the effects of these characteristics than others.

For empaths on the low end, they are still agreeable and aware of those around them, caring deeply for others and putting themselves in someone else’s position. Durvasula said that high-end people are at greater risk of putting themselves in harm’s way to attend to another person.

“They can put themselves at a financial disadvantage. They can ignore some very obvious red flags because the person told them a very painful backstory — ‘I can’t walk out. This person’ – and may even be at risk of remaining in a situation that may be emotionally or physically abusive,” she said.

Durvasula said empaths may also be more vulnerable to exhaustion from these heightened emotions. “They feel other people’s pain so much that you will see they are deeply affected,” she said. “If you are deeply impressed, you will also be wrong.” This can lead to physical or emotional exhaustion and, in extreme cases, physical illness.

In addition to feeling the heightened emotions of others, empaths are very self-aware of how their own behavior affects those around them.

“He is very careful about how he speaks and conducts himself,” Durvasula said. “True empathy, if it was really to be viewed in a more clinical sense, is that person very closely self-monitoring and very self-aware of how they interact with other people ”

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What is the opposite of an empath?

While some people may experience a high degree of empathy for others, there are those who do not. The opposite of empathy, Durvasula said, is a narcissist, psychopath or sociopath. These are all clinical diagnoses, as opposed to being empathetic.

“These are people who are very rigid, who see people as objects to satisfy their own needs,” she said. “They have no interest in people’s emotional world unless it is something they can capitalize on for their own profit or pleasure.”

These individuals are not self-aware and say and do whatever they want based on how they affect other people, the opposite of empathy. They can be entitled, exploitative and manipulative, using others to achieve their goals without regard for how it could potentially harm someone.

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“The little sympathy we see is usually demonstrative,” she said. “They will feign sympathy in order to get what they need.”

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The opposite of empathy is a narcissist, psychopath or psychopath – someone who has little or no empathy for other people.

What are some misconceptions about empathy?

Durvasula said that the constant spread of information (and misinformation) through social media apps like TikTok can lead to some confusion.

Often people confuse empathy with sympathy, which is the offering of awareness and comfort when another person is suffering. Unlike sympathy, empathy is present with the emotional state of someone else whether it is good, bad or indifferent.

“For me, being an empath: It’s a two-way street,” Durvasula said. “It’s not only that you feel deeply, but you are also so self-reflective and self-aware.”

People may call themselves empathetic, but don’t act on how their actions affect others. Durvasula said, “There are people on social media who say, ‘I’m a sympathizer…I feel,’ but then you see that person yell at someone in a brutal manner,” claiming that the beatings will be done because they care deeply.

“Absolutely no respect for that other person,” she said. “If you’re an empath, you’re an empath to everyone. So, even if someone is unkind, you still find an attitude that shows some awareness that other human beings, whether you admit it or not, have feelings.” And the feelings can be heard.”

Often people confuse empathy with sympathy, which is the offering of awareness and comfort when another person is suffering.

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advice for empathy

For empaths, Durvasula shared how important it is to slow down and take care of yourself as much as you want to take care of others.

“I would say to people who are hyper-empathetic, or self-identify as empathetic, slow down, read the situation, look at the person’s behavior,” she said.

In these cases, you can be sure that you are not being taken advantage of or put at risk. Additionally, empathy cannot change toxic people. “At this point, you’re throwing good money after bad,” Durvasula said.

Also, listen to the people around you, especially those who don’t empathize. They can help measure the situation from a different lens, preventing potential damage.

Source: www.usatoday.com

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