The Intuitive Empath And The Gift Of Caring

Updated September 8, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Most of us know what it is like to be sensitive to the emotions of those around us. We see someone being happy or sad, know what those emotions feel like, and this might evoke similar feelings within us. 

Some persons, however, display a much higher than normal sensitivity to the emotions of others. These persons are often referred to as intuitive empaths, and the gift of their ability to connect deeply with others is explored in this article. First is an overview of the theory behind empathy in humans and a look at the different ways in which we manifest an increased ability to empathize.

Defining Empathy

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The American Psychological Association (APA) defines empathy as understanding another person’s frame of reference rather than one’s own, or “vicariously experiencing that person’s feelings, perceptions, and thoughts.” Alternatively, the Greater Good Magazine from the University of California, Berkley offers this definition of empathy: “The ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.”

These definitions help pinpoint why empathy is regarded as a crucial factor in the social evolution of human beings. It is one of the basic elements of  – the awareness of our own emotions and the emotions of others and how this awareness guides our social interactions.

Empathy allows us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and attempt to understand their perspective. It also helps to promote feelings of sympathy and acts of compassion towards others. As you will see, both sympathy and compassion are important ingredients in the makeup of an intuitive empath.

Psychologists have determined that there are different types of empathy. The most often highlighted ones are:

  1. Emotional Or Affective Empathy- This form of empathy allows us to sense the emotions of others as if they were our own.
  2. Cognitive Empathy-With cognitive empathy, we go beyond sensing the other person’s emotions. We understand them and give us the ability to see things from their point of view.
  3. Compassionate Empathy-This form of empathy allows us to see and appreciate our interconnectedness as humans. It moves us to help those in need.
  4. Somatic Or Physical Empathy-This is a physical reaction within one person, which mirrors physical sensations in another person. This includes feeling the physical pain someone else is experiencing.

Explaining Empathy – The Theory Of Mirror Neurons

The development of  can be seen in infants as young as four months old, with definite signs of the ability to empathize is evident by the time the child is eight months old. But where does the ability to empathize come from? Neuroscientists have found the answer to this question in specific cells in our brains called mirror neurons.

Simply put,  are brain cells that are activated in the same way when we perform an action and when we see someone else perform the same action. They help us to not only identify what someone is doing but also to perceive the intention or purpose of the action. Psychologists have also found the theory to be important when trying to understand conditions in which a person displays a deficit in empathizing (as in autism) and how extremely poor social interactions are a factor (as in ). The discovery of mirror neurons has also helped shed light on how we learn and develop speech.

Interestingly, empathy is not a uniquely human trait. It is present among many animal species, including other primates. In fact, mirror neurons were first discovered by neurophysiologists working with macaque monkeys. Other species in which displays of empathic behavior have been identified include dolphins, rats, cats, and dogs (as many pet owners will attest to). Also, just like humans, some animals can empathize with animals of different species.

Who Are Empaths?

Getty/Alistair Berg

Almost everyone possesses the ability to empathize at some level. However, it is estimated that between 15% and 20% of the population comprises highly sensitive persons (HSPs). They have an increased capacity for empathy, especially affective empathy. The traits associated with HSPs have been widely studied and repeatedly validated. Psychologist Elaine Aron, the author of The Highly Sensitive Person, points out that being an HSP is “normal” and that the high percentage of HSPs means the condition cannot be regarded as a disorder.

Empaths are a rare subgroup of HSPs. Some sources put the number of empaths at just 1% of the population. Psychiatrist Judith Orloff describes empaths (including herself) as “sponges,” with the ability to “absorb” both positive and negative emotions of those around them. The ability of the empath to perceive what others are feeling and connect with them often seems to defy logic. Words such as psychic, clairvoyant, paranormal, and spiritualistic are sometimes used to describe an empath.

Many empaths naturally gravitate toward professions that involve nurturing, caring, and healing. They can be found in abundance in areas such as teaching, nursing, psychiatry, and psychology. There is also an increasing focus on helping all persons within these professions to learn and practice greater empathy.

It is worth noting that some studies suggest that women have evolved to be (typically) more empathic than males. This can help to explain why it appears there are more women than men who identify as empaths.

Types Of Empaths

As each person is unique, an empath will experience hyper-sensitivity  in different ways. Here are a few of the different types of empaths:

The Emotional Empath

Emotional empaths are particularly sensitive to the emotions of those around them. They sense how others are feeling, and these feelings become their own. The emotional empath can detect emotions without the other person openly revealing them or giving off any readily identifiable clues as to how they are feeling.

The Physical Empath

Physical empaths go beyond sensing the ailments within others. They feel someone else’s pain as their own and may even take on the symptoms of another person’s illness within their own body. This can, understandably, pose a danger to physical empaths whose own medical condition may be exacerbated by the symptoms they detect in someone else.

The Geomantic Or Place Empath

Geomantic empaths feel deeply drawn to and connected with certain places or objects. They can feel the history a location holds, be it a landscape, graveyard, church, etc. It is not unusual for the geomantic empath to become overwhelmed by unexplained emotions when visiting some places. The emotions they experience within a particular environment tend to reflect important events that occurred there.

Fauna Or Animal Empath

Fauna empaths are uniquely attuned to the needs of animals. They enjoy being around and taking care of animals. Many fauna empaths prefer the company of animals to that of other humans. Similar to the fauna empaths, there are also flora or plant empaths who have a deep connection to plants. Both fauna and flora empaths can be described as the ultimate nature lovers. They thrive when surrounded by nature as if recharged by it.

The Intuitive Or Claircognizant Empath

They are insightful and possess the instinctive ability to understand what another person is feeling or is going through. In connection with the intuitive empath, terms often used include mind-reader, telepathic, and clairsentience (perceiving what is not normally perceptible).

Seven Traits Of The Intuitive Empath

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1. They Are Great Listeners

The other person tends to feel that the intuitive empath really “gets them” even when they have difficulty putting their emotions into words. This trait also allows the intuitive empath to offer good advice to those who reach out to them.

2. They Tend To Avoid Crowds

Empaths who are intuitive are frequently labeled as introverts because they often prefer to be by themselves. Distancing themselves at times helps empaths who are intuitive to avoid the sensory overload that can come from sensing other people’s emotions deeply.

3. They Can Easily Tell When Someone Is Lying

Empaths who are intuitive have an intense dislike for deception, and they can spot a liar even when they fool everyone else. This trait also helps them to reach out to someone who says they are fine but is secretly experiencing emotional turmoil on the inside.

4. They Have A Physical Reaction To Negative Emotions

It is not unusual for an intuitive empath to experience adverse physical symptoms after being exposed to intensely emotional situations. Bouts of headaches or fatigue are not uncommon for empaths who are intuitive after having absorbed the negative emotions of others.

5. They Seek Out The Truth And Positivity

The empaths intuitively understand that they can counter the undesirable effects of negativity by surrounding themselves with positive people and things. Their natural, forceful reaction to deception and negative emotions also makes them avid seekers of the truth.

6. They Help Promote Harmony

Helping others to get along is one of the intuitive empath’s special skills. Empaths who are intuitive will go out of their way to try to diffuse hostilities between other people. They help people disagree to see the other person’s side of the story and empathize with them.

7. They Experience Intense Sympathy And Compassion

Empaths who are intuitive display a high level of sympathy for the misfortunes other people face. Coupled with this is the almost undeniable urge to reach out and offer some assistance or support.

Challenges Associated With Being An Intuitive Empath

Because they make such a deep connection with others, empaths who are intuitive can feel anxious and drained by all the emotions they experience. This can lead to substance use to recover from feelings of stress and being burnt out. Other coping strategies the intuitive empath might turn to include binge eating, smoking, and drinking alcohol.

Another of the challenges faced by intuitive empaths is that they are as affected by virtual situations (such as movies and novels) as they are by real-world ones. This can make it difficult for empaths who are intuitive to watch television or even listen to the radio. News programs can also be particularly disturbing for empaths who are intuitive.

Empaths who are intuitive also must endure being labeled as moody when, in fact, their mood swings are simply in reaction to the emotions of those around them. Being so perceptive makes it a challenge for the intuitive empath to be in public spaces. Over time, they can learn to control this and can function normally in crowded spaces.

Rewards Of Being An Intuitive Empath

Despite the challenges they face, empaths who are intuitive can come to appreciate the gift of their exceptional abilities. One clear advantage for many intuitive empaths is that they are naturally drawn to meaningful careers to put their unique skills to use in helping others. They get what many other persons search for their entire professional lives- true joy and fulfillment in their chosen career path.

Here are some other benefits of being an intuitive empath.

They Enjoy Their Own Company

The intuitive empath doesn’t mind being alone with their thoughts. They relish it at times. When they disconnect from everything around them, this downtime revitalizes the intuitive empath and can help prevent emotional fatigue.

They Have A Zest For Living

Knowing that they are making a positive impact on the lives of others helps empaths who are intuitive to welcome each new day. They tend to throw themselves wholeheartedly into whatever they are doing and enjoy doing good for others thoroughly.

People Find It Easy To Trust Them

Empaths who are intuitive are often seen as trustworthy even by persons who have just met them. This makes it easy for others to open up to them and elicit the truth from others.

They Have Excellent Leadership Skills

Empaths who are intuitive are great team leaders and team builders. People around intuitive empaths tend to trust their judgment and sense fairness about them. As a result, they are more willing to accept suggestions and decisions by the intuitive empath.

They Are Natural Problem Solvers

Because they are driven to help others, intuitive empaths develop the knack of finding a way to do it regardless of the obstacles. This is strengthened by their natural positivity and enthusiasm for life.

Finding Support If You Are An Intuitive Empath

In reading this article, you may have found that you share traits of being an intuitive empath, such as being highly sensitive to other people’s emotional state and their needs. Even if you do not want to label yourself as an intuitive empath, the amount of energy it takes for you to carry someone else’s emotional state or feeling sensitive to the needs of others can be draining. You may even find that you are unable to focus on your own personal needs. 

There is no need for you to manage the intensity of your sensitivity alone. Therapists specialize in supporting their clients and helping them identify behaviors and thoughts that are contributing to emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, they can help you work on personal goals that build boundaries that support your ability to manage your own emotions distinct from someone else’s.

If you have obstacles that keep you from in-person therapy, online therapy is a highly effective alternative that offers the same benefits of in-person therapy in virtual sessions. You may be concerned that an online therapist is more distant and disconnected due to the screen. However, research has shown otherwise. For example, in a study published in Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association psychotherapists reported that, despite the technical and relational challenges of remote sessions, they felt just as emotionally connected and authentic as their client sessions that occurred in-person.

If you consider yourself an intuitive empath and need help setting boundaries with others for your own mental health, consider speaking with a professional counselor – there is no need to go about it alone.  You can visit and connect with a trained professional to guide you.  


The heightened sensitivity that comes with being an empath can be overwhelming for many people. More so, those unaware that what they are experiencing are an actual, recognized condition and a wonderful gift. Even if you feel you are not an empath, there is still much to be gained by learning how to improve your ability to empathize with others. 

“My experience with Priscilla has been immensely helpful in better understanding myself and providing me with the tools to see my life and relationships with more clarity and compassion.”

“Sarah has been comforting to me through a very difficult transition. She has helped me to regain confidence and listen to my intuition. She is a great listener and has encouraged me to rediscover and use my voice.”

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