Forget Star Trek’s fictional Betazoids. Empaths are real.
While they can’t actually communicate telepathically, these people are highly intuitive and sensitive to other’s emotions, sometimes to an extreme that makes their lives difficult.
Research has even isolated genes like MAOA and COMT that affect neurotransmitters and encourage the breakdown and transport of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. People who have high expression of these genes show greater impulsivity and aggression.
What about low expression? These people show higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence.
So there’s a scientific basis for empaths, but what are they actually like in reality?
If someone displays these 13 behaviors, they’re a sensitive and empathic soul.
They might describe you or someone you know, and while many are positive, some of them can have negative effects on the empath’s life.
1) Crying during movies
Some people can watch tear-jerking movies and TV shows and keep their eyes totally dry.
But people who are highly empathetic can’t possibly go through less than a box of tissue. That’s because they absorb other people’s emotions, even if those people happen to be fictional characters on a screen.
Heck, they don’t even have to be human – cute or pitiful animals can also turn on the waterworks.
The truth is that empaths can’t help but get emotionally invested in characters in stories because they’re so sensitive to emotions.
2) Hugging people when they need it
Have you ever had someone simply take one look at you and say, “Come on in here!” and then give you a great big squeeze?
If it’s someone involved in your life who knows what’s going on, like a partner or a close friend, then this makes total sense.
But if all it takes is a look to understand you need a hug, the person is probably highly sensitive and empathetic.
These people are so clued into other people’s emotions that they can sense right away when something is wrong.
Kind of like my cat!
3) Remembering birthdays
I know when my birthday is.
I’ve got my partner’s down in the memory banks, and I’m sure I know my sister’s. My mom and dad, yeah, I’m almost certain.
But outside of that, I’m terrible, terrible at remembering people’s birthdays.
And yet I have a friend from school who always sends me a birthday greeting, despite the fact that we haven’t seen each other for almost 20 years.
I’ve always thought this was weird, so I asked around, and sure enough, she does the same to everyone else I know from back then.
And she’s not even on social media, which means she’s not just getting pop-up reminders.
Instead, she’s almost certainly an empath, someone who can remember important things about others that make them feel special.
It’s almost a superpower.
4) Offering to help
People who have sensitive and empathetic souls tend to be generous.
There are two reasons behind this generosity, and the first is that they genuinely like to help others because it makes them feel good.
The other reason is that they are so sensitive; they almost always know when someone needs help
Most of us have to ask, but for an empath, it’s second nature to sense when someone else is struggling.
And if they can do anything to help out, they almost certainly will.
5) Worrying about other people when they’re down
Being highly sensitive and empathetic isn’t all sunshine and lollipops.
It also carries with it a great deal of emotional weight.
See, because these people are so sensitive to other’s emotions, they get wrapped up in them.
This helps them know when someone is feeling down or in trouble in their life, but it also pulls them into that struggle.
They can’t help it.
They worry and fret about other people constantly, and this can actually be a huge burden on their lives.
6) Actively listening
What was that?
We’ve gotten quite used to people being distracted when we’re in conversation with them, what with the draw of smartphones and the distraction of social media ever-present.
But you won’t find this in the behavior of highly sensitive souls.
These people give you their full attention when you’re in a conversation with them. They listen actively, which means they give feedback to show they’re listening, like nodding and asking questions at all the right times.
They become fully engaged, and that makes them excellent listeners.
7) Being sensitive to their environment
Highly sensitive people are sensitive to more than just emotions.
These are people whose central nervous systems seem to be taking in and processing more information than the average person, and this includes sound, light, temperature, and more.
Sensitive people might be much more affected by bright lights and loud noises and find them very off-putting.
Changes in temperature can really affect them physically and also influence their moods.
In short, they take in more from the outside.
This can make navigating the normal experiences of life much more difficult for highly sensitive people.
8) Intuiting other people’s feelings
“See how sad he looks?”
“Someone’s in a good mood!”
“Look out, she’s on the warpath!”
These types of comments can come from the mouths of people who are experts at intuiting other people’s moods.
They’re great at reading faces and body language. They can tell when something is off by the slightest change in behavior.
We can even think of people like this as emotional detectives on par with the great Sherlock Holmes.
Except where he was supposedly a genius at deduction, their genius lies in emotional induction, and they’re almost never wrong about how people are feeling.
9) Spending time in nature
Research shows that spending time in nature can have a lot of positive effects on us.
This time spent can lower stress, anxiety, and depression levels while boosting confidence and self-esteem.
For highly sensitive and empathetic people, spending time in nature is a must.
It helps them center and relax by getting away from the stresses of modern life and, yes, from people as well.
So, if someone you know is always going out hiking or heading to a forest retreat, it’s a sign that they might be an empath.
10) Avoiding conflict
One of the very negative sides of being too sensitive to other people’s emotions is that empaths can be highly affected by negative ones.
When people have conflicts, they get angry, confused, and aggressive, and empaths can find these emotions completely overwhelming.
For that reason, they tend to avoid conflict at all costs, preferring to live harmoniously even if it means big compromises.
And they not only avoid conflicts of their own but also between others, even if they have nothing to do with them.
11) Being overwhelmed by intimacy
In researching empaths, I was struck by this behavior, which I found totally surprising.
I thought that highly sensitive and empathetic souls would be masters of intimacy, but I was wrong.
At least, for many of them, intimacy can be a source of discomfort.
That’s because they already carry the burden of their own emotions, plus being a sponge soaking up the emotions of people all around them.
So, when someone gets really close to them, the emotional impact can be overwhelming.
It can be very hard for them to separate whose emotions are whose and decide which to prioritize.
12) Stressing in crowds
Highly sensitive and empathetic souls also don’t do well in crowds.
This is due, again, to their tendency to soak in the emotions of the people around them.
The more people they’re surrounded by, the more they can soak up until they’re positively drenched in emotions. These emotions are so different and varied that it can be completely disorienting for the poor empath who’s trying to stay centered.
That’s why people like this tend to avoid crowds and even large groups, preferring smaller groups and, better yet, one-on-one interactions.
13) Retreating to recharge
Because empaths are so sensitive to what’s going on around them, they often feel the need to retreat to a safe, quiet space.
This behavior often makes them seem like loners or anti-social people. But they’re usually not.
Instead, they’re just emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed and need to get away for a break.
This can sometimes be compared to introverted behavior, as introverts also tend to recharge their batteries alone, while extroverts get energy from being with other people.
Behaviors that identify empaths
If someone displays many of these 13 behaviors, they’re very likely a highly sensitive and empathetic person.
This means that they have a superpower that allows them to understand and actually feel the emotions of others.
But at the same time, this special power also makes them susceptible to emotional overload.
So, it’s important for empaths to seek out a balance between being with others and spending time to relax and recharge on their own.