Empaths are people who have a higher level of empathy than others. Empathy helps people share experiences, needs, and desires, which, in turn, can help build relationships.

This article will discuss what an empath is, the signs of being an empath, and its benefits and difficulties.

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Empathy is an emotion or state of being that allows one person to connect emotionally and cognitively with another person.

Specifically, it refers to being able to “put oneself in someone else’s shoes” to better understand their feelings or experiences. This can help build relationships, whether those relationships are personal or professional.

An empath is someone who feels more empathy than the average person. These people are usually more accurate in recognizing emotions by looking at another person’s face. They are also more likely to recognize emotions earlier than other people and rate those emotions as being more intense.

People who score highly on the empathetic concern and perspective-taking scale on the interpersonal reactivity index are more likely to be highly empathetic.

There are several signs that someone is an empath, and researchers have found some scientific explanations for these traits. The following sections will look at these in more detail.

Unconsciously mirroring another person’s movements

People who are highly empathetic may unconsciously mirror other people’s movements. MRI scans have shown that there is a neural relay mechanism in the brain that allows empaths to mimic the postures, mannerisms, and facial expressions of others.

Interestingly, this mimicry also applies to tiny movements. If an empath sees a needle pricking another person’s hand, the empath’s brain may react as if it were their hand, activating the same motor and sensory areas.

Unconsciously mirroring another person’s emotions

Similarly to unconsciously mirroring another person’s movements, empaths are also more likely to unconsciously mirror another person’s emotions.

MRI scans have shown that when a highly empathetic individual observes another person who is experiencing a range of emotions, the empath’s brain fires off the same neural circuits, making the empath feel what the other person is feeling.

Feeling another person’s pain

One small study found that highly empathetic people reported feeling an electric shock that researchers gave to other people.

The researchers gave 16 women an electric shock while they were hooked up to a brain imaging machine. This machine showed which areas of their brains activated when in pain.

After this, the researchers told the women that their spouses also received an electric shock while in another room. The women’s brains used similar areas as when the researchers shocked them, causing the women some pain.

This study suggests that people who are highly empathetic may be able to physically feel another person’s pain, to some extent. However, this study was very small, so scientists will need to conduct more research.

Being quicker and more accurate at recognizing emotions

People who have higher empathy are generally quicker at recognizing emotions, especially threatening facial expressions, than people who do not have as much empathy.

This quicker reaction also comes with a more accurate assessment of a person’s facial expressions, with highly empathetic people more likely to accurately recognize threatening, happy, or neutral expressions than others.

Being more likely to try new things

People who have high empathy traits are more likely to try new activities and approach new situations if they see another person enjoying themselves.

Conversely, highly empathetic individuals are less likely to try new activities or situations if they see that another person is upset or shows signs of distress.

Being more likely to help people in distress

Certain areas of the brain are more likely to “code” responses to positive and negative reactions.

The brains of people with high empathy are more likely to code the correct responses toward positive reactions, such as empathizing with a person who received money, and toward negative reactions, such as feeling tender toward those in distress.

These brain responses may make it more likely that a person chooses to avoid causing another person harm, for example.

Being less likely to display aggression

People who have high empathy may have an amygdala that is more responsive to distress signals than others. The amygdala responds to fear, sadness, and pain.

A person who is empathetic may be less likely to be aggressive toward a person displaying these emotions due to their amygdala’s response.

The main benefit of being an empath is having the ability to promote a more harmonious community, especially in interpersonal relationships, such as within family and friendship circles. Having high empathy allows people to help reduce other people’s distress and aggression.

Empathy also helps maintain social bonds, which, in turn, helps reduce loneliness and other emotions or states of being that may have adverse health effects.

People with high empathy may be more likely to maintain these bonds, as they are more capable of feeling, understanding, and wanting to help people who are experiencing difficulties.

Some people who have high empathy may also feel compassion satisfaction, wherein helping people experiencing negative emotions or situations provides positive feedback. By helping other people, an empath might feel happier than if they did not help that person.

There are some difficulties that come with being highly empathetic. For example, if an individual is highly empathetic and other people come to them for advice, this oversharing of negative emotions may be harmful to the empath.

Empaths may also feel burnout, leading to a temporary loss of empathy and compassion, if they find it difficult to sort through their own emotions as well as those of other people.

Empaths may feel sad, exhausted, or inadequate when faced with another person’s negative emotions, especially if they feel that they cannot help. Therefore, it is important for an empath to take a step back and take time for themselves to help prevent burnout.

Empathy is an important trait. People with high empathy, or empaths, are more likely to feel, recognize, and mirror another person’s emotions or movements.

This mirroring can be both beneficial and disadvantageous, so it is important for empaths to take time for themselves as well as helping others.