What Do Psychologists Say About Empaths?

Written By

Saba Imran


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Empaths are people who are deeply attuned to the emotions and experiences of those around them. As interest in empathy grows, psychologists and therapists have increasingly studied this personality type to understand how empaths tick.

Defining the empath

Empaths are distinct from ordinary, compassionate people. An empath intensely feels other people’s emotions as if they were their own. This leads to an exceptional ability to understand what other people are going through.

Psychologists describe a few key traits of empaths:

  • High emotional intelligence
  • Absorbing others’ emotions
  • Connecting with strangers quickly
  • Strong intuition and perception
  • Getting overwhelmed in groups

Essentially, an empath has a “porous boundary” between themselves and others. This exceptional sensitivity lends empaths both their powers and vulnerabilities.

What Do Psychologists Say About Empaths

Explaining the empathic ability

The popular view is that empaths are born with a special personality. But psychologists propose empaths aren’t a separate personality type – their skill is an extension of normal empathy.

Nature and nurture

As psychologist Karla McLaren notes, empathic abilities have both biological and social roots. We’re born with varying levels of empathy.

  • How this develops depends on our early life experiences.
  • Neglect and trauma can heighten empathy, for better or worse.

Emotional regulation

A key theory is that empaths lack emotional regulation. When they absorb external emotions, they have trouble distinguishing them from their own feelings.

  • This merger leads to emotional flooding.

Mastering regulation techniques helps empaths control their sensitivity without losing their gift.

As psychologists say, “The problem is not the strength of empathy, but underdeveloped coping mechanisms.”

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Empath strengths

Psychologists believe empaths have talents that we undervalue.

Social intelligence

Reading people’s subtle cues lets empaths excel at connecting, communicating, and resolving conflicts. This makes them gifted friends, partners, and leaders.


Absorbing different vantage points and emotions stimulates an empath’s imagination. Many of history’s great artists, writers, and innovators displayed high empathy.

Personal growth

By developing emotional hygiene as psychologists recommend, empaths build self-knowledge. Their journey to understand emotions makes them sages.

Health risks facing empaths

The empathy-altruism link breaks down when empaths become distressed. Without coping skills, psychologists warn of several risks, including:

  • Emotional exhaustion – Absorbing stressful emotions daily leads to fatigue and burnout.
  • Codependency – Empaths can lose themselves trying to help or “fix” others.
  • Isolation – Being overwhelmed by groups and stimuli, empaths retreat.

Building emotional resilience, while retaining their gift, is key to empaths thriving. Holistic wellness and community support makes this possible.


Empaths have an augmented form of a universal human capacity. While empathy itself is healthy, empaths need help regulating the intensity of their experiences.

  • Providing empaths with emotional skills training and purpose could make them the visionaries of mental health.

At the least, understanding what makes them tick can allow empaths to convert their trait into a tremendous gift.

6 Struggles Only Genuine Empaths Will Understand

Looking for more mental health tips? Make sure to follow our Mental Health Board on Pinterest!

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About the author

Saba Imran

Saba Imran

I'm passionate about medical research and writing. I earned my Master's degree in Microbiology because I love learning about tiny microbes and how they impact health. With over 6 years experience as a healthcare researcher and medical writer, I've published many times in international journals. Participating in research projects has given me in-depth knowledge to make complex topics easy to grasp. In my free time, I volunteer at the community science museum to get kids excited about science and discovery. My goal is to take difficult concepts and make them understandable through meticulous research, hopefully benefiting people across the globe. I believe clear science writing can empower us all. Social

2 thoughts on “What Do Psychologists Say About Empaths?”

  1. I had my first medium reading yesterday and she told me I am surrounded by animal spirit. Makes sense. I’ve rescued and raised many dogs and cats and I still do. She told me I had psychic powers and that I should explore them. It was suggested I could he an empath. After reading articles related to empaths I found me in all the criteria!!!!! My entire life-54 years-i thought I was just really weird!!!!! Now I know I’m really weird and I’m really special! I am hooked on learning and I need to know more. Where do I start?

    • Wow, how exciting to get some validation and clarity from your medium reading! I can understand feeling a mix of curiosity, relief, and maybe even some trepidation now that you know you have these intuitive empath abilities.

      I would start exploring your abilities slowly and stay grounded – learn about energy work like reiki and meditation that can help you control and nurture your empathy. Spend time reflecting on what specific intuitive experiences stand out from your life. And seek out other empaths, mediums and animal communicators to better understand the range of extrasensory talents.

      Most importantly, embrace these gifts as part of what makes you wonderfully unique! Getting to know this side of yourself at 54 allows you an opportunity for self discovery and spiritual growth. I’m excited for you on this journey…your weirdness is definitely special, so let it shine. Start with an open heart and trust your own instincts as you develop your new empath skills over time. Congratulations on this breakthrough!


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