There Are 3 Types of Empaths—Which One Are You?

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Chanintorn Vanichsawangpham/EyeEm/getty images

Do you feel things first and think second? Are you so attuned to the emotions of those around you that your body reacts to their feelings as if they were your own? Newsflash, you might be an empath. Read on to learn more about what being an empath means, as well as which type of empath you are, from Dr. Judith Orloff, who literally wrote the book on empaths—The Empath’s Survival Guide.

What Is an Empath?

While the trait isn’t exactly ESP, empaths are deeply attuned to what people around them are feeling—emotionally and physically—and experience those sensations as if they were their own, often without needing to utter a word. Empaths feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function in our overintellectualized society. According to Orloff, research shows that high sensitivity affects approximately 20 percent of the population, though the degree of one’s sensitivity can vary.

What’s the Difference Between Being Empathetic and Being an Empath?

Though the words are almost identical, being empathetic and being an empath are two different things. Per Orloff, “Ordinary empathy means our heart goes out to another person when they are going through a difficult period.” Empaths, however, actually sense other people’s emotions, energy and physical symptoms in their own bodies.

What Are the 3 Main Types of Empaths?

While every empath lives a different experience, Orloff’s book identifies three main types, and defines them as such.

1. Physical Empath
You are especially attuned to other people’s physical symptoms and tend to absorb them into your body. You also can become energized by someone’s sense of well-being. For example, if a physical empath's friend is complaining about sharp stomach pains, the physical empath might start to feel a similar pain in their own body. 

2. Emotional Empath
You mainly pick up other people’s emotions and can become a sponge for their feelings, both happy and sad. Orloff give this example for what an emotional empath is: "They can sit beside a depressed person while watching a comedy and walk out of the movie theater feeling depressed. How? The other person’s energy field overlaps with the empath’s field during the film."

3. Intuitive Empath
You experience extraordinary perceptions such as heightened intuition, telepathy, messages in dreams, animal and plant communication, as well as contact with the other side. Intuitive empaths can be broken down further into these seven types (heads up that this veers more into the spiritual than scientific): 

  • Telepathic Empaths receive intuitive information about others in present time.
  • Precognitive Empaths have premonitions about the future while awake or dreaming.
  • Dream Empaths are avid dreamers and can receive intuitive information from dreams that helps others and guides them in their own lives.
  • Mediumship Empaths can access spirits on the other side.
  • Plant Empaths can feel the needs of plants and connect with their essence.
  • Earth Empaths are attuned to changes in our planet, our solar system and the weather.
  • Animal Empaths can tune into animals and communicate with them.

Are You an Empath?

If all this sounds a bit too familiar, or you think you might be an empath, consider these 13 common signs, according to Orloff:

  1. You’ve been told you’re moody
  2. You’ve been known as the “peacemaker” among your friends and family
  3. You’re not one for big, loud or busy public spaces
  4. You feel physically ill when someone yells at or gets angry with you
  5. You find watching violence or cruelty on TV unbearable
  6. People feel inclined to offload their problems onto you
  7. You have very strong intuition
  8. You feel super weird around “fake” people
  9. You’re drawn to holistic methods of healing
  10. You’ve felt a deep connection to nature and animals
  11. You need your alone time
  12. You feel like you don’t fit in
  13. You struggle to set boundaries

And if you still need more information, we recommend talking to a mental health professional (like a therapist) for guidance, so you can manage your empathy without feeling drained.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...