How To Tell If You're A Highly Sensitive Person Or An Empath

Are you are an empath or HSP?

sensitive woman turned away Pereslavtseva Katerina / Shutterstock

Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP) or an empath? Many people have wondered what that means or how to tell the difference between an empath vs. an HSP.

While it can be easy to confuse the two, there are staunch differences between a highly sensitive person and an empath. But let’s start with what an HSP is (and isn't).

What is a highly sensitive person?

According to Dr. Elaine Aron, an HSP is someone that processes things more deeply. These individuals are more conscientious, creative, and process sensory data much deeper than others.


Some might describe it as the volume being turned up on your nervous system and senses. Interestingly, this trait is innate and is found across species, and it's estimated that about 20% of the population is highly sensitive.

Highly sensitive people feel overwhelmed easily, which may manifest as feeling tired, irritable or depressed; they are aware of subtleties in their environment, whether it's visual, auditory, physical, or sensory; HSPs feel more deeply and are highly intuitive, though some may not know how to access it; HSPs are also incredibly spiritual by nature and thrive when grounded in it.


RELATED: What It Means When People Say You're "Too Sensitive" (And How To Embrace It)

These are just some traits of HSPs, but what about empaths?

What is an empath?

According to Dr. Judith Orloff, there are some questions you can ask to determine if you're an empath:

  • Have I been labeled as “too emotional” or overly sensitive?
  • If a friend is distraught, do I start feeling it, too?
  • Are my feelings easily hurt?
  • Am I emotionally drained by crowds and require time alone to revive?
  • Do my nerves get jarred by noise, smells, or excessive talk?
  • Do I prefer taking my own car places, so that I can leave when I please?
  • Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
  • Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships?

Empaths take all the things that are traits of an HSP and emphasize them even more. In addition, spiritual and intuitive tendencies can be even stronger.


There are actually different types of empaths. An empath usually has a high sensation of feeling others’ emotions, some can feel other’s physical pain, some can even see other’s dreams, spirits or mediums, and can sense future events.

If you are an empath, then you are an HSP, and all of the above applies to you. But you can be an HSP and not be an empath. So, what is the difference?

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What is the difference between a highly sensitive person and an empath?

All empaths are HSPs, but not all HSPs are empaths. Empaths take being an HSP to a deeper level. One is not better than the other — just a little different.


Empaths take all the HSP traits and can also feel the energy. The energy that an empath can feel differs from physical, emotional, precognitive, or even connection to spirits as a medium.

If you are an HSP, know that you are much needed in the world. Knowing you were designed this way on purpose, and learning to use your trait as a strength is a key to thriving in the world.

Here are 4 challenges empaths and highly sensitive people feel:

Overstimulation: Your nervous system is feeling taxed and you are unable to function.

Emotional and physical burnout: You feel so done with everything. You lack the motivation to complete tasks, reach out to people, or engage in self-care.


Isolation and loneliness: It may feel like no one understands you or experiences in the world in the same way.

Absorbing the negativity of others: You may leave a gathering, a store, or even a phone call feeling angry or upset, even though when you look at what is happening in your life, it doesn't make sense.

You may have taken on the anger, frustration, or other negative energy of another. As an empath, you can attract energy vampires. They unconsciously sense that you can help relieve some of their energetic burdens.


RELATED: 4 Reasons Self-Care Is More Challenging For Highly Sensitive People (HSPs)

Kavita Melwani is a certified empowerment coach, hypnotherapist, past-life regressionist, certified money marketing and soul coach, and a Reiki master.