There are some different types of people in the world, and society has come up with names to describe every aspect of personalities and the way people interact with others. Two of those labels are highly sensitive people and empaths. These are often confused and sometimes used interchangeably, but the truth is that these two distinctions are separate.
Both empaths and highly sensitive people do share some traits, which is why they are often confused. They both need to spend time alone; are sensitive to sounds, lights, and smells; prefer avoiding large groups of people, and are easily over-stimulated. Because both highly sensitive people and empaths have a hard time switching from highly-stimulating situations to low-stimulation ones, it often takes them a while to relax at the end of a day.
Another similarity between these two types of people is that they tend to prefer natural environments. They also both have an abundant inner life and a strong desire to help others. Most highly sensitive people and empaths are introverted, though it’s more likely for an empath to be an extrovert. This, however, is where the similarities end.
Empaths take empathy to the next level, and many religions and traditions believe that they can sense the energy that is being given off by another person.
However, psychologists and psychiatrists have yet to determine what exactly allows for empaths to be able to connect on such a deep level to the other people around them, or why they can often profoundly connect with nature and animals.
For many empaths, this means they internalize the experiences of others, including emotions, feelings, and even pain. At times, empaths are unable to distinguish between their suffering and that of those around them. This can cause stress and confusion in people who may not realize that they are empaths since they don’t recognize that what they’re feeling may not be coming from themselves.
When considering empaths verses highly sensitive people, it’s important to recognize that everybody has different levels of empathy that they are capable of and that these two distinctions are not mutually exclusive. Some highly sensitive people are empaths, too, although not all highly sensitive people are empaths.
The best way to think of this is that there is an empathy spectrum. On one end, there are the psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists who severely or often wholly lacking in empathy. After that, some ordinary people have a reasonable amount of empathy towards others. Then come the highly sensitive people who are more empathetic than the average person, and, finally, the empaths, who are the most empathetic.
Both sensitivity and empathy are valuable gifts that anybody should chase after and look for in others, and all should celebrate them. It is these gifts of being able to connect with others that can make the world a better place by bringing more harmony and a more profound sense of connection between people, animals, and nature.
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About the Author: Originally from Michigan, Melody now enjoys working as a freelance writer from her home in Nicaragua, which she shares with her amazing husband and their crazy cat that was raised on goat’s milk from the time her mother abandoned her at just ten days old. They’re excited to be expecting their first baby, who they thought was a girl, were told was a boy, and then was told was a girl. She also recently finished her first novel and is working on making a cat coloring book.