The Difference Between Being Highly Sensitive and an Empath

Roughly 3-5% of the population is empathic. As an Empath, you can feel the experiences of others as though they are your own. No delineation. No threshold. You feel it so intensely, it is as though you are the generator of the experience. “I feel you. Completely. I feel your heartache as though it is my own heartache. There is no delineation between you and me as energy beings.”

15-20% of the world’s population is highly sensitive. As a Highly Sensitive Person, you have a heightened awareness of the emotional state of those around you. Your physical senses are over-processing, giving you a greater depth of information in the physical world around you. “I am exhausted from the bright lights and noise.” You can sense emotions radiating off others, sometimes so potently, it can be unconsciously perceived as your own.

It is here we find the difference between being able to tune into what someone else is feeling versus experiencing what they are feeling, as though you are the one feeling and generating the thought, emotion or physical state.

Every Empath is Highly Sensitive. Not every Highly Sensitive Person is empathic. Because every Empath is also Highly Sensitive, it’s easy to label oneself as an Empath when you are not.

It’s especially hard to tell the difference for yourself when constantly being overstimulated. When sensitivities are not being managed, there can be so much energetic chaos, coupled with fatigue, that the ability to distinguish what is truly happening diminishes immensely. It is hard to trust your inner guidance with so much external noise.

You must first learn to manage your sensitivities before you can fully understand and work with your empathic gift. Without managing sensitivities, you will stay stuck in a disempowered state and the depression cycle. (You can learn more about managing your sensitivities here.)

If you are a Highly Sensitive Person and not an Empath and suffer from depression, the depression you are experiencing and why you are experiencing it may be incredibly different than what is experienced by an Empath. Learning to manage your sensitivities will absolutely help, but will not give you the full picture. It’s like using a compass that points East instead of North. It will not get you where you want to go. There are solutions out there for you that you will not find here.

Therefore, it’s important to distinguish between the fine line of, “Do I have an awareness of my friend having a headache because I’m finely attuned to sensing the world around me?” OR “Am I fully experiencing the headache as my own because I am empathically connecting to my friend?”