Share on Pinterest
Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

Have you ever been told you’re too sensitive? Or advised to toughen up and develop a thicker skin?

Maybe you’ve always felt you know what’s going to happen before it occurs, or you know how others are feeling without them having to tell you.

If so, you could be an intuitive empath.

Intuitive empaths are believed to be a unique kind of empath that combines empathy, or the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, with instinct and perception.

Some believe intuitive empathy is a powerful gift that may come with its own unique challenges.

It’s important to note that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of intuitive empaths.

Some experts believe that intuitive empathy is most closely related to what the scientific evidence calls sympathy. One study asserts that sympathy overlaps with the emotional component of empathy.

Authors in the same study drew comparisons between empathy and compassion, noting that both emotions are evoked when something bad happens to another person.

Alternatively, intuitive empathy may actually correspond most closely with high emotionality.

While the existence of empaths, as discussed here, isn’t supported by science, some people believe strongly in them and offer anecdotal evidence for their existence.

“There are different kinds of empaths,” says Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist, intuitive empath, and the author of “The Empath’s Guide To Survival: Life Strategies For Sensitive People.”

According to Orloff’s own experiences (rather than empirical research), there are three types of empaths:

  • physical empaths
  • emotional empaths
  • intuitive empaths

“The physical empaths pick up a lot of stuff in their own bodies. They pick up other people’s physical symptoms and can actually take on the illness of other people,” Orloff says.

On the other hand, Orloff asserts that emotional empaths pick up on others’ feelings.

Then, there are intuitive empaths. “The intuitive empaths are those who experience life with extraordinary perceptions,” Orloff says.

According to Orloff, intuitive empaths are extremely perceptive and may have the following traits:

  • psychic ability that can manifest as a sense of knowing
  • openness to telepathy
  • ability to receive messages in dreams
  • capacity for animal and plant communication
  • ability to receive gut feelings and the signals of the body

“They’re highly intuitive and sensitive, and they can use this to guide their lives,” Orloff says.

Again, it’s important to note that there is no scientific evidence to support Orloff’s claims and these concepts cannot be measured empirically.

Some people believe that intuitive empaths fall into certain categories and have subtly different characteristics. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support these claims.

While the research is lacking, you may feel your traits and characteristics resemble one of the following types if you identify as an intuitive empath.

Highly intuitive empath

This kind of intuitive empath is believed to have very high levels of intuition. They are said to be extremely perceptive and sensitive to others’ emotions.

They may take on the suffering of others and often go the extra mile for people as a result. They may also be easily overwhelmed by noises and smells.

Claircognizant intuitive empath

While there is no evidence supporting clairvoyance, some people believe claircognizant intuitive empaths have psychic and telepathic abilities.

It’s suggested that they have a strong sense of knowing, whether it’s telling when someone is lying or perceiving the best course of action to take in any situation.

Emotional intuitive empath

Some people believe that emotional intuitive empaths tend to absorb others’ emotions and can become easily drained and exhausted as a result. It’s believed they are hugely impacted by external energy and need to be very careful about who they choose to spend time with.

One study noted that people with high trait empathy may be able to tap into other people’s emotions. However, there is no evidence that this is the case for intuitive empaths specifically.

Animal and plant intuitive empath

Animal and plant intuitive empaths are believed by some to feel a deep connection to flora and fauna and have the ability to communicate with them. They are considered to be very nurturing, loving, and compassionate.

According to one study, plants are in constant dialogue with organisms in their environment through volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This may even have applied uses for agriculture.

However, there is no research indicating that human beings can communicate with plants via VOCs.

Although Orloff believes that being an intuitive empath is a wonderful gift, she also believes it can carry a lot of complex difficulties. Being so deeply in tune with others can be a heavy weight to carry, she says.

“It can be challenging, because intuitive empaths don’t have the same filters when it comes to negative energy,” Orloff says.

Luckily, there are ways to manage these difficulties. Orloff says intuitive empaths benefit from learning to listen to their inner guidance. This helps them avoid absorbing others’ pain, stress, and emotions.

“There’s all this other information that’s available to intuitive empaths, so it’s really a gift, so long as you don’t absorb everything,” she says.

Orloff includes a 20-point self-assessment quiz for intuitive empaths in her book. She explains that the more questions you answer yes to, the greater your degree of intuitive empathy.

She advises asking yourself some of the following questions to identify your level of intuitive empathy. The more you identify, the further you are up the scale.

Have I been labelled as overly sensitive or too shy throughout my life?

“Often, intuitive empaths are labelled as too sensitive all their lives,” Orloff says. “They are often told to develop a thicker skin, which can make [them] feel like there’s something wrong with [them].”

Do I often feel like I don’t fit in?

Orloff calls this the “square peg round hole syndrome. It often comes with a strong sense of not belonging.

“Intuitive empaths often feel like they don’t fit in with the rest of society,” she says.

Do crowds drain me? Do I need a lot of alone time to revive myself?

Big crowds can feel overwhelming and draining for intuitive empaths, as there are so many competing energies. They tend to prefer one-on-one company.

Do noises, smells, or excessive talking overwhelm me?

Likewise, intuitive empaths can experience sensory overload and feel drained or overwhelmed by too many stimuli.

Do I prefer taking my own car places, so I have the option to leave?

“Intuitive empaths want to have the option to leave. They don’t like to be trapped in social situations,” Orloff says. “It’s too overwhelming for them. They need to give themselves permission to leave.”

Do I tend to socially isolate?

When you absorb the energies of others, it’s only natural that you might like to spend time alone. For this reason, intuitive empaths often isolate themselves and shy away from social situations.

Socially isolating and planning ahead to make your exit at social events can be symptoms of a mental health condition, like social anxiety disorder or depression.

It’s important to be aware of these tendencies and, in some cases, seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional.

Do I pick up intuitions about people and know things without them telling me?

Perhaps you know straight away when someone is lying, or you get a strong feeling about something right before it happens. These are characteristics of intuitive empaths.

Have other people been frightened by my intuitions?

“Ask yourself: Can I predict the future? Do I know things without people having to tell me?” Orloff suggests.

Intuitive empaths often have an innate knowledge about people, places, and events that can seem spooky or disconcerting to others.

“Intuitive empaths are emotional sponges. They tend to absorb what’s going on in other people. They don’t have the regular filters that other people have, and so everything comes in,” Orloff says.

According to Orloff, intuitive empaths need to learn that it’s not their job to absorb the suffering of others.

Based on her experience with her clients, Orloff advises that empathic individuals learn how to stay grounded.

“If you’re wide open and you have no training in how to ground yourself, it can be too much,” she says. “Intuitive empaths who haven’t learned the skills [to deal with their gift can] suffer tremendously.”

Orloff believes the right kind of self-care can remedy the challenges intuitive empaths face.

“Once an intuitive empath is diagnosed, they can learn to thrive and expand their intuition,” she says. “They can learn how not to be overwhelmed by their gift and learn how to use it for good.”

Take breaks

One of Orloff’s suggestions is to take mini-breaks throughout the day. Instead of pushing yourself to go from one thing to the next, schedule in replenishing breathers.

She suggests taking time “to come back to your heart and recenter yourself, so you’re not exhausted.”

Be careful who you spend time with

Many people believe that intuitive empaths can be easily influenced by the energies around them.

“Listen to your body, and see who gives you energy and who drains you,” Orloff says. “Don’t stay around people who are just sucking you dry all the time. It’s very important to be aware of the body’s signals and not reject them.”

Shield yourself

Orloff advises that empaths practice shielding to avoid absorbing unwanted energies.

“Visualize a shield around your body to protect yourself from any draining, negative energy when you’re around energy vampires,” she suggests.

It’s important to note here that Orloff isn’t suggesting emotional avoidance, a destructive coping mechanism that involves burying your emotions and steering clear of potential conflict.

Instead, she’s suggesting giving yourself a protective bubble that, in her opinion, can help you to maintain your balance. She believes this can prevent you from absorbing negative energies of other people without shutting yourself off emotionally.

Try using crystals

“I’m a big believer in holding powerful gemstones in your hand as a grounding technique before going through something stressful,” Orloff says.

While there is no scientific research to support the benefits of crystals, their use is an important practice for many.

Meditate

Regular meditation may help to replenish your energy.

“In my book, I talk about a 3-minute heart meditation to bring you back to yourself where you breathe, center yourself, put your hand on your heart, and picture something loving,” says Orloff.

Orloff suggests meditations that center around the full and new moon as well as the solstices and equinoxes. She claims this can help intuitive empaths connect to the greater life cycles of nature.

While there isn’t evidence to suggest meditating at certain points in the lunar cycle has any added benefit, there’s no harm in using this method to enhance your awareness of lunar rhythms.

There isn’t scientific research on intuitive empaths.

Nevertheless, Orloff says empaths can follow the above steps to become empowered.

“It won’t be a miserable thing. It will be a powerful way to deepen your connections to others and nature, and to love life. You just have to learn the skills to manage the challenging parts,” she says. “Empaths have to keep going back to the well to replenish themselves. They can’t forget that.”


Victoria Stokes is a writer from the United Kingdom. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, personal development, and well-being, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails, and the color pink among some of her favorite things. Find her on Instagram.