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Empathic Friends or Empathy – Are Sensitive People With Autism Empaths?

Last Updated on

April 16th, 2024 09:08 am

Many neurodivergent people consider themselves empaths due to their ability to see the world differently. Yet, it’s estimated only 1% of the population is truly an empath, and the rest merely have an ability to be empathetic.

But how do these terms relate to a diagnosis of a condition such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? And how do you know if you’re an empath or just empathetic?

We’re going to try and help you work this out as we delve deeper into empathy and what it truly means to be an empath.

What is an Empath?

An empath, otherwise known as an empathic person, is someone who is able to sense and understand the feelings and emotions of others. They are often able to do this without any verbal communication thanks to their heightened levels of empathy.

There is a lot of confusion about the term “empath.” Many people think that being empathetic means you are an empath. This is not true. Cognitive empathy, for example, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person intuitively.

Empaths have a much more profound ability to feel what others are feeling than the understanding that comes with empathy alone.

An empath can sense and feel the emotions of those around them without relying on external cues. They can tune into nature’s own emotional experiences intuitively and this often comes with physical sensations. Despite this, many empaths are attuned to nuances in body language and body movements, which in many cases feel overwhelming.

Believe it or not, many empaths can feel sensory sensitivity and connections with plants, animals, and even minerals (crystals). An empath absorbs both joys and pains of the world around them. They often take on other people’s emotional burdens as their own as part of their heightened emotional empathy.

An empath does not simply understand but also feels the pain of a loved one, especially in romantic relationships. They may feel overwhelmed by negative emotional intensity they encounter in their everyday life.

This can be from people with a lack of empathy, or those with empathy but who do not possess healthy boundaries. It is important for them to find ways to protect themselves from constantly taking on other people’s pain.

Two ladies hugging to show compassion and empathy

It’s important to note that not everyone who shows empathy is an empath

What are the Characteristics of an Empath?

People who are empaths are highly sensitive to the emotions and feelings of others. They often have the ability to intuitively understand what others are feeling and can easily relate to them. Empaths are often called the “heart of the group” because of their ability to create a sense of connection with others. Here are some of the main characteristics that define an empath:

Excellent Listening Skills

Empaths have excellent listening skills and can really hear what people are saying. They also make great friends because they show up for their loved ones in times of need.

Empaths are big-hearted and generous, and they are highly intuitive thanks to their cognitive empathy. This cognitive empathy often allows them to sense what people are thinking and feeling, which can be a great asset in relationships.

In relationships with fellow Autistic adults and children, and even fellow empaths, these emotional sensitivities and affective empathy can bring success thanks to what’s known as the Double Empathy Problem.

Absorb Feelings of Others

Empaths experience others’ feelings through their body. They are biologically wired to be attached, have a secure attachment and bond with others which can make it difficult for them to discern between their own feelings and those of others

That’s because empaths are so in tune with the emotions of those around them, they may have a neurological adaptation similar to that of a warm-blooded animal. That said, empaths are often able to co-regulate, which gives them the ability to understand and feel what others are feeling.

The Burden Empaths Carry

However, the very qualities which make empaths so amazing can also be hard on them. Empaths sometimes take on the pain of others, whether autistic people or neurotypical people, at their own expense.

What’s more, unlike neurotypical people, they may find themselves feeling exhausted after spending time around people and even appear to have a lack of empathy when focusing on their own self-interests.

Craving Intimacy and Emotion

Empaths crave intimacy, but this can make things difficult for empaths when trying to build relationships, in particular if their empathic nature is the result of a trauma response.

Because they know how to read a person, they can easily become aware of a partner’s emotional needs. But since they aren’t able to articulate those needs, they may end up spending too much time focusing on themselves rather than their partners.

Burnout is Common

Empaths also struggle with burnout, especially in social settings. Whether that’s in the form of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, or a less clear-cut issue such as conflict of moral code or disruption in the world, empaths struggle to maintain energy the whole time.

You’ll notice that empaths do better in quieter environments where there aren’t a lot of distractions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider taking a break from social media or turning down the volume on your phone.

Empaths and Boundaries

It’s important for empaths to set boundaries in order to protect themselves from taking on too much energy from others. The empath is often a sensitive person, remember. If they are unable to say no, it can lead to burnout in their daily lives. However, the nature around empaths is often happy, which makes it all worth it in the end!

How to Find Fellow Empaths

If you are an empath, it’s important to find people in your life that understand your emotional energy and support you. It can be difficult to find others like yourself, especially if you’re surrounded by allistic (non-Autistic people) in your life. But it is worth the effort. Here are some tips for finding empaths in your life:

Look for people who are good listeners

Empaths are often drawn to professions such as counselling or psychology because they enjoy listening to others and helping them solve their problems.

What’s more, empaths tend to have a natural gift for understanding other people’s emotional feelings. Therefore, if someone has strong emotions from carrying a lot of emotional baggage, chances are he or she will be attracted to empaths.

Be open about your sensitivity. Many empaths struggle with self-consciousness and fear that others won’t accept them for who they are. So, it’s important to share your sensitivity with others. You don’t want to keep this part of yourself hidden.

Check out online forums and groups specifically for empaths

There are many websites and social media groups devoted to empaths where you can connect with others who share your personal experiences and feelings. They may not always be as clearly labeled as this, but once you know how to spot an empath you should be able to source out a network of supportive people to surround yourself with that have like-minded interests.

Attend workshops or retreats specifically for empaths

These events offer a safe space for empaths to connect with one another and learn about how to best care for themselves emotionally and spiritually. They can be great safe spaces for developing empathic skills and using those talents to become the best version of yourself so that you can help others overcome their own struggles in life.

How to Connect With Empaths in Your Life

There is no one answer here, as everyone’s process for connecting with empaths may be different. However, some tips on how to connect with empaths may include being open and communicative, being aware of your own emotions and needs, and being patient and understanding.

If you’re looking to connect with empaths in your life, there are a few things you can do. First, try to spend time in natural settings. This will help them relax and feel at ease. Second, be patient and understanding.

Empaths often take on a lot of the negative emotions of those around them, so they need time to recharge. Finally, don’t ask too much of them. Empaths have a difficult time saying no, so be mindful of their limits.

How to Protect Yourself From Negative Energy in Your Life

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from negative energy levels:

1. Stay grounded. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the energy of others, take a few minutes to ground yourself. Place your feet flat on the ground, and imagine roots growing down from your feet into the earth. This will help you connect with the stability and grounding of the earth.

2. Shield yourself. Another way to protect yourself from negative energy is to create a shield around your body. Visualize a protective light surrounding you, shielding you from any negative energy that may be trying to enter your space.

3. Distance yourself emotionally. One of the best ways to protect yourself from negative energy is to distance yourself emotionally from it. Don’t let what other people are saying or doing affect you on an emotional level – instead, stay objective and detached. This will help keep your energy field clear and protected.

How to Deal With Difficult Emotions

We all experience difficult emotions from time to time. It’s part of being human. For some people, these emotions can be so overwhelming that they find it hard to cope. If this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are things you can do to help manage your feelings and get through tough times.

Recognize Your Struggles

The first step is to recognize that you’re experiencing difficult emotions. Many people try to ignore or push down their feelings, but this only makes them worse in the long run. Once you’ve acknowledged what you’re feeling, start by taking a few deep breaths. This will help calm your nerves and allow you to think more clearly.


Next, it’s important to take care of yourself. Empaths tend to give too much of themselves and end up overwhelmed. Make sure you schedule time for yourself each day and do something that makes you happy. Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, or watching your favorite film, make sure to take some time for yourself every day.

woman exercising at home doing yoga while working

Self-care is important for any empath in order to find their best self


Mindfulness is another tool that can be helpful for managing difficult emotions. It encourages individuals to acknowledge their emotions in order to get off the emotional roller coaster. Exercising and meditation are also good options for maintaining grounding.

If your emotions are proving to be too much to handle, it might be helpful to seek professional help. There are a number of therapies that can assist in managing difficult emotions, such as cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and dialectical therapy.

Embrace the Empathy

Being an empath isn’t easy. You have to learn how to control your own emotional responses and remain grounded at all times. By following these tips, you’ll be able to better manage your emotions and avoid becoming overwhelmed.

That way, you’re one step closer to becoming the best version of yourself and improving your ability to see the very best in others.

Keep reading for more inspiring content that will help you understand your neurodivergent self in the best way possible!

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Rob Butler
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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