Empath - Empath Tests
An "empath" or "highly sensitive person" (different but closely related concepts), is more than just a person who feels great empathy for others. These are people who often share a far deeper sense of connection with environment than the rest of us. They may have a heightened sense of smell, touch, hearing and believe it or not, there may be an evolutionary explanation for why some people are more aware and sensitive to social dynamics and outside danger than the rest of us. I explain more about what being an empath means on my Empath page - this page features a couple of fun tests which can help you decide if you identify as an empath... or know someone highly sensitive in this way.
A Basic HSP Test
In early 2016 I went and bought the book "The Highly Sensitive Person" (HSP) by psychologist Elaine Aron. It was incredible, and in the middle was a wonderful test. According to the book, as high as 15% of people relate to being HSP. Since finishing the book I've ran the test on more and more people, and it's always been fun and interesting to see how people react.
I think it's time you did the test! Grab a pen and paper, because here it is:
The HSP Test from the "Highly Sensitive Person" Book
Instructions: Read this out a friend... get them to write the numbers 1 to 27 and then answer each question according to the way they personally feel. Write "y" if it is at least somewhat true for you; answer "n" if it is not very true or not at all true for you.
- I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.
- I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.
- Other people's moods affect me.
- I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
- I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
- I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
- I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics,or sirens close by.
- I have a rich, complex inner life.
- I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.
- I am deeply moved by the arts or music.
- My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.
- I am conscientious.
- I startle easily.
- I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.
- When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).
- I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.
- I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.
- I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.
- I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.
- Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.
- Changes in my life shake me up.
- I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.
- I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.
- I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.
- I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.
- When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.
- When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.
Results: Okay, hopefully you didn't look ahead for a total spoiler, but the author claims that if you scored 14 or more you are on the spectrum. :) If you scored 0... well the author doesn't say, but I feel like that's a little scary - you are either a badass warrior, socially clueless engineer or a dangerous psychopath who lacks all empathy. Eep! Let's hope it's the middle one.
So how did you go on the test?! Was there one or two questions that made you step back in shock? Or perhaps you are skeptical and think lots of these questions are just part of being "human". Let me take it again for myself.... oh, I got 10. Phew, I'm safe. :)
... Safe and yet I get told by people again and again that I'm part empath, because I often act from my heart.
Take your result will a huge grain of salt - the questions appear deliberately subjective and your answers today might be different from a week from now, or with a change of mood. I feel there is significant repetition (often test like to ask the same question from different angles), and yet, these are the kind of questions which might provoke thought.
I also disagree with some of the questions above.... you can easily build up a tolerance for caffeine, or even walls to block out other people's emotions... yet there are enough questions there to give you a good sense of what goes on. The "I have a complex inner life" question should be worth at least 4 points in my humble opinion - bringing the total points a nice multiple of 10.
For me, I think the most interesting question was about the violent movies - because it's always fun to see people's reaction to movies. I was scared as a kid, but not anymore. I like to joke that a more accurate empath test (better than the one above) would be to ask how many episodes of "Breaking Bad" a person got through. It's just a really stressful, intense show! And yet I know this generalization is not true either, because a wonderful empath I met this year watched Game of Thrones with me, and... well Game of Thrones is so incredible she could endure and just look away for the gory parts.
It was also fascinating to meet a lovely girl called Nicole. Nicole is dating and incredible friend of mine (she's very much empath and he isn't so much) and she is terrified by scary movies. Nicole decided, at a young age, that she could overcome this "fear" of scary movies by forcing herself to watch. The result could have easily lead to her death.... it sounds unreal, but it lead to posttraumatic stress disorder, something usually diagnosed in soldier who have seen continued death, so to me it was incredibly that just be watching such scenes on television made Nicole feel like it was happening to her. She experienced violence, war and death around her. But that is how life is for an empath - the experience is absorbed through you. If a friend goes through divorce, or loss of a child - and you get to close in support of them - it is like you are undergoing the experience as well. Empathy is a beautiful thing, but exposing herself to violent television was one of the worst things Nicole could have ever done, and it wasn't until university that a friend helped her realize her big mistake and start undoing the damage. With better education of such things, maybe it would have been avoided. Even if you are not qualified to identify a child as an "empath", if you hear a parent complain that their child appears introverted and "sensitive", they probably should start looking into published literature.
A Detailed Empath Test
I've met so many empaths in the bay area I could almost write my own little book. The stories they share are so fascinating. Using this sensitivity you can walk into a room and immediately know who in the room is hiding sadness or any negative energy. I do feel like the test above missed a few interesting points. I would like add to the above test 13 "extra questions" (bringing it from 27 questions to 40 total), based on my observations of HSP. These are empaths I have chatted to and remember from my past, plus a few interesting articles online.
Extra Questions for Empaths
Follow the same instructions from the previous test. Answer "y" or "n" for each question on a sheet of paper then tally your yeses.
- I can usually read people's intentions, and usually sense and avoid those with bad intent.
- I go out of my way to help friends and even strangers... I am a "helper".
- I am easily bored at work/study, unless my boss or teacher expresses themselves with emotion/passion.
- If there is someone with intense anger or sadness in the room, I can find it unbearable.
- I am fascinated by and attracted to people who I cannot read (emotionally).
- I feel a connection with nature, simple things like a breeze through the trees or rain on my feet enchant me.
- I value relationships with friends and family higher than anything material (unless a friend made if for me).
- When a nearby love one becomes sick I often feel similar sickness/physical pain, even if I don't have the actual illness.
- I have an unusually strong reaction to many drugs (alcohol, birth control, prescription meds) and try to be very careful about what I put into my body.
- I am extremely sensitive to loving touch (in a good way!) and strong connection is critical for me to start a romantic relationship.
- Sex often feels like a spiritual experience for me.
- I'm a romantic at heart, but I am timid and slow starting each new relationship as I fear losing complete freedom.
- When I am in love, I can have trouble determining how much is their love, versus my own.
How did you score?! Unlike the HSP test I haven't run this one a huge number of people so I don't have any calibration nor expertise... just instinct that these questions will make you think hard about yourself. The last empath I tested with this scored 13/13, and I got some wonderful looks of revelation. Lyubov is one of first empaths I encountered in the bay area, and an incredible friend - one of the most beautiful human beings I will ever meet in my life, inside an out. She had never heard the word empath before I read her my articles aloud. She has helped and taught me so much during the years I've know her, I was incredible excited to be the one teaching her for a change. Let me elaborate on some of these points as briefly as I know how:
(#1) I can usually read people's intentions, and usually sense and avoid those with bad intent.
This is honestly the type of skill which can save you and your friends from getting molested as a children. This is powerful stuff the spans from childhood across your whole life. Read between the lines here please, this story isn't my own, but it's not invented either - and bet I could find other friends with similar stories if I search hard enough. The wisdom of the crowd on danger is this: always trust your gut.
(#2) I go out of my way to help friends and even strangers... I am a "helper".
Throughout history it has been people like you who helped prevent wars. They call it the "advisor class". The warrior class hears the loud noise, and rushes foolhardy towards it... drawing a sword if necessary. You sense danger from a mile away, and that can give you the chance to help calm people down and resolve untold conflict in the world. Maybe you should embrace that gift.
Conversely, all of us recognize times when you need conflict. To end a relationship which no longer serves you... well even if you handle it masterfully, that conversation represents a huge conflict for all people. People who avoid conflict often stay in relationships longer than they should because they are simply scared of that conversation. Perhaps you should start with writing a love letter (you don't have to send it) to this person and seek some courage from others - maybe some people who are not empaths - for you to stand up for what you want in times of impending and necessary conflict.
(#3) I am easily bored at work/study, unless my boss or teacher expresses themselves with emotion/passion.
Honestly, most people react to leader or teaches who throw real emotion into what they do.... however I believe for HSP you really deeply seek a job which gives meaning - which helps people in some way. Of everyone in your team, you might be the most likely to leave to: (1) pursue travel and discovering yourself, or (2) take up a lesser paid job with a volunteering component - even if it doesn't have huge recognition. You want meaning to your work. You crave purpose and the idea that you are helping in some way, and ultimately if your employer can't provide you with that motivation, you are the first to become uninspired and maybe even become accused of laziness - contrasted against your general diligence in life.
(#4) If there is someone with intense anger or sadness in the room, I can find it unbearable.
When there is someone intensely sad in a room..... well a lot of people naturally don't even notice unless they are physically crying. You pick up on the more subtle body language. And heck - even if someone is physically crying, lots of people can carry on and enjoy the party. You cannot. Your instinct is either to either (a) run to assist them, if you think you can help, or (b) run away, if you realize that this sadness is so deep and powerful it will overwhelm and drain you... even from thirty meters away.
(#5) I am fascinated by and attracted to people who I cannot read (emotionally).
The last two empaths I met, both girls, I identified pretty quickly as empath. I asked a few basic questions to confirm what I suspected, then stared deep into their eyes and said something along these lines: "I'm willing to be you were in at least one relationship, where you dated a narcissist - it was like a dance between light and dark - you were incredibly fascinated by them. You ultimately wanted to understand them, to the change them and to love them. You ultimately failed. They could not be changed. You stayed in that relationship years longer than you should have. They were not necessarily bad people, but they left a scar on you because they were addicted to your energy, and they drained you of it. You were hurt by this person and in some way still recovering". I'm sure I didn't say it quite that eloquently, but the reaction was shock, as if I had a deep insight into their life. And hey - most of us have been in at least one relationship where we stayed longer than we should have. And most of us have been hurt before, I've definitely been cheated on and it left a huge scar, but the interesting thing here is the fascination someone without empathy can have towards someone who oozes empathy. The polar opposite of a empath is a sociopath - and these people often have the skills (decades of practiced deception) and motivation to appeal to anyone with HSP in order to take advantage of them in some way. To drain them of love, or money or energy. It's a huge danger for empaths! If you relate, I suggest you search for articles to help you better understand this dynamic and how to avoid it into the future. If you are lucky you almost got involved with someone you shouldn't have, but your senses warned you to keep distance at that last minute - and you were wise enough to listen. :)
(#6) I feel a connection with nature, simple things like a breeze through the trees or rain on my feet enchant me.
Okay, this is maybe me projecting a little bit. I love my connection with nature, but I've read a few articles on nature now, and of the many empaths I know, I think all of them feel a connection with the planet. By the very definition of what it means to be an empath, you feel like an extension of the environment and thus, if like me, you were lucky enough to be raised with parents who took you out into the wilderness sometimes, it's probably deep in your blood. Physically hugging a tree sounds silly to most folks, but not to you. It's an act of appreciation.... you might even decide you can feel the energy of the tree. Is that crazy? I'm not one to judge... but maybe a little bit - and that's why your friends adore you. :)
(#7) I value relationships with friends and family higher than anything material (unless a friend made if for me).
Close your eyes and think about the (a) the best gift you were ever given and (b) the best give you ever gave... no seriously, do that before you read the next sentence. Were your answers "a bicycle" or was it more along the lines of "a person's time". And for the gift you gave.... well you probably have some wonderful artistic talent in you (you are a empath), so maybe you made a friend something, or were intelligent enough to realize that of all the gift idea out there... the most special ones are experiences you share with others.
(#8) When a nearby love one becomes sick I often feel similar sickness/physical pain, even if I don't have the actual illness.
To me all logic says you shouldn't feel similar pain unless you physically have the same virus/infection/injury as your loved one. Yet for some empaths even physical pain (not just emotional) pain can feel shared. You might get sick more often than some of your peers for this precise reason.
(#9) I have an unusually strong reaction to many drugs (alcohol, birth control, prescription meds) and try to be very careful about what I put into my body.
In the HSP test they mentioned coffee. I don't like that question. Anyone can build a tolerance to coffee, the same way anyone can build a tolerance to alcohol over time. These substances are common in western culture, and people from certain ethnicities - especially indigenous people - are particularly susceptible of negative effects of alcohol because their ancestors haven't build up resistance over hundreds of generations. So I don't like to isolate out alcohol or coffee. What about drugs at large? Modern perscription drugs are relatively new to all humanity and it makes sense to me that an empath - extra sensitive to touch, taste and smell - is also extra sensitive to foreign substances. Cultural or not, some people reject reject coffee or alcohol because it just makes them feel awful. Birth control is also very common among 50% of the population (females), but a lot of women find it makes them feel awful, and that's true for most of the female empaths I have asked - most of them do not react well to the hormonal stages. Have a think about your sensitivity to all perscription drugs though, and mix that in with healthy skepticisms, because in today's world of over-protecting children from germs we also have a huge number of people with lactose intolerance and nut allergies. Is your body extra sensitive to what you ingest - more than your peers? Do you eat healthy and avoid meat? If so, is it because you are a hipster vegetarian (it's the cool thing to do in California), or because your body is fussy or is it a deep empathy towards animals and our treatment of them? All these questions are up to you to figure out.... I just want to seed these thoughts. :)
(#10) I am extremely sensitive to loving touch (in a good way!) and strong connection is critical for me to start a romantic relationship.
I don't know if this applies to all empaths, but if you can sense the energy of others when you dance should should go to a couple of "energy movement" and/or Chakra workshops and you will be blown away. Today's society is very anti-touch, but even the sensation of someone hugging you who knows how to hug properly and deeply, will be powerful to you! It doesn't have to be sexual - pure loving touch is something you probably crave. That's not an empath, I believe most people long for more touch.... and as an empath you'll quickly realize that not all touch is equal. You can sense the intent, and when someone touches you who truly loves you heart, it will radiate from your head to toes in beautiful, mysterious ways. Electricity. :)
(#11) Sex often feels like a spiritual experience for me.
My friend Lyubov encouraged me to add this question. I think she realized that my previous question about "loving touch" I wanted to add a question with the word "sex" but I was too shy. If you've ever read a little into tantra, or experienced strong feelings of love during sex (and I hope you have), then you will probably agree that the best sex on earth is loving sex. Based on my feedback from the people who have seen this form, sex for an empath is usually and incredibly, incredibly powerful experience. Good sex awakens all the senses and since a HSP is already extra sensitive to touch, and an incredible mirror for peoples emotions, pleasure during sex can be very heightened. If you were ever wondering if being an empath was a blessing or a curse, you may find the answer in the bedroom with a person you deeply love. The average person would be very, very envious!
Most of the empaths I know I met at free form dance classes, and the same incredible energy they feel on the dance floor with others can occur during sexual encounters at a far greater level. Women can be extremely varied in how sensitive they are to touch. I always remember a saucy question on the "ok cupid" dating application which talks about how easy it is to achieve orgasm, where one of the answers is "any time the wind changes direction". It made me laugh... but now it just makes me think! Maybe it's time for you to read your first tantra book, because you might just find the greatest perk of empathy isn't just making others feel great emotionally, it's tapping into your own ecstasy. In a society were we are all so busy with our work, the best way to pass the time, according to tantra books, is to lay with a person you love for hours. Wow, I can't believe I just typed that in a publicly accessible article. I hope my mum never reads this! Hi mum. :)
(#12) I'm a romantic at heart, but I am timid and slow starting each new relationship as I fear losing complete freedom.
Haha... of course you're scared! Maybe even scared of commitment after past events? Once you let someone's emotions swell into your body... well it's a big deal. For you, physical intimacy, (sex) can be a really, really huge life event, because you are suddenly feeling everything. That is wonderful when things are going well, but relationships get messy, and the idea of expectations sounds terrifying for most HSPs. The idea of jealously is also terrifying - as far as emotions go, this is one of the nastiest to experience, so you probably go out of your way to avoid feeling it yourself, or via others. You are probably very fussy with partners... and that is a wonderful thing. Keep seeking out people with great communications skills (a rare trait sometimes) and who will be understanding of your need for your own space. Your need for freedom might even encourage some empaths to explore alternative style relationships to conventional monogamy, because commitment to one person sounds terrifying, and because it only takes one bad experince to scar you for life. In the end, you might find yourself attracted to people who also seem like free spirits, and who you instinctively know won't ask for big commitment - people who need their own alone time too as a way to maintain some independence.
Some people bounce back very quickly from a bad relationship - and they might even advise you to just do some kind of rebound to get over your lover. If you're a HSP, getting over a relationship usually doesn't work that way. It could take years, and easily lead you to withdraw altogether. The HSP book has some very interesting personal accounts from HSPs about their love lives. Some of them simply chose to be alone, which sounded sad to me initially, but for a HSP that can actually be a beautiful thing. Society says we should marry and reproduce, but your heart may tell you otherwise.
(#13) When I am in love, I can have trouble determining how much is their love, versus my own.
I'm not a relationship expert (farrr from it), but through a friend I came up with the idea of an "airport test" as an incredible test. When you go away for a trip (of they go away), you are suddenly separated from a person. Maybe it's for the best if you actually don't have communication for them for some of that time. Without their physical presence, you can really decide how much you miss them. When you return to the airport, or it's time to pick them up... how excited are you? There is your answer.
Some relationships can be salvage or made better than you could ever imagine by working on loving communication.... but the airport test is a good indicator of what you want. Empaths crave time alone, but you should still be excited to see your lover again. I hope you are. :)
How did you find the test? I'm really sorry I asked 13 questions in my own test - I know some people are superstitious. Did you notice the number 13? Think about that. The fascinating part of these tests is that some people might look at questions like "I startle easily" or "other people’s moods affect me" and believe that applies to everyone - a test of being a human. Not everyone answers yes to these questions though. For many people, your ability to feel the subtle energy of a person's fears seems like magic. You can read more about empaths here: Empath.
Also: if you really enjoyed this test, don't just email me - share it with other people you know who might resonate as well.
- Are You Highly Sensitive? - The test from the Highly Sensitive Person book by Elaine Aron
- 30 traits of an Empath (How to know if you're an Empath) - Great little article! I claimed above that I didn't think I was an empath... and yet one read of this article convinced me that I am! Or at least on the spectrum. Fun! :)
- Tara Meyer-Robson - Empath Test - 25 questions, and really good. This woman is an author and speaker on spirituality etc.
- Empath test with pictures - 20 question quiz from Dr. Judish Orloff's "The Empath Survival Guide". Very similar questions to above, but nice photos.