Difference between being an empath and an HSP (with Sensory Processing Disorder)

Recently, an article about “The Science behind being an empath” or somethig like that has been “all the rage” and it frustrates me because once again, the people with degrees are confusing being an empath with being highly sensitive or even having a disorder.

The basic list of the “Traits of an Empath” that has been circulating the internet for a few years now is fairly straightforward, however, you will see crossover with other areas such as Lightworkers, Indigos, HSPs, Psychics, Mediums and even aspects that are levels of ascension.

Since all these are going on at the same time, it’s understandable but still frustrating since not all traits point to the same thing.

The long and short of being an empath is “feeling the emotions of others as if they were your own”.

The following list is the one that can be found in some form or another everytime you google “Traits of an Empath”
Keep in mind that once an empath has learned control of their gift, these “traits” aren’t there any more. We can (mostly) handle the bad aspects (including health issues) and we just utilize our gift(s) to help others. Therefore, if you are just now looking at the list of empath traits, but are in control of your gift, try to remember what it was like before you learned that control.

  1. Feeling others emotions as if they were your own
  2. Overwhelmed in public places
  3. Watching violence, cruelty or tragedy on the TV is unbearable
  4. You know when someone is not being honest
  5. Digestive disorders and lower back problems
  6. Always looking out for the underdog
  7. Others will want to offload their problems on you, even strangers
  8. Constant fatigue
  9. Addictive personality
  10. Drawn to healing, holistic therapies and all things metaphysical
  11. Creative
  12. Love of nature and animals
  13. Need for solitude
  14. Gets bored or distracted easily if not stimulated
  15. Finds it impossible to do things they don’t enjoy
  16. Strives for the truth
  17. Always looking for the answers and knowledge
  18. Likes adventure, freedom and travel
  19. Abhors clutter
  20. Loves to daydream
  21. Finds routine, rules or control, imprisoning
  22. Prone to carry weight without necessarily overeating
  23. Excellent listener
  24. Intolerance to narcissism
  25. The ability to feel the days of the week
  26. Will not choose to buy antiques, vintage or second-hand
  27. Sense the energy of food
  28. Can appear moody, shy, aloof, disconnected


I’m writing this blog because the traits of an empath are different than the listed traits of a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). As I stated earlier, there are some similarities, but the attempt to categorize an empath as an HSP is wrong. Not all empaths are HSP and not all HSPs are empaths. But, yes, it is quite possible to be both!

SPD traits were defined and listed thusly:

  1. Hyper-sensitive to touch: touch may be uncomfortable or ticklish, may avoid tactile stimulation
  2. Hypo-sensitive to touch: May crave touch or seek out strong sensory input
  3. Difficulty with Self-Soothing: Trouble calming self, requires lots of outside help to process life’s challenges, irritability, emotional roller coaster
  4. Sensory-avoidant behaviors: afraid of heights, loses balance easily, avoids fast movements, avoids hugs and eye contact
  5. Sensory-seeking behaviors: craves fast movement, spinning, thrill-seeking, chewing on pens, fingernails, etc
  6. Sensitive to negativity: negative talk, scary stories, violence or cruelty on TV, news, etc…
  7. Social Avoidance: Overwhelmed by sensory input in crowds, likes to spend a lot of time alone
  8. Hyper-sensitive to noise: Distracted by noise others don’t notice, fearful of noise, shock at loud sounds
  9. Hypo-sensitive to noise: Doesn’t respond when name is called, seeks loud music or TV, makes noise for fun
  10. Hyper-sensitive to smell: Offended by body smells, bathroom smells, cooking smells, can smell odors others cannot
  11. Hyper-sensitive to sights: Sensitive to bright light, enjoys dimly lit rooms, avoids eye contact
  12. Allergies: Sensitivities to food, environment, medications
  13. Immune Disorders: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Lupus, etc…
  14. Extra-sensory perception: of any kind
  15. Mystical experiences: of any kind
  16. Inner Conflict: Deep sense of wanting a peaceful world but personally experiences internal turmoil – the two don’t seem to match and it may feel confusing

As you can see, there certainly are similarities, but not all empaths have these issues and certainly not to the degree that is explained above. A much better example of the traits of being SPD can be found in this article,
Adolescent & Adult SPD Checklist

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