Are You An Intuitive Empath? 7 Signs + How To Nurture Your Abilities
While all of us are able to "read" people to a degree, there are some people out there with a particularly strong ability to do so. These people are known as empaths, and in the case of intuitive empaths, they're people with highly developed intuition.
This can certainly be a strength—but other times, intuitive empaths may find their abilities to be a weakness. Here's why, plus signs of an intuitive empath and how to thrive as one.
What is an intuitive empath?
An "empath" generally refers to a person who is highly attuned to the energy and emotions around them, according to professional intuitive and author of Self-Care for Empaths Tanya Carroll Richardson. She previously explained to mbg that there are actually different kinds of empaths, with intuitive being just one. Each type has its own way of experiencing empathy on a deep and even subconscious level.
An intuitive empath is someone who connects to the energy and emotions around them through their intuition, which is particularly strong. "So it's basically a sixth sense," explains psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, Ph.D., LMFT. "And it really takes practice in order to be in tune with what's going on for them in their internal body, and not logically overanalyzing it," she adds.
It's also worth noting that there are technically four "clairs" of intuition, according to Richardson, with intuitive empaths typically experiencing one or more of the following: clairsentience (intuition through feeling), clairaudience (intuition through messages that come through as words), clairvoyance (intuition through mental images), or claircognizance (intuition through instantaneous insight or "downloads").
Key traits of an intuitive empath.
Intuitive empaths are one of six types of empaths, with their intuition being their forte. "I would say that all people are intuitive," explains Richardson, noting that intuitive empaths in particular are people who receive intuitive guidance through any of the psychic pathways.
According to Judith Orloff, M.D., psychiatrist and author of The Empath's Survival Guide, empaths in general tend to be "sensitive, loving, have big hearts, with finely tuned intuition." But those big and receptive hearts can also be extremely vulnerable to negative energy. In fact, Orloff says, intuitive empaths in particular may absorb things unwittingly, so it's important for them to have ways of setting energetic boundaries.
While intuitive empaths may not necessarily be "introverted" per se, they may become overwhelmed by busy places or crowds and require alone time to recharge because negative environments can be highly draining.
Nuñez notes that many intuitive empaths have likely had these traits since they were children, and if anything, they were even stronger then. As children, she explains, we not only have difficulty understanding intuition and gut feelings, but the world has a way of making us doubt ourselves.
7 signs you're an intuitive empath:
You have unexplained feelings, emotions, or sensations.
If you're an intuitive empath who is just beginning to understand your own abilities, Nuñez explains that it's not uncommon to experience feelings or emotions that arise seemingly out of nowhere. Whether you suddenly feel nervous or sad, it could actually be that you're picking up on someone else's energetic field, she notes.
You experience any of the 4 "clairs" of intuition.
We all experience intuition in different ways, and intuitive empaths can experience any of the following, according to Richardson: clairaudience (hearing voices), clairvoyance (seeing images), clairsentience (recognizing feelings), and claircognizance (knowing). Their intuition may strike in a moment when they're picking up on a person or the environment they're in, whether the empath realizes it's their intuition or not.
Your gut is often correct.
According to Nuñez, intuition is not logical. While you may not have a "rational" explanation for how or why you know something, you just do—and you're often right. Similarly, she notes, when you try to logically think about or rationalize what your intuition is telling you, the communication may stop or feel stomped out.
You've been sensitive since you were a child.
According to Nuñez, most people who have a highly developed sense of intuition have been this way since they were a child. The caveat, however, is that intuition isn't exactly encouraged, making it that much easier for children to grow into adults who are out of touch with their own inner knowing.
You become easily overstimulated.
Many empaths, including intuitive empaths, find chaotic environments to be extremely disruptive. Whether it's crowded street or a heated argument with a friend, intuitive empaths are constantly absorbing that energy if they're not careful, which can be overstimulating. And when left unchecked or unprocessed, Nuñez explains, it can even manifest into physical and mental health issues.
There's even some research that backs this up, with one 2006 study noting that "high sensory-processing sensitivity [...] is associated with greater perceived stress and more frequent symptoms of ill health."
You can easily pick up on the energy of your physical environment.
According to Richardson, empaths are able to pick up the energy of not just people but physical spaces as well. Richardson notes an empath will be very affected by particular spaces and how they're maintained—which can, of course, be a good or bad thing, depending on the energy of the space.
You require strong boundaries and time to recharge.
Last but not least, intuitive empaths need to be sure to protect themselves energetically, whether it's by setting up boundaries in the moment or taking time to recharge. If you're an intuitive empath, you may find you need to shield yourself or recharge following a negative interaction, experience, or setting.
5 tips for embracing yourself as an intuitive empath:
Learn about how you receive intuition.
According to both Nuñez and Richardson, one of the best things you can do to strengthen your intuition and thrive as an intuitive empath is to better understand how you actually receive intuition. "Understanding your own psychic system will help you better recognize intuitive guidance when it arrives—many people don't realize all the avenues intuitive guidance can come to them and end up missing important intuitive hits," Richardson notes.
To that end, Nuñez warns against trying to rationalize away the things that come up for you and rather to explore your mind-body-soul connection and all the things that connection can tell you about your environment and the people in it.
Self-care is essential for everyone, and that includes intuitive empaths. As Richardson notes, it can "really help you manage the amount of daily stimulation you pick up on as a sensitive person," adding that self-care also calms your nervous system, which will help you feel more grounded in your body, and thus access your intuition more powerfully.
Another way to get grounded in your body and learn how to tune into it is through meditation. According to Nuñez, even if it's just one minute in the morning and evening, you'll start to foster that deeper connection with your own inner knowing and intuition. You can also pair your meditations with journaling to record what comes up for you when you meditate, she adds.
Work with a specialized therapist or intuitive.
As you start to learn more about your unique abilities, you may find you want some outside guidance, which would best come from another reputable intuitive, or even a therapist who specializes in a holistic, mind-body-soul approach, Nuñez says. "It's really important to work with some type of intuitive guide that can help you tap into what your gifts are and hone that in," she tells mbg, adding that inner child work can be helpful here to start unpacking your experiences thus far and how you may have stifled your own abilities.
Practice energetic shielding.
For a practice you can do in the moment when you're feeling overstimulated, Orloff details a shielding technique in her book that's helpful to keep negative energy away: Simply picture a shield of white or pink light around your body protecting you from stress and negativity but allowing positive energy in whenever you need it.
What are the best books for intuitive empaths?
Are intuitive empaths always introverted?
While an intuitive empath may not necessarily identify as an introvert, if they do not know how to energetically shield themselves, they may need time to "recharge" by themselves, which tends to be a more introverted trait.
What is the difference between an intuitive empath and an emotional empath?
According to Orloff, an intuitive empath receives their intuitive insight in a variety of ways, whether it's about people's thoughts, emotions, or energy in general. Emotional empaths, on the other hand, tend to experience their intuitive insights mainly on the emotional front (i.e., picking up on the feelings of others and even taking them on).
Being an emotional empath is not always easy and, in fact, can be quite tiresome when someone isn't aware of their own abilities or doesn't know how to use them. But with cultivated self-awareness, knowledge of one's own skills, and a healthy dose of energetic shielding, these folks can not only survive but thrive and start using their gifts for what they are.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.