The Science Of Empathy And Empaths: 5 Interesting Facts

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The Science Of Empathy And Empaths: 5 Interesting Facts

4. Increased Dopamine Sensitivity 

The fourth finding involves dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases the activity of neurons and is associated with the pleasure response. Research has shown that introverted empaths tend to have a higher sensitivity to dopamine than extroverts. Basically, they need less dopamine to feel happy.

That could explain why they are more content with alone time, reading, and meditation and need less external stimulation from parties and other large social gatherings. In contrast, extroverts crave the dopamine rush from lively events. In fact, they can’t get enough of it. 

Related: Empathy Can Transform the World

5. Synesthesia 

The fifth finding, which I find particularly compelling, is the extraordinary state called “mirror-touch synesthesia.”

Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two different senses are paired in the brain. For instance, you see colors when you hear a piece of music or you taste words.

Famous synesthetics include Isaac Newton, Billy Joel, and violinist Itzhak Perlman. However, with mirror-touch synesthesia, people can actually feel the emotions and sensations of others in their own bodies as if these were their own. This is a wonderful neurological explanation of an empath’s experience.  

The Dalai Lama says, Empathy is the most precious human quality.”  During these stressful times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Even so, empathy is the quality that will get us through.

It will enable us to respect one another, even if we disagree. Empathy doesn’t make you a sentimental softy without discernment. It allows you to keep your heart open to foster tolerance and understanding. It might not always be effective in getting through to people and creating peace but I think it’s the best chance we have.  

(Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff, MD, which is a guidebook for empaths and all caring people who want to keep their hearts open in an often-insensitive world.)

Related: Empathy Is A Choice And We’re Choosing To Avoid It, Says Science

As an empath you must have had many questions about why you are the way you are. Hopefully the science behind empathy answered some of your questions. Leave your thoughts in comments.


Written by: Dr. Judith Orloff, MD
The Science Of Empathy And Empaths: 5 Interesting Facts
Understanding The Power Of Empathy: The Science Behind Empathy
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Scientific Explanations of Empathy: 5 Empath Facts

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10 responses to “The Science Of Empathy And Empaths: 5 Interesting Facts”

  1. Abby Avatar

    I’m sorry but this article doesn’t teach me anything nor helps me honour anything about myself or what my life has been like in the past 10 years. To sum it up its been hell albeit with some moments of peace and clarity in between. However the hell hasn’t ended.
    Science cannot neither is it needed to explain what being an empath, deeply intuitive or highly sensitive person is. For a long time lve felt so displaced in the world like l belong nowhere and lts been hard to find other people who help me understand this uniqueness. I’ve only ever really met them online. People seem to have a strong reaction to anyone who says they are empath or highly sensitive or their energies. I’d be more interested to understand why someone who is highly sensitive makes people who aren’t uncomfortable but l don’t think science can or will be able to explain this.

  2. Anna Avatar

    I thought maybe I shouldn’t reply to this article but I really just had to. I am only thirteen years old, but I feel deep emotion for those in pain, loss, and loneliness. I often cry over movies and sometimes even books. Whenever I see someone in a dark state of mind I always can tell what they are feeling, and I can always find a way to connect to it. Ever since I was very young I thought I was too sensitive. But I have come to realize that it isn’t a bad kind of sensitive. Connecting to others through only your emotions isn’t a bad thing. Feeling the same things as others isn’t a bad thing. Now I know that I’m not quote unquote “too sensitive” in just empathic. It was very interesting to hear the science behind empathy and see every thing I feel be into words. This really helped and I’ll be sure to remember this information!

  3. karen shaw Avatar

    Learning I was an Empath saved my life. I have always known I was different from other people, but I never understood why. like other Empath’s I was constantly put down, your too sensitive, get over it, why do you feel like that all the time? Every negative comment you can think of. Which just reinforced my belief there was something “wrong” with me. After I found The 30 traits of an Empath online at age 50, my life changed overnight. I am now 58 and have fully educated myself on the meaning of being an empath and everything changed for the better in my life. I swear for 50 years I was living in the Dark Night of the Soul and bam!! I woke up!! I know not everyone will experience the miracle I have, but i believe it’s possible. My depression? Gone. Low Self Esteem. Gone. cognitive dissonance. Gone. Don’t get me wrong it was very hard, gut wrenching work I went through for 8 years but education is key to understanding I believe. Now I help others in a support group I run!! I really believed because of society’s opinion of me as being weak my whole life had such a terrible effect on me. And the same for many other Empath’s I know. Until society teaches that it is ok to have emotions and be a sensity human being, we are in deep trouble, because we are the healers of the world, we are here for a unique reason, each one of has our girt’s. Empower yourself as an Empath it is so worth the journey. Thank You Judith Orloff you were 1 of my teachers. Not only did I heal from past issues I also found my life purpose!!

  4. PaigeBartholomew Avatar

    Hi Judith,

    It was the title of your article that drew me to read it. I, too, am a psychotherapist, and I was thrilled to read your work involving scientific information such as synesthesia, mirror neurons, etc. The institute of Heart Math has changed so much about the way we look at emotion. So has neurobiology. Empaths like you and I, who are also involved in the therapeutic world, have a strong responsibility to bring the two worlds of intuition and science together. It was a pleasure reading the way you put your study, your thoughts, and yourself together in one big picture: this beautiful article. Thank you so much, Paige Bartholomew.

  5. Francois Lamour Avatar

    Empathy is actually agape

  6. Shanice Jackson Avatar

    RIP <3 DAD! I LOVE YOU!

  7. Edward Richard Quiambao Enguero Avatar

    But other people wants to see me get hurt..because of being idealistic most of the time,they always put their weights on me..but I Thank God,I am still intact and still sane ..

  8. Edward Richard Quiambao Enguero Avatar

    I dont like to see people hurting..

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