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The Science behind being an Empath

Willow's Way

The Science behind being an Empath

Michelle Bellamy

We have all seen the research on meditating and how what the ancients knew to be true is now being proven by science. But did you know, that science has caught up to the Empath phenomenon?

“…empaths are people who’re high on the empathic spectrum and actually feel what is happening in others in their own bodies. As a result, empaths can have incredible compassion for people—but they often get exhausted from feeling “too much”…” Judith Orloff

“This includes research showing the existence of mirror neurons in the brain, which are said to enable us to read and understand each other’s emotions by filtering them through our own (Iacobani, 2008).” Kirsten Milstead

Research has been conducted by Abigal Marsh with evidence that there is a difference in the brains of empaths as compared to others. Specifically, she researched those that made the most selfless acts, where there was no benefit to them and potentially a cost; donating a kidney. She measured their brain activity while she showed them pictures of different emotional states. What she found is that empaths are exceptionally sensitive to fearful faces. “…there was heightened activity in the amygdalae in their brains. The amygdalae were also eight percent larger than those belonging to members of the control group (normal).” Abigail Marsh author of The Fear Factor (2017).

Interesting to note, she also found the exact opposite of what she found for empaths in psychopaths. Psychopaths were unable to recognize fear in the images shown and were unresponsive to it in general. Also, their amygdalae were about eighteen percent smaller than normal. That is 26% smaller than empaths.

Empaths are characterized as being exceptionally sensitive to their environment and to the emotional, mental and physical states to others, especially those closest to them. They will give to the point of being empty in an attempt to assist or heal others even to the detriment of themselves. Empaths biggest lesson is appropriate boundaries to maintain their own health in order to be of service to others.

“Although they are clearly more sensitive than average to others’ distress, their capacity for compassion and generosity reflects the same neural mechanisms that lie latent in most of humankind. Indeed, it is in part the fact that altruists (empaths) recognize that they are not fundamentally different from anyone else that moves them to act.”

Are Empaths the healers that will bring the earth into a state of loving kindness and compassion?

Is the larger amygdalae a physiological expression of evolution of the brain to save our species?

So many interesting questions!!

What do you think?!

Author: Willow Tucker, Empath, Healer and Teacher. Lover of science and nature. Initiating Priestess in the Dianic Wiccan Tradition.


Batson, C. D. (1991). The altruism question. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Dodgson, L. 2018. The opposite of a psychopath is an ‘empath’—here are the signs you could be one. Business Insider. Retrieved July 22, 2018.

Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T. and Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional contagion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Iacobani, M. (2008). Mirroring people: the science of empathy and how we connect with others. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Marsh, A. (2017). The fear factor: how one emotion connects altruists, psychopaths & everyone in between. New York: Basic Books.

Marsh, A. (2016). Neural, cognitive, and evolutionary foundations of human altruism. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 7(1), 59-71.