If you are sensitive to the emotions of people around you, deeply intuitive and can empathize with the suffering of others, chances are, you’re an empath. It’s a beautiful thing to be and can deepen the connections you have with the people in your life.

In that same breath, having the ability to understand what someone else is going through can easily be manipulated for personal gain. The people who indulge in this are known as dark empaths, and it’s important to protect yourself against any of their tactics. Let’s discuss some dark empath traits and how to identify if there’s one in your life.

What Is a Dark Empath?

Dark empathy is a term coined by psychologists during a 2020 study on the dark triad personality traits. This refers to the malevolent personality types of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

A dark empath is a person who uses cognitive empathy, the ability to understand someone’s perspective and feelings without emotional involvement, at the expense of others. They’re able to identify what someone else is going through without feeling sympathy or the desire to support them.

We’ve seen dark empaths portrayed in a plethora of villains from many forms of media, from literature to cinema. Their charm and wit allow them to reel in people’s trust, only to wield it for their own gain.

How To Spot a Dark Empath

You can typically find a dark empath indulging in vindictive behaviors like gossiping or bullying. They’ll also take advantage of vulnerable people and at times be aggressive. Other traits that can distinguish a dark empath are: 

  • Gaslighting, love bombing, or ghosting
  • Emotional distance or detachment
  • A need for attention
  • High attunement to others
  • A drive toward grandiosity 
  • Intense self-criticism

Dark empaths use cognitive empathy to their advantage, using the knowledge of what you want and feel to use against you. To spot one in your life, look out for these dark empath traits:

They Always Use Sarcasm and Dark Humor

The definition of sarcasm is “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.” Of course, not every person who uses these forms of communication is guilty. However, dark empaths often disguise their contempt or ridicule with sarcasm or dark humor. 

They Weaponize Your Feelings

Whether it’s through guilt-tripping or belittling you, a dark empath will take their awareness of how you’re feeling, as well as context from stories you may have shared with them about yourself, to weaponize your feelings for their own advancement.

They’re Charming and Manipulative

Often, you won’t even realize you’re being manipulated because it can be sandwiched between extraversion and agreeableness. Masters of disguise, dark empaths can appear incredibly social and warm.

They Have a Big Ego

Though most of their infliction is fueled by a low sense of self-worth and self-esteem, they have massive egos that are easily wounded, turning vindictive whenever they don’t get their way. While their extroversion can make them seem confident, it’s masking a vital need for validation and approval from others.

They’re Emotionally Unavailable

In order to protect themselves from being manipulated in the same capacity that they manipulate others, dark empaths tend to be distant. Their lack of emotional vulnerability is an armor, never giving up too much information while providing just enough to keep you on the hook.

Protect Yourself

It can be dangerous getting caught within the grip of a dark empath,  so if you recognize any of these traits in someone close to you, take the necessary steps to instill proper boundaries and keep a healthy amount of distance.