5 Signs of a Dark Empath, Not a Psychopath

Dark empaths are not empaths.

It sounds self-contradictory, right?

But what that means is that dark empaths are people who have a high level of cognitive empathy only. 

Not emotional empathy, or compassionate empathy.

They’re able to understand someone’s emotions well and put themselves in other people’s shoes.

Yet, they don’t possess the ability to provide wholehearted concern the way full empaths do.

This is because, despite the fact that they rank high in empathy, they also rank high in the dark traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

One might mistake them as psychopaths because of their similar narcissistic tendencies and charm.

But dark empaths are actually quite different from psychopaths.

And here are 5 reasons why.

FRIENDLY DISCLAIMER: This is a disclaimer that this article/video is for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.

1. Dark empaths show emotions, while psychopaths lack them.

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According to a 2014 study by Martens in Psychiatric Times, psychopathy is generally characterized by features such as an incapacity for love and a lack of remorse or shame.

This is different from dark empaths who do show emotions no matter how fake they may seem.

Have you ever met someone who seemed nice to you who later on displayed manipulative behaviors?

Did their kindness ever seem scripted?

Dark empaths know where to take advantage of you best, and that is through your feelings.

As a friend, they would know when to laugh with you.

As a partner, they would know to kiss you gently after a rough day.

And as a dark empath? They would know exactly what face to put on to make you feel their consideration.

2. They’re empathetic, while psychopaths just don’t care.

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According to Amy Morin, LCSW, of Verywell Mind, psychopaths have been known to perform reckless behavior.

They chase the feeling of excitement without caring about whether their actions are hurting other people.

Dark empaths, on the other hand, are more careful about their endeavors.

Do you know someone who always seems to say the right words?

Dark empaths can figure out your emotions pretty well.

It’s the main reason for the word “empath” in their name.

Due to their high level of cognitive empathy, they may even notice things you’re hiding from others.

For example, they might notice that you’re feeling down even when others do not.

They may also congratulate you for an accomplishment to make you feel good about yourself.

However, they do these things for a reason.

And when they’ve reaped the rewards they wanted in the first place, they might begin acting distant.

So, try to be on the lookout for the next time they might want something from you.

Are they once again your best friend? 

If they’re inconsistent about their behavior, chances are they really aren’t.

3. They’re patient, while psychopaths are impulsive.

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Dark empaths know when to strike best.

They’re different from psychopaths, who often make decisions on a whim.

They ponder on a situation and wonder how they can manipulate it to their best advantage.

Have you ever been used by someone you trusted?

Dark empaths can spend a long time building a relationship just to end up using it in the end for their own interests.

They like to take their time because they know how important it is to make themselves appear trustworthy to others.

This is why it helps to be wary about people whose kindness seems fake.

Is someone being nice to you all of sudden?

Are they love-bombing you and spending more time with you than usual?

It might be that they just want to be your friend, but if you notice that they like to engage in problematic behavior such as backstabbing, gossiping, and the like, they probably won’t be the best influence on you.

4. Dark empaths are careful, while psychopaths are reckless.

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Psychopaths do things whenever they feel like it.

They lack remorse and engage in reckless behaviors that can put another person in peril.

Dark empaths, on the other hand, care about how they look to others because this is the way they can gain their reliance.

They understand social cues, norms, and do their best to live just like the next person so as to avoid any suspicion.

However, according to Hope Gillette from PsychCentral, they may also be inclined to perform vindictive behaviors such as gossiping, bullying, or intimidating.

At times, they might even resort to physical aggression.

This is because even though dark empaths are sociable beings high in empathy, they’re also high in the dark traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

As mentioned, they are high in cognitive empathy, not emotional or compassionate empathy.

In short, they read your emotions and use them against you because they don’t possess the innate concern that full empaths have.

And that can be quite dangerous so it helps to stay aware of behavioral signs.

5. They’re extroverted, while psychopaths show antisocial behavior.

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While psychopathy is not a diagnosis in and of itself, many of the characteristics of psychopathy overlap with symptoms of antisocial personality disorder (Morin, 2021).

They tend to stay away from social settings and instead act out, break rules, and perform uninhibited activities by themselves.

Dark empaths are the opposite.

They’re usually found with other people because that is the environment they know best.

They have a drive toward grandiosity and want to receive attention continuously despite lacking the pleasure from social rewards.

They know exactly when to comfort a person in need or be beside someone who’s having a hard time.

And with their charisma, they have the tendency to manipulate other people or even brew discord between relationships just so they would look like the better person.

That’s why it’s important to look out for these traits, because you may never know, a dark empath might just be within your circle.


Do you know anyone who could possibly be a dark empath?

Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

Please keep in mind that if someone does have these traits, they’re not necessarily labeled a dark empath immediately.

Some people might actually just be people-pleasers who will do anything to make others think better of them!

This applies to psychopathic traits, too.

Just because someone displays them doesn’t mean they’re a psychopath.

The best thing to do is to have someone to talk about it or a therapist to visit whenever you are or know someone who is displaying these signs in order to get an accurate diagnosis and options for rewiring the habit.

Thank you for reading. See you next time!



Brenner, G. (2020, August 1). Introducing the Dark Empath New research identifies people high in both empathy and darkness. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/experimentations/202008/introducing-the-dark-empath-0#:~:text=Dark%20Empaths%20have%20a%20greater,relationship%20between%20Empaths%20and%20Typicals.

Clarke, J. (2021, October 4). Cognitive vs. Emotional Empathy. Verywell Mind. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/cognitive-and-emotional-empathy-4582389

Coelho, S. (2021, October 7). How to Recognize Traits of Psychopathy: 5 Ways. Psych Central. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-recognize-a-psychopath#lies-and-manipulation

Garis, M. (2020, September 2). The Dark Empath Personality Merges Empathy With Dark Triad Traits—And That Spells Trouble. Well+Good. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.wellandgood.com/dark-empath/

Gillette, H. (2022, February 9). How to Spot a Dark Empath. Psych Central. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/health/what-is-a-dark-empath#dark-triad

Lindberg, S. (2019, January 9). Psychopath. Healthline. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/psychopath

Martens, W., MD PhD. (2021, June 29). The Hidden Suffering of the Psychopath. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/hidden-suffering-psychopath

Mind Tools Content Team. (n.d.). Understanding the Dark Triad: Managing “Dark” Personality Traits. Mind Tools. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/understanding-dark-triad.htm#:%7E:text=The%20Dark%20Triad%20is%20a,%3A%20narcissism%2C%20Machiavellianism%20and%20psychopathy.

mindbodygreen. (2021, June 25). Dark Empaths: The Personality Type That Uses Empathy As A Weapon. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-are-dark-empaths

Morin, A. (2021, November 30). Could Someone I Know Be a Psychopath? Verywell Mind. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-psychopath-5025217

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