I didn't know that I was an Empath until only a few years ago. I went through years of anxiety and isolating myself before I realized what it was that caused me to respond to social life as I do. I believe when one is an "unmanaged" Empath, it can lead to illness to include anxiety, fibromyalgia, muscular/skeletal problems, endocrine problems and more. Sometimes I think to be an empath is a curse instead of a gift but the problem we have here is that we fail to see it's a "path". It's like anything else in this life, we are not given handbook to wield our way through life. If it wasn't for our experiences and even the challenges then it would not lead us to where we need to be and learn what we need to learn. It wouldn't have brought you here. There is also a term called "Clairsentience". Some Empaths are both highly Empathic and Clairsentient. The difference is that Empaths can feel the energy and emotions all around their environment while a Clairsentient can sense someone's energy from a distance; even read spirits energy or any messages really all through energy. I happen to be a Clairsentient myself.
Signs and Symptoms of an Empath: 1. Overwhelming feelings that suddenly come on that you can not pinpoint the origin of but know it's not from you. (I, personally, can get these feelings in a store, old building or family member in the house. I have only recently learned that I can , as a clairsentient, feel close people (i.e. Twinflame) from a distance! 2. Being able to know someones feelings even when they are not stating them! You just know! 3. Have trouble watching violent things on T.V., watching someone embarass themselves, confrontations around you, the "thought" of abuse of others "pains" you; even a description of an event that was painful for someone else. 4. Taking on others pain and illness without knowing it. A lot of us sponge up others pain and things until we are sick ourselves. Most of us express this with fibromyalgia, joint, muscle, back problems and many of us make our doctors scratch their heads in confusion. We defy medical statistics and maybe even called a hypochondriac a time or two. ;) It happens... 5. You can drop everything for a person in need, even one you were previously upset with as you just can't see anyone in pain and suffering!
6. You are like the hairdresser who listens to people woes as a second career. :) People have a tendency to open up their life to you and maybe even ask you for adice.
Many times too you are drawn to the alternative healing arts such as Reiki but usually you have to do a lot of healing first so you can then help others. It is essential to keep a strong mind; body and spirit when you are an empath so you are strong enough to help others. You can find many opportunities in most communities to assist with that such as classes on Yoga, Reiki, Spiritual topics in area metaphysical/new age stores as well as the local community center and gym.