What is a Dark Empath, and could you spot one?

“Narcissists are often blind to their flaws, whereas a dark empath’s high level of ‘cognitive empathy’ can mean they are aware of their ‘critical self’.”

It’s a dangerous combination. Some researchers say that dark empathy is part of a so-called dark triad — narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism.

“Dark empaths are high on narcissism, entitlement, grandiosity of emotions, inflated self-worth, poor self-regulation, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, which is characterised by interpersonal manipulation,” explains clinical psychologist Phoebe Rogers. 

“This research appears very new and still needs to delineate differences and similarities between dark empaths and narcissists.”

And while they easily fly under the radar, there are plenty of them around. 

“It’s difficult to quantify because people will rarely self-identify,” says De Campo. 

“Some research that was undertaken in the UK in 2022, said that up to about 19 per cent  of people exhibit dark empath traits.”

While more research is required, dark empathy is considered more common in men. By default, more women are victimised by them.

How it feels to be in a relationship with a dark empath? 

“Initially, it would be intense and exciting,” says Rogers. “You’re swept off your feet, and showered with gifts and gestures; you feel adored.”

It’s love bombing in the extreme, but it’s even more complicated than that. Dark empaths may initially express deep empathy, in a highly intellectual way. Ultimately though, they end up showing disregard for other people’s feelings, particularly when in conflict.