View Full Version : Empathy and depression


TheDreamer
05-28-14, 07:10 AM
Hello all,
do any of you feel there is a connection between over-the-top empathy and depression? I've often had a strong feeling of "feeling sorry" (best I can describe it with) for others, humans and animals that I think are hurting. Sort of taking over perceived feelings of the other being and reinforcing them. I wonder if there's a connection to depression as I always feel a great sadness at the same time, that is hard to shake. I get stuck in the feeling, can't let it go.

It leads to problem in all kinds of relationships as I can't bring myself to do certain things in fear of people getting emotionally hurt, out of proportion to the issue at hand.

If anyone can understand what I'm talking about, please reply.

Chicky75
05-28-14, 08:52 AM
Yes, I can definitely relate. I've felt that a lot especially reading or watching the news, usually about topics that highlight how uncaring a lot of people are about the suffering of others. I don't want to feel uninformed, but I can usually read only a short time before the black hole of sadness and hopelessness starts to swallow me. And it's definitely gotten worse in the last 2 years or so, which is also the time that I've been more depressed than ever. I've wondered which is the cause and which is the result, or if it's just a coincidence.

AnneM
05-30-14, 04:09 PM
Interesting thread. I've often thought I can "feel" peoples' emotions or the vibe in a room when I first walk in. It is overwhelming. If I'm not feeling good emotionally, being around and interacting with a lot of people wipes me out. I also can barely stand to read the news......it is just shocking and overwhelming if I think too much about current events. Unlike Chicky I often go days or weeks without reading the news.....I look like a bubble head when people talk about current events.

dvdnvwls
05-30-14, 04:16 PM
I don't think I get depressed from it, but I do "feel" others' emotions as you've described, and I do fear hurting others or seeing others be hurt. I think it's possible that the depression comes more easily if you already had that possibility or tendency built into you, or if you were already accustomed to depression or expecting it.

TheDreamer
06-02-14, 04:13 AM
Interesting replies. I wonder if it also has to do with "hyper-responsibility", i.e. carrying the world on one's shoulders. Reading about bad events in the news and not being able to do anything about them is frustrating.

I'd like to reach some balanced level of empathy as in the current situation I don't take care of my own needs very well, I focus too much on others. I've noticed that when I feel low I tend to dwell on this more, so it could be depression at the core.

Fuzzy12
06-02-14, 04:19 AM
Yes, I over empathise to ridiculous lengths and it does make my depression worse. It hurts seeing others hurt, anyone, anything even :rolleyes:.

And yes, I often get that feeling of carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders as well and I feel helpless and guilty because I'm not able to alleviate anyone's suffering (sometimes I actually add to it :()

On the other hand, in spite of all my empathy, I am actually less practically helpful, charitable or useful in any way to others. I empathise a lot but that's really all I do. :confused:

stef
06-02-14, 06:14 AM
This is interesting!
I think if I'm already depressed I may have less empathy; but otherwise like the post above, "I've often thought I can "feel" peoples' emotions or the vibe in a room when I first walk in. It is overwhelming. If I'm not feeling good emotionally, being around and interacting with a lot of people wipes me out."

This is one of the reasons that I absolutely love having no one else in my office. I hadn't realised how much my coworkers affected me. We didn't work on the same things but seeing the person across from you for example, having an awful day or getting an upsetting phone call, is exhausting. or when they are super super busy and I'm having a quieter day... I've actually pretended that whatever I was working on was urgent, out of empathy.

mrs. dobbs
06-02-14, 07:14 AM
Hello all,
do any of you feel there is a connection between over-the-top empathy and depression? I've often had a strong feeling of "feeling sorry" (best I can describe it with) for others, humans and animals that I think are hurting. Sort of taking over perceived feelings of the other being and reinforcing them. I wonder if there's a connection to depression as I always feel a great sadness at the same time, that is hard to shake. I get stuck in the feeling, can't let it go.

It leads to problem in all kinds of relationships as I can't bring myself to do certain things in fear of people getting emotionally hurt, out of proportion to the issue at hand.

If anyone can understand what I'm talking about, please reply.

Do you get this with inanimate objects as well? Like, you see abandoned furniture or things and you feel sorry for them?

Fuzzy12
06-02-14, 07:59 AM
Do you get this with inanimate objects as well? Like, you see abandoned furniture or things and you feel sorry for them?

I do. You as well?? :scratch:

mrs. dobbs
06-02-14, 08:18 AM
Yes. Since I was little. Not as much now, though... only because I don't look too hard at things anymore.

someothertime
06-02-14, 09:07 AM
Nice. I guess in order to answer that in the most clear terms... one would have to explore empathy...

As mentioned... this "taking on" of others states... it's one thing...

Then there is "empathy" out of need. ( Then "NT" caring/empathy aka... compassion without "joining"... That's the thing with us... we "join" another? )

I think in the majority of our cases... it's a combination of the two above... I always considered empathy to be my greatest / strongest trait...

Even my psychologist was astounded at the levels of understanding about things... yet, these seem so transient... and I'm learning are largedly born out of a need to be needed / liked / loved / understood. No, the thought patterns behind the empthy bare these signatures.... the empathy is almost pure disconnection from self... though this is where things go awry... cause is it not basic human instinct / our way of linking to attach a personal experience to these "joinings" ? )...

Hence, as the OP title states... -> dissatifaction / anger / isolation / depression... So... would we lose something... perhaps a sincereness by feeling their feelings but not internally linking them... or is that to taint? O' dear....


Stepping back... it's that balance between giving and taking... it's almost like we don't fathom that... As kunga and others say, this can in some circles and with disconnection from enadequacy, be close to "childlike"... or alive...

Sorry, got a bit rambly there... but i think i got out the main jist of what i wanted to say...

Basically... it all comes down to intent... and it seems that is often not so clear for us,,,,


( edit: yes! inanimate objects! how unusual! )

mrs. dobbs
06-02-14, 09:48 AM
I agree someo.

Corina86
06-02-14, 11:11 AM
I don't think it's empathy causing depression, but depression causing you to project your feelings onto other people (or animals or objects) and thus feeling overly sorry for them, because you sympathize with their suffering.

It doesn't mean you're not also empathetic, but empathy shouldn't cause or accentuate depression; a healthy person would other try to help or ignore the issue altogether.

A depressed person's mind is only going to look for reasons to justify the depression- you feel those things because of a chemical imbalance in your brain, but your brain doesn't understand that and it's constantly looking for the cause of those emotions, in order to fix it. But here's the catch, it can't be fixed in the same way you'd fix every other problem, so you're just stuck with feeling sad over everything that seems remotely logical to cause sadness.

dvdnvwls
06-02-14, 04:44 PM
Corina: Regarding empathy, I think healthy people still have internal conflict about helping someone vs ignoring the issue. I don't think it's clear-cut and easy for anyone.

Corina86
06-03-14, 07:08 AM
Corina: Regarding empathy, I think healthy people still have internal conflict about helping someone vs ignoring the issue. I don't think it's clear-cut and easy for anyone.

I think most people do have such a conflict, but it doesn't last that long and it doesn't make such a big impact. Or it makes a good impact because it makes you help people more. Extreme and continued sadness and depression over other people's issues isn't a normal, healthy state of mind. Non-depressed people feel bad when looking at news over wars and hunger, but once they turn off the tv the problem is usually "out of sight, out of mind". This doesn't make them bad, it makes them more rational: if you can't do anything about it, you might as well forget about it, because your suffering isn't going to make theirs more bearable.

The difference between healthy and non-healthy people isn't that the conflict never appears, but the way it manifests and the way it's dealt with by the mind.

someothertime
06-03-14, 08:30 AM
Let's turn this on it's head...

What does a purely rational person lose by not investing any ( little heightened ) emotions in anything? Is this healthy?

Can anyone clearly define the line between empathy and unhealthy investment in another's emotions?

There are people in the world ( mother teresa comes to mind ) who have seemingly unlimited compassion... which is an extension of empathy? What is it beneath this compassion that enables it to be harnessed and channeled to further good rather than gain power and snowball into an avalance of overwhelming emotion?

dvdnvwls
06-03-14, 01:51 PM
What is it beneath this compassion that enables it to be harnessed and channeled to further good rather than gain power and snowball into an avalance of overwhelming emotion?
Intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, energy, perception of agency, confidence including self-confidence, ability to act, desire to act, ability and desire to persuade others to act, ... probably more.

TheDreamer
06-03-14, 04:19 PM
Do you get this with inanimate objects as well? Like, you see abandoned furniture or things and you feel sorry for them?

Not these days. I think I did when I was younger. I can still get emotionally invested in some things though. My parents sold their house a couple of years back. Growing up that house was like my castle, so that hit me pretty hard.

Can relate to feeling other peoples emotions when walking into a room. It's like I'm always looking for that person who doesn't seem to have a good time, and focusing on that. Feeling as if it's my responsibility that everyone should be happy. It might also be that I'm looking for someone to connect to, in a way looking for myself, in that room. In order to not feel so lonely. Really hard to tell, the emotions are so complex.

Herose
06-03-14, 04:56 PM
I think hypersensitivity should be thrown into the mix.

People with hypersensitivity get too many stimuli from the environment, which makes them avoid it all together. Especially when it comes to emotions of others, they feel all of it. That makes for a hell of a lot emotions at the same time when going grocery shopping. I don't know all about it, but when talking about getting depressed, it might be more hypersensitivity than 'simple' empathy. But the matter is complex.

I took this little quote from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy).
In the field of positive psychology, empathy has also been tied to altruism and egotism.<sup id="cite_ref-Sympathy_vs._Empathy_vs._Compassion_6-0" class="reference"></sup> Altruism is behavior that is aimed at benefitting another person, while egotism is a behavior that is acted out for personal gain. Sometimes, when someone is feeling empathetic towards another, acts of altruism occur. However, many question whether or not these acts of altruism are motivated by egotistical gains. According to positive psychologists, people can be adequately moved by their empathies to be altruistic

I find this very inspiring, because one could argue that 'becoming depressed out of empathy' might be the result of an inability to help / fix the situation. Here being empathic has not much to do with the other persons suffering, but more to do with the feelings it causes.

dvdnvwls
06-03-14, 05:02 PM
It might also be that I'm looking for someone to connect to, in a way looking for myself, in that room.
This really struck something in me. There are so many ways it can happen, so many ways it might make sense.

One aspect of it is noticing people who are going through what I've been through, to tell them the things I wish I had been told at the time, to reassure them that they're not alone, to improve their day and/or their life in some way, even if small.

Another aspect is that I am looking for some of that benefit for myself, wanting to be reassured I'm not alone, wanting to feel accepted and appreciated. Looking for the comfort of being with "my own kind".

I value being able to help others and make them feel good; I've been strongly that way since age 5 if not before. I wonder how much of that might come from a concern or anxiety about my being accepted by others - the hope that if I make myself valuable to others by making them feel good and safe and accepted and whatever else, maybe I will receive the same in return; the anxiety that if I don't provide that value to others then maybe I won't be safe or accepted anymore.

I can't decide whether what I just described about myself is a defect to overcome, or a sacred calling to cultivate, or an off-the-shelf personality trait. :) But it seems to be how I am.

Corina86
06-04-14, 03:39 AM
@dvdnvwls (God, your username is hard to spell!)


If their pain is your pain then the desire to help is greater than if it was just out of moral obligation.

If it helps you help others, feel better about yourself, be accepted or any other benefit, then it's definitely good and you should cultivate it. If you just feel sorry for others and guilty about yourself for not helping, then it's bad- I don't know how to stop feeling it though.

Also, being empathic helps. I know a lot of people say otherwise, but it's more to justify their own lack of concern for others. True friendship and close family bonds can't exist without empathy.

Also, the nicer you are and the more good you do, the more good people you will draw around you. If you're the sensitive type, you need people around who are nice and empathic and those usually don't put up with selfish pricks :).