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What is Empathy Deficit Disorder?

Empathy is an important human ability that allows us to relate to one another. Specifically, it’s the act of recognizing and sharing the feelings of another person. In psychology, two types of empathy are recognized. One is affective empathy, which is when you share and/or feel the emotions of another individual. Affective empathy may also be called primitive empathy or emotional empathy. Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, is when you can process, understand, and relate to another person’s emotions, as well as their perspective on a situation.

Empathy deficit disorder, or EDD, impacts an individual’s ability to feel empathy. Depending on its cause, empathy deficit disorder may affect cognitive empathy, affective empathy, or both. Generally speaking, empathy deficit disorder impacts affective empathy more significantly than cognitive empathy. In people with bipolar disorder, for example, cognitive empathy is minimally affected (if at all), but affective empathy is often greatly compromised.

Empathy deficit disorder can have severe mental health complications for the affected individual. But, it may also cause hardship for people who interact with the affected individual. The prevalence of empathy deficit disorder is thought to be growing in our society.

Signs of Empathy Deficit Disorder

A person with empathy deficit disorder may seem to live in a world in which their needs and desires are their only reality. The needs and desires of the people around them, perhaps even loved ones, may be treated as entirely irrelevant or unimportant. This thought pattern may lead to the following behaviors:

  • Coldness or indifference towards people who are struggling.
  • Quickness to criticize others before considering their circumstances.
  • A sense of entitlement and expectation of having their needs fulfilled.
  • Difficulty showing appreciation for favors.
  • Difficulty feeling happy or congratulatory towards others.
  • Difficulty in relationships with family and friends.
  • Difficulty making new friends.
  • Difficulty building meaningful emotional connections with others.
  • Only discussing themselves and poor listening skills in social situations.
  • Tendency to place blame on others when they behave in a way that hurts others.
  • Belief that when others are hurt as a result of their actions, it’s due to the other person’s oversensitivity.

How is Empathy Deficit Disorder Treated?

Self-treatment is a viable treatment option for empathy deficit disorder if the affected individual is able to recognize the condition in him or herself and the need to improve. Mindfulness exercises and exercises designed to build empathy can, with time and discipline, treat empathy deficit disorder. An example of an empathy-building exercise is to consider the parts of your argument that someone disagrees with in a conflict, then working to see the conflict from their perspective.

In some cases of empathy deficit disorder, psychotherapy may be an effective treatment option. A trained therapist can provide help, guidance, and specialized exercises to practice for building empathy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that may help you recognize the thought patterns that are lacking empathy, then replace them with new, more empathetic thoughts.

If empathy deficit disorder is caused by an underlying condition, treatment for that condition may need to be received to address the empathy deficit. Narcissism and bipolar disorder are conditions that can lead to empathy deficit disorder.