All of us have dealt with a person at some point in our life who lacks compassion and fails to understand our emotions, well the chances are that they are suffering from some degree of empathy deficit disorder.
What is empathy?
According to study.com empathy is the ability to connect with other people and understand their feelings which is necessary for human interaction.
In most cases empathy deficit disorder can be damaging for personal and professional relationships.
There are two types of empathy1 , Affective and cognitive. Affective empathy is to feel compassion and sympathy towards others. Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand other persons perspective. Both are independent from each other as some people can associate emotionally well but are unable to understand different perspectives and vice-versa.
There are various causes and personality traits as well that determine how empathetic one can be and which type of empathy they possess.
Its exhausting to deal with people who lack empathy, the experience can be draining and frustrating. But if we understand the causes, the process of handling and interacting with them becomes easier. After all what they need the most is Empathy.
What are the causes of empathy deficit disorder?
1.Genetics– Empathy deficit order can be inbuilt. Some people are wired this way.
2. Childhood experience or environment– An environment where a child is not encouraged to share his feelings or the family members are not emotionally expressive then the child loses emotional connect. While learning to hide his feelings the child gradually becomes immune to another persons emotions as well.
3. Trauma– A tragic or bitter life event can also cause people to shut down emotionally and their ability to connect with others is also impacted.
4. Personality traits– 2 such personality types that lack empathy are narcissism and psychopathy. In cases where the quality of life and relationships are impacted it’s best to seek professional help.
The good news is that our mind has the ability to evolve and change if we are willing to put in the effort through reading, meditation, psychological guidance etc. But the first step is of course identifying the issue and committing towards a positive change. Most people are not even aware that they lack empathy.
Signs of empathy deficit disorder
If a person has the following traits then they are most likely suffering from empathy deficit disorder.
- Always discussing oneself with no interest in what others have to say.
- Criticizing and finding faults in others.
- Nobody is ever good enough for them no matter what they do.
- Cold and indifferent attitude.
- Their own way and opinions are right. Inability to accept different point of views and perspective.
- They hurt others and feel they are being over-sensitive when they react to it .
- Never accept their own faults and always blame others.
- Not able to appreciate favors. They believe that others owe them favors.
- Difficulty connecting emotionally with friends and family.
- Difficulty feeling happy for others.
- Never reward or thank anyone.
- Anti-social behavior.
If the person recognizes these traits in them then treating one self is possible. Meditation techniques such as heartfulness is one such example. Though scientific research suggest that any mindfulness meditation can increase compassion and kindness if practiced daily. None the less people with mental disorders or high anxiety levels should seek professional guidance as it is quite beneficial in such cases.
How to deal with people who lack empathy?
It’s not easy to deal with people who don’t empathize and it becomes harder when they are part of our family. Patience, understanding, communication and letting go is the key to handle them.
1.Firstly it’s important to understand that the problem is with them and not you. Its their unresolved issues and low emotional quotient(EQ).
2.Gentle communication– Try to communicate how you feel by their behavior. But be kind and rational as harsh words can worsen the situation.
3. Let it go– Even if after communicating your feelings there’s no change in their behavior or the conversation has drained you it’s best to keep distance with them(if its possible). Limit interaction and focus on better things in life.
4. Associate more with compassionate people- Spend more time with positive people who uplift and understand you.
Sometimes we just can’t avoid such people, in such cases it’s best to focus on personal fulfillment. Set fitness goals, career goals, join a hobby class or do anything that makes you truly happy. Our well-being and self-care is our responsibility. Realize your worth and be so content and fulfilled that you don’t seek their validation at all. Be so busy building up your life that you don’t have the time to think about what they say or do.
Professional help is not only for those who lack empathy but also for those who are overpowered by them.
Most of us have faced the situation of dealing with an un-empathetic person. It’s also possible that we ourselves don’t feel empathy for others. The causes can be varied, life is hard. Everyone needs someone to understand and appreciate them. Be kind, compassionate and considerate.
Focus on the good in others and ignore the flaws because we all have them. If it’s still overwhelming then realize that you can’t drain yourself for them. Let them be and befriend yourself first. Work on your happiness by following your passions and desires. Your self-worth does not increase or decrease by anyone else’s opinion.
Empathy is the medicine this world needsJudith Orloff, MD