Difficulty in feeling empathy or sympathy

anhedonianman

anhedonianman

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#1
I find it extremely hard to admit to the title of the thread, because of the stigma attached to it. But it is true, I do not feel empathy or sympathy. I know what to say to people and the appropriate facial expressions and body language to display. It's not that I don't care, or at least I care that I don't care, if that makes sense.
As if that was not enough, I am also unable to feel love for anyone (so far and I am 42). I have had long term relationships and I am in one now. I care for her and feel that I need her. But like everyone else in my life past and present, I don't love her and I feel like a terrible person for that. As cold as this sounds, I do not think I would shed a tear, if anyone in my life died. But perversely, I can cry about not being able to love or grieve.
The range of emotions I can feel, are stunted to say the least and they are all negative. I often observe other people interacting and I can see the obvious bonds they have, or are forming.
It is a lonely and desolate place to be, when you feel alien among your own species.
 
Fairy Lucretia

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#2
your GF-you say you care for her and you need her x well that's a good start to feeling SOMETHING good
x
you feel bad you don't love her-well if you were a bad person ,you wouldn't care either way-it wouldn't concern you that you didn't feel love for her?
sympathy and empathy-I believe when some people have been through a lot for whatever reason it makes them so much more able to sympathise and feel for others
but I also do believe people who have been through a lot ,kind of lost their ability to sympathise with others
you seem to be saying you want to be able to sympathise and empathise with others? im not sure you need to be able to do this
I don't think you are abnormal or a bad person because you cannot
you don't feel malice or wish harm to others?
then I say if you want to be able to empathise sympathise with others more its something you could work on ,through counselling maybe>
or else I think so long as you don't wish for harm toward others ,you don't actually need to care that much?
you don't have to care for others to be a good person x
 
anhedonianman

anhedonianman

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#3
Thank you for your kind words Lucretia x
I certainly do not feel malice, or wish harm to people, in fact completely the opposite. My main interests in life are equality, human rights, social justice and animal rights. I think because I feel a great injustice has been done to me in life. I have an overdeveloped sense of injustice for all.
When I comment on different threads, in what seems like a sympathetic or empathetic way. I am truly being sincere. I mean what I say, I just don't necessarily feel it.
I long to feel love for others and I am seeing a psychotherapist on a regular basis and my capacity to feel emotions, is at the top of the list of talking points.
Maybe one day, who knows? :)
 
Fairy Lucretia

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#4
hi ,what you just said here reminded me of aspergers ,you say you are interested in equality ,human and animal rights-evidence BTW you are a fab person! but you find it difficult to empathise with others
of course I may be wrong-usually am!
massive hugs
 
anhedonianman

anhedonianman

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#5
Lucretia you have cheered me up and put a smile on my face and I thank you for that x
I have never thought about Asbergers before, it's not something I know much about. I will read up on it.
My childhood is why I can't feel the full range of human emotions as an adult. But like you said, you can still do your best to be a good person, despite struggling with some emotions.
This is the first forum I have ever been on and I am amazed how supportive and knowledgeable people are.
 
Kerome

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#7
Apologies for not seeing this thread until now, but this is a subject fairly close to my heart, if you'll excuse the pun. Before my psychotic episode I was trying to come to terms with something like this, I had long wondered why I had difficulty experiencing positive emotions beyond a general bliss and good cheer. I had always thought there should be something more. I tried a few meditations. Then my episode intervened, and turned my emotional compass upside down for a while.

But I'd be really interested to hear how things are going with you, is therapy having any effect?
 
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annie07

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#8
I know this thread hasn't been answered in awhile but I just stumbled upon it. I feel this way as well, and honestly I feel like a really horrible person because of it. Someone can tell me the saddest story that happened to them, and I want them to just get over it. It's hard for me to admit this, but I would be lying to myself if I said it wasn't true. I can empathize with people, I just don't feel bad for them. Or maybe it's when I think they are trying to bring sad things up to get attention that I don't like. Or, maybe I'm making all that up in my head which is quite possible! I always feel like such a terrible person and that's one reason I feel like I can't be loved, because why would it be fair for someone to sympathize with me when I can't return it? Anyway, I hope no one hates me for this post. I'm just being honest :)
 
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Splodge

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#9
Yep, lacking empathy, sympathy, unable to connect with emotions, feeling empty, all extremely common (you would not believe how common).

It's usually the result of things that happened in childhood, does not have to be a traumatic childhood. It seems the vast majority of us suffer from this. We express it in different ways. The most common way is egotistical behaviour (denial basically, pretending to be not unhappy at all, to the point where you believe the lie). I think personally I'd rather know there was a problem (depression etc.) than stay asleep to the reality of how I feel.
 
C

chickenburger

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#10
absence of emotional pain or distress or elation

I too have an absence of empathy. I used to be a smoker and a drinker, and had been perpetually depressed and suicidal up until age 30 due to traumatic childhood events. But i felt sympathy and pity for myself and others. I could get excited/elated and very sad.

around age 29 i tried amphetamine and took about 6 months to get myself off of it. I experienced bliss to a level that was mind blowing. I had a full body orgasm during sex. Afterwards happiness was never as happy or the same. I still felt lows and sympathy though. In the aftermath, there were times that were so sorrowful that I cried with pain for all the pain and suffering of everyone who ever lived. It was the opposite of that bliss, but still empathy and sadness existed in me.

At age 30, life hit an all time low for me, and i found myself homeless one morning, on my way to public transit, and i knew it was coming and i did nothing about it, and at that moment i realized that i could no longer blame anyone else in my life for my circumstances. In that moment my self pity turned off for a short while. It was the beginning of something that was going to happen more often.

I started to clean up my act at age 31 because I felt that my addiction to smokes fed into my ability to be addicted to alcohol which led to me making poor decisions which led to my all time low.I also began to realize that people who I thought were my friends had been using me because of my trusting personality, and had played a part in my downfall; it was the beginning of my distrust of other people. I quit smoking and drinking, and I felt my personality change. I could feel my brain change after 16 years of smoking 2 packs a day and drinking, my brain was getting reprieve. I changed.

At age 31 I had a major injury, and i called my girlfriend who lived with me and was supposed to love me who was out, and i asked her to come home to help me as I had just fractured my foot and opposite knee by a 5 foot fall onto concrete, but she was half drunk and told me that i knew she had plans and that maybe i should take this as a sign for our relationship. I was in so much pain and helpless and so angry with her that i felt something change in me. There was only me and there would only ever be.

I lived with that girlfriend for another 3 years, and I felt anger at so many things that happened in the relationship on a day to day basis, but i hid those feelings as much as i could. I lived a lie. I slept with my enemy. She knew things were not good between us, we talked and argued, but she did not know how much rage i felt towards her at times. I hid my emotions and I made walls against those feelings until they no longer had the impact to cause me to act or speak on them or even think on them.

Between all these things, they all contributed to muting out my 'feelings'. Misfortune that happens to me now in my life doesn't make me feel sad or bad, I don't even concentrate on it, i just move on immediately to what i need to do to rectify it. People call it proactive, but its a cheery word that accompanies the emptiness of feeling that i have towards circumstances.

I don't feel sympathy for myself or anyone. I recognize that misfortune feels bad to other people and i try to blend in with other people by being consoling, but i know some of my questions or comments are quite unexpected at times. I feel like i'm on the outside, or trying to be like a chameleon. I could honestly care less. I can't feel sadness for other people, but i can be angry on their behalf for injustices.
I don't want to ever hurt anyone or wish anyone ill, but I don't miss a beat if it happens, even to my closest friend.
I know the part of the brain that controls negativity is the amygdala, and I wonder if maybe i've learned to process information without including it in the loop that I had been accustomed to for all my life.

I don't trust anyone anymore. Trusting is an action, not a belief. I look at everyone and everything for as long as i want. I look at the wrinkles in their skin, their shapes and colours, their attention to the details of their lives. I don't judge, just observe. I See now, but feelings beyond contentment and irritation are gone. Angryness is an uncommon visitor. I don't get offended or embarrassed. When I get involved in near accidents by someone running a red light or such, my heart doesn't race anymore, it just pumps strongly once. I can feel affection or tenderness, just not the passion of love.

People that I know care for me, I feel nothing for. I could watch them die in front of me and I wouldn't shed a tear and only think on them in passing. I wish I could say i feel lonely, but there is only absence where once those feelings were. Sometimes I'll see a sad part or compassionate part in a movie or in a real life story and my eyes will start to water like crying, but i don't feel anything anymore like when my gut would twist and my heart would pump harder when i was younger. It's just my eyes watering, I could do math or write a report or anything and i wouldn't be hindered in anyway except by possible blurred vision. I wonder if its a learned response or if some part of my brain is being bypassed. what is true is that every cell in our body adapts to the conditions it's exposed to and we evolve as a whole to prevent threat or injury to our selves, or we fail and die.

I don't know what major events triggered the lack of feelings in others, but I'd be interested in knowing. Some people say its just getting a thicker skin that comes with maturity, but if that's true, it's going to be a very long and empty life accompanied by a lot of successes. It just seems like it should be a sad thing that i can't feel love anymore.

p.s. At around age 31 i started taking vitamins and supplements to boost my system and i know that vitamin deficiency can lead to depression and alcohol abuse. perhaps also i was vitamin deficient and have never known normal organ and brain function and maybe part of the way i am now, is due to being bolstered for the first time in my life. I'm not discounting the other major events that no doubt had major negative impacts with a semi-positive outcome.

Anyone else?


Yep, lacking empathy, sympathy, unable to connect with emotions, feeling empty, all extremely common (you would not believe how common).

It's usually the result of things that happened in childhood, does not have to be a traumatic childhood. It seems the vast majority of us suffer from this. We express it in different ways. The most common way is egotistical behaviour (denial basically, pretending to be not unhappy at all, to the point where you believe the lie). I think personally I'd rather know there was a problem (depression etc.) than stay asleep to the reality of how I feel.
 
C

Chamaeleon

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#11
I struggle in that department too, but that's because I'm too consumed by my own problems. Also I'm just not imaginative enough to offer decent words of support.

But I look up serial killing cases and whathave you, unsolved ones, wishing I could solve them to get justice for these women.
 
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marthans123

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#12
I am an 18 year old girl and i seem to have the exact same problem as you, I would probably cry if friends and family die but I feel like that would just be down to that having an effect on me because someone who i liked and made my life richer in some way has gone. So purely selfish crying of self pity really. I don't care when people I should love are suffering some how, its not that I would ever want them to suffer obviously if I could chose I would chose them not to be in reality my feelings towards others pain is completely indifferent. I also don't think I feel love and while this never was an issue before family is just family and friends don't expect you to shower them in love or anything but forming romantic relationships is hard. It's tricky to explain to some one that while you want to be with them you don't love or care about their feelings, no one wants to be with some one who doesn't make them feel loved. So then I have to pretend and like you say I'm not sure how to act or what to say so I have to mimic what others have said to me and I find it very uncomfortable. I do feel a fair bit of emotions but I tend to think they're more dulled down than other peoples? Also on a another note I don't really feel any sexual attraction [which would make me asexual] so really I just don't feel anything much for other people at all? Just wondering if there's other people who are the same as I am. It doesn't half feel like shit when some one loves you and you just can't seem to give anything back to them no matter how much you want to.
 
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Zebra

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#13
I feel like this too. Whenever I tell people the truth about how I feel, they always say that it doesn't make me a freak but I can tell that they are disgusted by me. At best, they lose interest in knowing me or say "have you seen a doctor about it". Now I just pretend. I watch how other people react to each other and I copy the expressions of the ones who seem to do well in life. I used to practice in the mirror to make sure my expression looked like theirs did. Funerals are the hardest because I find it impossible to look somber. When I tell people that I feel numb, they think I must be in shock or something.

It probably started in my childhood. There is no one event. It was just a prolonged period of being bullied, struggling with school, a stressful home life and lots of family deaths. Life was bad for so long that I became numb to it. Other people give me anxiety when I see them.

I find the world a lonely place to be. I can't talk to anyone about what goes on in my head because I lie to the people closest to me so they won't leave me.

I can't really experience joy or satisfaction in everyday things like watching sports, doing well at work or socialising. For a while I drank heavily, had lots of one night stands and experimented with drugs. They all made me feel alive in a way that normal life can't. I tried talking to therapists and shrinks but none of them helped me. Talking about my problems just makes me angry. I have no emotional release from it. Their antidepressants made me worse. I wish I could cry but I can't. Most mental health doctors help nobody except themselves. Theh have no idea that they didn't help me because, eventually, I just told them what they wanted to hear like everyone else. Doctors tend to be arrogant so if their treatment doesn't work, eventually they either blame me or get sick of trying.

I am married now with a kid on the way so I can't get my release in sleeping with random woman or drugs and alcohol. One night stands used to make me feel better about myself. I could deal with life in between one night stands because I had something to look forward to. without them, I lost my motivation to take care of myself. My health suffered a lot and I didn't care.

I am trying to get myself back on track now. I'm eating right, exercising, taking my vitamins etc. my body is returning to it's former state and I am telling my wife that I am feeling better, just like I used to.... Soon I'll be able to pretend again that everything is great again. Really I just want to me on my own so I don't have to pretend to care about what anyone thinks or wants me to do. I'm exhausted by it all.

My one wish is that when my kid is born, I will feel something when I see him. Everyone keeps asking me if I am excited but like normal, I feeling nothing except anxiety. I started with testosterone replacement a few months ago and I feel hyper sexual like I did when I was 19 (I'm 35). It will make it even harder to be a normal married man but without the testosterone, I had no energy to get up in the morning. I also love feeling excited to meet new woman. The feeling is already making me feel alive again.

I wish I knew other people like me so I had friends I didn't have to pretend with. Anybody who says that you should always be honest has never had to live with my truth.
 
AliceinWonderland

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#14
:welcome: marthans

:welcome: Zebra

Hope you find the forum helpful :peace:
 
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RobertT

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#15
I just wanted to thank you. It was insightful & helped to express my feelings to someone that doesn't understand how it feels in what you expressed.
 
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Savyuz

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#16
Ik this is old but I stumbled upon it so Ik it's completely possible for someone else too! I have been watching videos about empaths for some odd reason and it started making me REALLY think how I am the opposite. Besides the love part I'm the same. It is harder for me to love than some but I'm capable of it and it's unbreakable when I do, I've only loved one man in my life, our daughter, my parents and brother....that's it...which is fine. My concern is my inability to feel any sort of sympathy or empathy towards others (except for those 4 adult people I love, and even then it has to be pretty serious). I also feel bad about this. The thing is I don't feel sorry for myself so there's no way I can feel sorry for others. When I had a friend who was depressed all the time that's all she'd talk about and she was so negative and I just couldn't get myself to care, I have depression and I certainly don't feel sorry for myself and I never even talk about it to people EXCEPT those 4 people and even then it's rare, so feeling sorry for someone else with the same issue won't happen. It seems the ONLY thing I actually feel sympathetic about is sometimes TRUE heartbreak (like your husband of 10 years cheating on you and other very serious forms of betrayal, not even year long relationships or 2 or anything) as well as fatal illnesses such as cancer and ones WORSE than cancer, so pretty serious ones. I can feel sorry for kids. I very easily will feel sorry for kids and animals, but from 13 and up humans, nothing unless it's those two things I mentioned and they have to be very serious to feel a little sympathy. I don't feel sorry for deaths or anything else. When I watch shows about intervention or weight loss shows, they will say they are the way they are Bc of something that happened in there past and I'm sitting over here saying in my head or maybe even outloud "that's not an excuse" Bc half the time Ive been through it too and I'd never think to use any of it as an excuse for anything Bc I feel no sympathy for myself. I really do feel like a bad person sometimes. I do care about people to an extent, as in if I can help I will. I'm a GREAT listener. I pride myself in that and I like to use that as a way to help people who need it. I want everyone to be happy. But some of that is Bc the complaining absolutely annoys me if it's a constant thing (separate from "venting"). No one would ever know I'm not sympathetic except for my mom, but idk if she even remembers now but she use to say I was cold hearted Bc of my OBVIOUS lack of sympathy towards people. She didn't say it in a demeaning way, almost in a joking yet totally serious way. I wanted to say how it works for me Bc I enjoyed hearing how it is for others in the feed and I do feel better knowing I'm not the only one, I'm curious to know how many people are like this? I've never met anyone like it, but then again they could be like me and hide it very well! Some people I suspect but I would never ask.
 
T

Thomasbiscuit

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#17
I don't how to say without making it sounds like I made it up, but this is how I feel every day of my life. You described it perfectly except I would add that I get so anxious when I can't feel emotion for the things I want I feel like I'm living a life full of lies and that I'm never my true self that it was locked away and the key was lost. There has been times when my mom is crying that she think I don't even love her anymore and I don't shed a tear. It makes me feel awful I want to learn to love someone and I tell people I love them and I want to love them but I can mean it when I say it. And now I'm reading these comments and I feel like I'm not alone because I'm not the only person going through this and tbh I'm only 16 and I'm
Guessing most of you are much older maybe not but I feel like I shouldn't be going through this and I really don't want to I want to be able to have fun with people my age, but I don't know how. I wasn't always like this I had in incident a couple years back I believe that is what triggers or untrigger shall I say my emotions. whenever I try to make jokes too espically to class mates I see but don't know well i think I come off as creepy but it's not like I'm a creepy person because ik I even look like good looking and I'm trying to brag or anything like that I'm trying to be honest cause I ask people because I sometimes hope to believe that is the reason people ignore me but it really is just because it really is because I don't have a personality because u kind of need emotion for that so it's like I put on a mask at school for each different person making the best possible friend situation so almost like I'm creating multiple personalities just to fit in because I feel the need to make everyone liking me even if I'm basically lieing to them anyways I think I'll stop her basically just filtering at this point I hope someone reads this.
-Thanks
 
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Drako_Draws

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#18
I understand

I actually completely understand. I've been going through this recently and I never realized until someone brought it to my attention and I looked into it further- I ended up coming across this entry on this forum by looking up my symptoms in order to find an answer and so far the best explanation I could come across was this entry. You perfectly put everything into words better than I could myself and I've felt like I was so alone until I came across this- I have wondered if I was the only one and it's really a big relief to know I'm not alone.