Consider this situation: a close relative just died and you want to hang around friends to soften the blow. You make plans with your best friend, and it happens that today is their up-day. Is there a problem? Maybe not at first. Even after you tell them why you’re upset, your friend can’t stop being upbeat and suggest that you could be optimistic about their death. All the while, you slowly get frustrated. You wish your friend had more empathy.
Fortunately, you know another very understanding friend who will be the perfect shoulder to cry on. However a day later, you find that your friend is still just as devastated by the news as you were when you first heard the news. What happens when a person’s empathy detrimentally affects their life as much as it does yours?
Hyper-empathy syndrome is diagnosable and filed under personality disorders by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It is thought that the part of the brain that controls emotion regulation is in some way malfunctioning, causing the patient to lose control of empathy and emotions altogether.
On the flip side, some argue that hyper-empathy (and even depression) shouldn’t count as official, diagnosable illnesses. The argument is that people are either “too emotional” or “too lazy” to do their best. What do you think?