Hi, I am looking for information on what people may understand of empathy in people on the spectrum, from what I can gather it maybe more people with Asperger's (as it was), who experience high levels of empathy. What is known about this? What are people's experiences?
Unnecessary ramble you don't have to read haha
What I can gather so far: though the information I have found is sparse and I am unsure if it is reliable. The bit that makes the most sense to me seems to suggest that people with what was classically called autism can often ( though not all) struggle with emotional empathy but can still develop very high levels of cognitive empathy. They can understand emotions but not feel them, meaning, as I interpret it that it needs to be more of a conscious process to realise what someone is feeling whereas NT people may grasp this more easily and intuitively.
Whereas some things I have read seem to suggest that Asperger's can go the other way, sometimes excessively high levels of emotional empathy.
Alexithymia also seems to be a factor, (the inability to recognise one's own emotions) my reading seems to suggest that this can largely occur independently of autism but that this can be a large factor in seeming lack of empathy, also in causing more problems for people with high emotional empathy but low cognitive empathy. How I would interpret that being that when you can feel the distress, joy any other intense emotion of another but do not understand it it can easily become highly confusing and overwhelming which seems to tie into some of the intense world theories that people have for autism in general.
My personal experience ; I am undiagnosed, a non qualified (for autism diagnosis) councellor told me I had asperger's but at school I spent a long time in the special needs department (due to dislexia) and was never diagnosed I suspect she would have caught this then as she was qualified to diagnose it and should have been clearer as a child (though I maybe mistaken in that). I still do not know for sure, though I suspect that yes I show many of these traits, I am aware that this is a simplification but I suspect I am very close to Asperger's but not quite enough traits to count for a full diagnosis.
I had a chat a while ago now with someone with a recent autism diagnosis. When I was struggling with my own potential diagnosis who said that he experiences very high levels of empathy. What he describes sounds very much similar to what I experience. For personal reasons discussing this further with him is difficult. I am trying to understand.
I was until recently very unaware of my own feelings, though I suspect that is far more to do with upbringing. I think I have high levels of empathy, described by my councellor as I grew up in an environment where is was necessary to care for another in order to survice so I feel the emotions of others before my own, I find it far easier to tell what I am feeling with time away to process. I also have a dangerous tendency to excuse bad behaviour towards myself as I am able to understand their perspective why they act that way and so do not enforce boundaries as I should. The first councellor describing this as I would likely, as I was autistic, always be more vulnerable to abuse and being exploited than most people. A terrifying concept. Being a large part of why I changed could councellor, this one is much better for me, but has little to no understanding of autism, she does not think that I am. But I would like more knowledge on this is anyone has anything relevant to any of this.
Ive been diagnosed with Autism(Aspergers)
I don't seem to have much empathy at all. For example
An old lady that I knew really well died, I cut her lawn for her every week for 20 years. I didn't feel the need to go to her funeral
A neighbour contracted *** cancer and had to undergo kemo and radio therapy, she was quite unwell - I didn't feel the need to visit her during this time
If I get delayed in a road traffic accident initial feelings are annoyance at being delayed for x number of minutes, not the welfare of the victims of the accident.
Sometimes on reflection I hate myself for being so cold and calculated
Interesting, thanks for the input. To me I would be overly logical about it, funeral's I kind of see no point in, the person is dead, they do not care, I would go because I feel like I should or to offer support/ show respect to surving people. Road traffic accident's I sometimes surprise people in how cold I can be as I generally overly care, as long as someone is helping them my thoughts are basically, there are millions of people suffering at this instant in the world why feel bad for this one just because they happen to be in eyeline, they have help, there is nothing I can do, just out it out of your mind.
I wouldn't beat yourself up for it, even from just what you said about mowing a ladies lawn every week it sounds like you are offering your own form of support to people. If emotional support isn't your direction of helping don't feel bad.