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.
I think empathy like anything varies massively from person to person. Many autistic people do have high levels of empathy. I wouldn't consider my empathy levels high or low. I think they are in the middle. My struggle with empathy is actually showing it. The feeling is there but to another person they would often think I'm not empathetic. I also find my empathy levels can massively vary from situation to situation.
True it's a very different er . . . Skillset (that doesn't seem like the right word. ) Your right of course that it varies, guess I am after if it is part of what makes up autism, or if there is a tendency towards certain difficulties.
What do you mean by differs from situation to situation? Could you possibly give an example?
I can't think of a good example but sometimes there are situations where other people are giving a lot of sympathy and I don't feel much empathy towards the situation (usually if I think the person landed themselves in the situation) but there are other times that I feel a lot of empathy/sympathy towards something. That's probably not a good explanation but it's hard to explain.
The thing with autism is there are so many traits and some people will have or feel these traits more and others less. One trait on its own can't determine whether it is autism. For autism it has to be traits from all the areas and they have to cause difficulties for that person. That's why it can sometimes be hard to get an adult diagnosis as the difficulties may not be obvious.
Thanks, yeah that helps, makes sense.
Honestly, I was fixated with the autism thing for a bit when the counsellor first dumped it on me but I find psychological terms are largely unhelpful. People never fit in boxes, generally always seems to be an over simplification. But I suppose it's helpful to be able to offer a brief explanation for difficulties.
I was obsessed about autism for a long time before I got diagnosed. That was one of the biggest reasons I did it.
The way my assessor explained it to me is you need to have difficulties with social interaction, communication, sensory and flexibility of thought. The traits within these areas can differ enormously. But if you only have difficulties in one or two of the areas then it's not autism, it's something else.