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.
Munchkin_3 said: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
This confused me for some time, until I learned that empathy is not a monolithic slab of skill. I think I often have more cognitive empathy than NT people, but I struggle with emotional empathy. I get emotional contagion, sometimes. But at work I have a skill in being an interpreter between people from different backgrounds / functions, because my brain red-flags "he/she isn't going to know what you're talking about, because they don't know X" and then I can step in and explain. It's all powered by logic, as well as the customary smoke & mirrors.
This one I can absolutely relate to, I find work deeply painful sometimes because I can see the parts where they are just not stating themselves clearly and misunderstanding is happening. I have either just noticed more than others (they normally follow this pattern, that person is quieter than usual, etc.) Or have more information or perhaps just because I spend so much time stressing it.
Though oddly a woman in work the other day told me "you feel what's going on even when they don't say it" really unsure. I have in that last year or so been rather frantically been over educating myself in psychology and communication skills maybe it has more to do with that.
I do find it absolutely fascinating but also completely exhausting. And my batteries will rapidly run very low when made to process these social situations, I even start slurring and things sometimes, struggle telling left and right, lose my track in the middle of a sentences that sort of things. Where as give me days of hard, non people involving work and I would keep going like the Duracell bunny unless I forgot to eat because I got overly focused.
I had forgotten all about this thread. Not sure that I can even distinguish between cognitive & emotional empathy, since I see everything as based on cognition & interpretation of data anyway.
I have had many discussions on this subject with psychotherapists & other mental heath professionals in the past though. In fact this was one of the subjects that lead to my extremely late ASD diagnosis a few years ago.
I used to think that everyone saw the world in the same way as I do but just didn't like to admit it in such stark terms. The more I come to accept that NTs really don't think in the same way though, the more I feel like a total outsider that has just learned to pass for normal in their world, which is quite sad really.