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canidmajor's avatar

Does anyone know the clinical word or term for this?

Asked by canidmajor (2913 points ) 2 months ago

What is it officially called when someone is as crippled by grief by circumstances that happen to strangers far away as they are by things close to home where they perhaps know people involved? For example, to be as upset by the reports of children starving in Africa as by the news that the child of a friend was stabbed to death in the hall of a local high school.

I’m not talking about understandable concern and compassion and the desire (even passionate) to help and alleviate suffering, but the internalization of the grief akin to the loss of a loved one.

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10 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Empathy? Distant things sadden me, but not to the point of being crippled by grief. Life sucks sometimes.

LornaLove's avatar

Things effect me more when I am depressed. I think too that some things are projective. Starving animals could signify something left hungry in ourselves, or the deep remembering of a time in our lives when we could not get food.

Perhaps the shooting compassion is our general fears brought about by anxiety, or maybe you are a humanitarian.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I believe the term is “depression” and the minute you allow yourself the liberty of considering the level of misery and suffering that persists in the world, Mr. D will pay you a visit.

kritiper's avatar

Compassionately incapacitated.

thorninmud's avatar

Empathy is very much a spectrum, with psychopathy at the low end of the spectrum and hyper empathy at the high end. What you’re describing is hyper empathy, considered a disorder by some because it can interfere with normal functioning. It’s not, though, related to mental illness; it’s a matter of which brain regions are recruited to process emotional stimuli.

There is a case in the medical record of a woman who developed hyper empathy following surgery for epilepsy. Her amygdala—a brain organ heavily involved in processing emotion—was removed, and in reforming neural connections, other brain regions took over the emotion processing. This resulted in hyper empathy, perhaps because the amygdala seems to have a role in enforcing our distinction between self and other.

canidmajor's avatar

Thank you, @thorninmud, that’s close to what I mean, with a nice explanation. I didn’t know that about amygdala removal causing this. I seem to remember that there was a specific name for this pathology, (hyper empathy doesn’t sound familiar).
Maybe that’s the clinical term, and I’ve just heard differing phrases.

jca's avatar

I think it’s empathy with a bit of anxiety mixed in.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m liking @kritiper ‘s “compassionately incapacitated,”
and @thorninmud ‘s “hyper-empathy.”

LuckyGuy's avatar

pity paralysis
sympathy stagnation

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