The Psychopathology of Empathy – A disorder killing humankind

Many people say having autism is a disablity – They could be right, as being denied opportunities because others cannot easy communicate or appreciate your point of view is disabling.

When Hans Asperger used the term ‘autism’ he was referring to a particular aspect of schizophrenia that causes social impairment. This is why I laughed the other day when so called research claimed a link between autism and schizophrenia – the link is only there because Hans Asperger defined it!

But, being autistic is not a disability – in many cases it is an advantage. I would say being empathic can cause a worse kind of autism – one that damages relationships rather than makes then easier to repair. I would argue that autism therefore can come from either having an empathic personality or an autistic one. The fact that people who claim to have empathy say they cannot understand autistic people proves they have autism – an impairment in ones ability to communicate with others and see their point of view.

Empathics can have some major flaws that autistics don’t have:

  • They need to “get to know someone” before entering into dialogue with them. Autistics can speak to anyone and treat them equally however short or long their relationship.
  • They seek out people who have “things in common” with them; such as same race, same interests, same party. Autistics like being individuals and different.
  • They attack people who are different from them even if they agree with them inside or would do the same thing as them in the same situation, just because they are in a different group or other faction to them. Autistics on the other hand have an internal consistency, they are not afraid to tell others they disapprove of their actions because they are in the same faction, not say they approve of others who are in a different faction if they honestly think so.
  • They will break rules or codes of ethics because they feel sorry for someone who would face a fair detriment from them, or will ignore them if someone will face an unfair detriment if that means one of their friends or other members of a faction they are in won’t face a fair detriment. Autistic people on the other hand will follow the rules, providing they think they are fair to everyone.
  • They will find it difficult to understand the theory of mind of those from different cultures or with different beliefs to them. Autistics on the other hand, because they see things from their point of view, can easily “map on” different cultures to their worldview by consciously seeing how others a different to them, both as individuals and a group. Empathics need to be around people similar to them whereas Autistics do not.

So as you can see there is a clear type of ‘empathic spectrum disorder‘ (ESD) in the world today, which can cause ‘autism’ as much as autistic spectrum conditions (ASC). Someone with an ESD might let off a murder if they are on a jury, even if they believe they are guilty, because they feel sorry for them. There was a highly publicised case in UK where a juror, Joanne Fraill, contacted the defendants in drugs trial, causing the £6m case to collapse, the Guardian reports.

Does Joanne Fraill, a juror who contacted defendants in a drugs trial, suffer from an empathic spectrum disorder? Courtesy: The Guardian

A nurse or doctor with an ESD might not expose a colleague’s mal-practice because they will be concerned about betraying them, which would mean one or more members of the public could be harmed. On a number of occasions in the last year where a member of staff at an organisation has done something wrong, the manager, a colleague or someone in an allied profession has stuck up for them, without considering the whole facts. ESDs get in the way of a fair and just society based on objectivity and merit. They are probably a worse impairment than an ASC, as they lead people to divide one another and not unite and tolerate one another.