My Deepest Empathies?

4 Jun

Since I have started writing blog entries and adding content for the American Health Journal, I have convinced myself that I have just about every disease, condition, and infection known to man. It took a matter of four weeks, but this job has definitely turned me into a hypochondriac. Well, to be fair, I talked myself out of a few of these ailments. For example, I am relieved that I do not have a brain tumor; I just get tension headaches at work. No, I don’t have Alzheimer’s—I just forgot where I left my phone. Oh, and did you know that they have a cure for leprosy? It’s called Hansen’s disease now. I was vaccinated for polio, I am not color blind, and I had the chicken pox when I was two. I am also up-to-date on my tetanus shot.

There is one condition that I am absolutely convinced I have that I must share it with you. I have diagnosed myself with mirror-touch synesthesia. Yes, it is a real thing. Mirror-touch synesthesia is a condition that causes people, such as myself, to feel touches that others receive. It has to do with neurons that deal with a person’s ability to empathize. People with MTS have overactive neurons. The idea is, if you see one person touch another in the arm, you will feel the sensation in your own arm. You see someone get pinched, you feel as if you have been pinched yourself. It does not stop with physical sensations. With MTS, people can hardly make it through horror movies because of the extreme feeling that what is happening to the actors, is happening to them.

All of my life, whenever I see someone get hit, I always react as if I have been hit. My friends will always look at me like I am a psychopath when I yell “OUCH!” whenever a stranger gets punched in the arm. I remember the time I watched The Human Centipede. I had to be pinned down to the couch with my eyes held open—no, that is not an exaggeration. I simply don’t like seeing people hurt. Don’t even get me started on the pain I feel when I take Willie to get a booster shot at the Vet.

Ok, well, maybe this isn’t the same thing as mirror-touch synesthesia, but it is an excellent opportunity to discuss a pair of very commonly confused words: empathy and sympathy. Empathy is the ability to experience the same feelings, thoughts, and emotions as another. If you are empathetic you feel what the other feels even though you are experiencing completely different situations. Sympathy is merely the understanding and caring for the suffering of others. When someone’s loved one has died, you offer him/her your deepest sympathy because you don’t feel as sad as they do, but you understand that she/he is hurting.

So to make it easy to remember: with empathy, you feel with someone—with sympathy, you feel for someone. Don’t forget to check out American Health Journal. It’s a cool, new website idea. Instead of just having simple posts like WebMd, AHJ has videos of doctors that explain any sort of medical question imaginable. It’s like being in the doctors’ office without the nuisance of the drive and endless wait in the waiting room.


40 Responses to “My Deepest Empathies?”

  1. Angel Fractured 24 June 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    Sympathy is also a word that seems more condescending to me. Like pity. They both involve having the sympathizer/pitying person inhabiting some sort of outside space that is above the person they’re feeling is directed toward.

  2. mustafaaziz96 25 June 2012 at 1:20 am #

    An interesting post. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Geek 20/20 25 June 2012 at 3:35 am #

      I suspected they had different meanings. But today I understand fully :).

  3. melouisef 25 June 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Hahaha it happens to every medical student

  4. crazykindness 25 June 2012 at 4:17 am #

    I can see your great personality through in your writing. Very enjoyable to read. Cheers!

  5. John 25 June 2012 at 5:57 am #

    Interesting, wondering if this has anything to do with why sometimes I feel as though someone or something had just touched me, but when nobody is near. Hmmm…

    • BernBabyBern 25 June 2012 at 9:49 am #

      Well the thing is you have to see someone touching another, hence the mirror part of the name.

  6. Bill 25 June 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Thanks. A good explanation! Is this a proper use of the (!)? Bill

  7. alenaslife 25 June 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Thank you for the diagnosis. I have the condition but limited to hands and feet. I wonder if that is a separate condition.

    • BernBabyBern 25 June 2012 at 9:48 am #

      I’m sure it has something to do with it 🙂

  8. Andrea Collo 25 June 2012 at 10:27 am #

    very nice and interesting post, I like it 🙂

  9. Dr. Housewife 25 June 2012 at 11:41 am #

    So for some reason, in the medical literature, they have the definitions of “empathy” and “sympathy” switched. It’s been driving me nuts for the past three years!

  10. Carol 25 June 2012 at 11:48 am #

    I think MTS endows one with more empathy than is really needed. Certainly more than I would care to have!

  11. Happy Acupuncturist 25 June 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Ah, hypochondria from medical research- it’s an occupational hazard! I can completely empathize 😎

    Brilliant blog you have, it’s like you read my mind and then wrote it all down in a much better edited version.

  12. Ninjadoc 25 June 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Nice entry, you see those two get mixed a lot, always makes me chuckle. By the way, nearly med student (and probably nurses, etc) in the world goes secretly through that same stages of hypochondria! Where they wonder: “do Ihave this disease….I have the Ebola virus!!!” You’re not alne there!

  13. Lamberta 25 June 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I really hope your writing doesn’t continue to make you think you have every Tom, Dick, & Harry of diseases. Wouldn’t want you to go insane now would we? 😉

  14. Korifaeus 25 June 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    MSS = Medical-Student-syndrome; when learning about the different symptoms of diseases, medical students have a tendency to diagnose themselves with several diseases. A funny story about told Michael Crichton ( bestselling author) who went to medical school and diagnosed himself with MS, and realizing he may have a fatal disease, he left medical school to do what he liked most, “writing”.

    The ability to feel what other’s may feel is a very natural, in fact it’s ” normal” – but since we’ve become pretty much numb to lots of things, those who still have that very natural ability, are considered super-sensitive, while actually they are just “sensitive” = have all of their 7 senses 😉

  15. Korifaeus 25 June 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Ps: Apropos diseases. If you like 😉
    Cure for cancer finally found, but…

  16. Ninjadoc 25 June 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    I amusedly read your blog. My wife and I get into the most hilarious arguments, I too am an English major, and write like I do (I’d like to say somewhat entertainigly). My wife has a Masters in Neuroscience, is an Air Traffic Controller and writes like a robot missing a battery pack. So when we collaborate even on a birthday card, shenanigans ensue!

  17. theantiquehare 25 June 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    I think the internet is turning us all in to hypochondriacs. Great piece. Enjoyed it much. Cheers!

  18. Simple, Sweet, and Southern 25 June 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Nice post! I *have* to stop myself every time I feel like looking up a symptom online. Usually, never leads to good things..

  19. cmtny 25 June 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Thanks for following my blog on raising awareness of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disorder at:

    Just checked out your American Health Journal and recommended they include information about neurological, and neuromuscular disorders as well as peripheral neuropathies. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder fits into all 3 categories.

    Can definitely benefit from your grammar tips! Glad I found your site. Thanks.

  20. durtydriscoll 25 June 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    A great blog entry. Up until I was about 30 I never had an empathetic bone in my body. Now everytime I see someone nail themselves, during sport or any other day-to-day activity, I literaly feel their pain…strange turn of events but i guess it makes me feel more human.

  21. josephinemarc 25 June 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    Hi Doll,

    Thanks for following my blog! I love this post!

    Your writting is great, very concise & entertaining! I totally agree with Korifaeus above ^, Im studying Biomedical Science & Ive diagnoised myself with everything from Sarcoidosis (fibrosis of the lungs) because I felt I couldn’t breath in enough air at times, to cerebral fluid leakage from my nose when my allergies are out of control! Not very entertaining for myself; but is of great amusement for my partner who sometimes must question my sanity! But really it is a funny side-effect of studing Biomed & Medicine! Great post!


  22. jsnapp62 26 June 2012 at 12:15 am #

    You made that up didn’t you? MTS, I never heard the like but I’m sure if it is possible, I have a friend that has it. Ha,ha.
    Seriously I have always felt the cringe of pain when someone falls down and skins their knees on concrete. I don’t know how to explain it but it is the strangest feeling…

    • BernBabyBern 26 June 2012 at 9:39 am #

      I made up the abbreviation but apparently it is a real condition

  23. embracingbabylon 26 June 2012 at 9:35 am #

    That was a great post. I had never even heard of MTS and as for the difference between empathy and sympathy, I had all ways known they were different I just didn’t know how and was way to lazy to google search it. Thanks a million for that 🙂

  24. reigh 26 June 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Thanks for stopping by and following! I’m enjoying the topics you write about. Very informative…and just plain neat!

  25. chroniclesofdomesticdisaster 26 June 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    As one who ducks when something fast moving is pictured on the TV and who has convinced themselves that they had Bubonic Plague – I am with you. Empathetically.

  26. dlkoch 26 June 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Love your site! I have nominated you for the Reader Appreciation Award. Place picture on your site. Select six others to award.

  27. qualitytw 26 June 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    Great blog and your writing is fun. This post made me laugh. thank you

  28. Jae Lei Nyght 26 June 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Amazing,Funny,Informative. Everyone I know is convinced I’m a Hypochondriac…it’s my curse. 🙂 Keep writing!

  29. Matthew 26 June 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    May I recommend The Paranoid’s Pocket Guide to Mental Disorders You Can Just Feel Coming On? That way you can worry about even more diseases you may have. I’ve been meaning to read it myself, but I think I’ll have to end up Interlibrary Loaning it.

  30. theangryresident 26 June 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    The fact that you’ve watched The Human Centipede makes you pretty awesome in my book.

  31. Celeste 27 June 2012 at 6:29 am #

    Very clear explanation about the difference between empathy and sympathy. I’ll meditate about that. Thank you for following my blog, Celeste

  32. valleyroadrambler 27 June 2012 at 7:05 am #

    … and I can’t believe you watched The Human Centipede. I watched the trailer and that was enough for me. Gross! (I almost wrote “more than enough for me” but than I realized “more than” would be redundant. How’s that for self-editing?) Thanks for another entertaining and informative post, btw!

  33. jparjets21 27 June 2012 at 11:09 am #


  34. mmoussa 3 July 2012 at 4:43 am #

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful blog

  35. Your sis 28 September 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    You can thank me for the chickenpox 😀

  36. TwinFish Photography 17 October 2012 at 12:11 am #

    I love your writing style and the content. Hooked immediately!

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