Tag Archives: mirror touch synesthesia

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.