Depression and Empathy: How One Affects the Other
Depression and Empathy: How One Affects the Other

Feeling empathy is crucial in your work and personal lives, not to mention the world. Without empathy, you wouldn’t have compassion for others or relate to loved ones, friends, or strangers. 

However, studies have shown that those dealing with depression have different empathy levels than those not struggling with a mental health concern. 

To better understand the link between depression and empathy, we must dive deeper into each. 

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder defined by persistent negative thoughts, moods, and loss of interest in hobbies and activities. There are several different types of depression, each with varying symptoms. 

lack of empathy
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): This type of deep depression negatively impacts your ability to enjoy life most of the time. You experience symptoms like:
  • fatigue
  • hopelessness
  • pessimism
  • suicidal thoughts
  • appetite changes
  • low sex drive
  • loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • uncontrollable emotions
  • sleep pattern changes
  • irritability
  • Bipolar Disorder: This mental health concern is characterized by extreme cycling mood changes between mania and depression.

    Symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • racing thoughts
  • feeling jumpy
  • inflated self-esteem
  • increased energy or agitation
  • engaging in reckless behavior
  • illogical thinking
  • bouts of depression

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  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): While it’s common for women to experience emotional changes a few days before their period, others may experience them so severely that they consider suicide. PMDD can be challenging to diagnose since your clinician must separate your symptoms from those of typical premenstrual syndrome (PMS). But if you suffer from PMDD, it could severely impact your life, so you should seek professional mental health treatment.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder: This is a type of depression that lasts longer than two years and is commonly referred to as chronic depression or dysthymia. 
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):  The winter months can be incredibly challenging when you suffer from SAD. This kind of depression occurs during the darker, gloomier winter months. 
  • Situational Depression: A type of adjustment disorder, situational depression is a short-term type of depression developing from a traumatic event or significant life change. Things like the death of a loved one, moving, problems at school or work, illness, and relationship issues can cause situational depression. 
depression treatment
  • Psychotic Depression: As a subtype of MDD, psychotic depression occurs when symptoms include a form of psychosis, such as hallucinations or delusions.
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD): This type of depression can begin during pregnancy or after giving birth. Many of the symptoms of depression are the same as MDD but can also include an inability or desire to bond with your baby, shame, and guilt.

Having any form of depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Depression is a diagnosable and treatable mental illness you don’t choose to have. Getting treatment is the best thing you can do for yourself so you can live a fulfilling, enjoyable life.

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What is Empathy?

When someone else is struggling with a life-changing event, how do you feel? How do you react? If you feel someone’s pain or feel sorry after they have lost a loved one, you are empathetic to a degree and do not struggle with a lack of empathy.

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Empathy is defined as the ability to understand other people’s emotions and what they feel. Someone who is empathetic can see things from others’ points of view, and some people can even imagine themselves in someone else’s place. 

The Importance of Empathy

empathy and depression

To understand empathy, you must grasp its importance and its benefits. The positive aspects of empathy go beyond understanding how someone feels and feeling sorry for them. 

Being empathetic helps you become a more well-rounded individual. Work relationships thrive as you see through an empathetic point of view of your coworkers’ situations, work-related or not. Friendships are built on a foundation of strength and encouragement when both parties have empathy for each other, and it helps intimate relationships flourish.

Additional benefits of empathy include the following:

  • understanding others 
  • knowledge of self
  • improved social skills 
  • positive mindset
  • dignity and respect for yourself and others

Different Types of Empathy

  • Cognitive empathy is the intellectual understanding of someone else’s emotions, thoughts, and feelings and the ability to consider other people’s perspectives without personally having to experience their situations.
  • Affective or ’emotional’ empathy is the ability to feel another person’s emotions. If you are an effectively empathetic person can feel physical effects due to your emotional empathy.
  • Compassionate empathy or “empathetic concern” combines cognitive empathy and affective/emotional empathy. You can understand and feel others’ emotions if you are compassionately empathetic. 

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How Depression and Empathy Affect One Another

Have you ever thought that you may be struggling with a lack of empathy towards others? Perhaps the reason behind these thoughts is found in your mental health state. Empathy and depression are more profoundly linked than you may think. Studies show that depression negatively affects your level of empathy, leading to possible issues in your personal and professional life.

  • Inaccurate feelings of empathy due to depression symptoms: If you struggle with depression, you may think other people are depressed or distressed like you. 
empathic depressed

For example, if you feel down, you may think others feel down, too, even if they aren’t. You may feel highly empathetic toward someone, thinking they feel down and distressed due to your own depression symptoms. However, this may not be accurate.

  • Inability to read others’ emotions: Without empathy, forming healthy relationships may be a struggle for you. 

For example, if you are experiencing signs and symptoms of depression, you are less likely to accurately read your significant other’s emotions or understand their feelings and thoughts.

  • Differing empathy levels based on age and sex: Some studies have revealed that women dealing with depression had lower empathy levels toward their significant other. Other studies suggest that empathy is closely tied to age, finding that adolescents with depression symptoms actually had high empathy levels, while the opposite was true in adults.

BOLD Health Therapeutic Treatment for Depression

If you think you may even be struggling with depression or a lack of empathy, we’ve got you covered at BOLD Health. Our multiple therapeutic options for depression treatment in San Diego can help you overcome the challenges and improve your empathy levels, thus improving personal and professional relationships.

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When you partner with BOLD Health, we’ll tailor your treatment plan to your needs. Throughout your customized treatment program, you receive treatment from some of the most highly qualified clinicians in San Diego.

Our options for depression treatment in San Diego include the following:

  • group therapy
  • individual therapy
  • ketamine treatment 
  • medication management 
  • intensive outpatient program (IOP in San Diego)

Our depression treatment options incorporate therapeutic approaches and medication management if needed. We’ll provide the tools, support, and strategies to overcome your depression and lack of empathy concerns. Depending on your diagnosis, recovery time will vary. 

We use only evidence-based treatments backed by research and proven effectiveness. Rest assured; our well-equipped team provides you and your loved ones with the necessary support. 

If you and your clinician believe our IOP in San Diego best suits your needs, you’ll benefit from our 10-week treatment plan incorporating both individual and group therapy sessions in an uplifting, supportive environment. And if you need medication management, we’ve got you covered there too.

Partner with BOLD Health for Top-Notch Depression Treatment in San Diego

At BOLD Health, we take the necessary precautions and steps to curate the best program for you by genuinely understanding your needs. When you come to us for any mental health issue, including depression and empathy concerns, we ensure we fully comprehend your genetic, structural, biological, and medical history so you get the best possible treatment.

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We have built an impeccable reputation for outpatient mental health care in San Diego. Whether you need our IOP in San Diego or benefit from our other therapeutic options, we’ll help alleviate your depression symptoms to ensure you can live a more fulfilling life, effectively empathizing with others.

You deserve peace and freedom from your depression or empathy issues, and we are more than happy to support you toward recovery.

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