Empathy hurts!

A person  empathizing with someone in pain perceives his or her own pain as more severe and unpleasant.  Researchers at McGill University published these findings in the current issue of journal Pain.  This observation could explain, at least in part, high frequency of pain symptoms observed in spouses of chronic pain patients.   Even laboratory mice have heightened pain behavior when exposed to cagemates, but not to strangers, in pain.  Clearly, the thing to do is not to ignore your spouse’s or friend’s pain, but rather try to get the pain relieved.  If that is not possible, hopefully, a cognitive-behavioral psychologist may be able to devise a way to be very supportive and helpful without constantly feeling badly for the person in pain.

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