Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan
Psikiyatrist

Empathy and Sympathy

The empathic ability is one of the serious health indicators. It is the capacity of comprehending what others feel or think at that moment, independently of one’s own feelings and thoughts.

Empathy is based on observation; it stands for the estimation or comprehension of the mood or feelings that the other person is having. Empathy is mostly mistaken for “sympathy”.

While empathy is to experience a feeling “with” the other person, sympathy is to experience a feeling “for” the person. While, on one part, the feeling of the person is estimated, the feeling of the person is directly felt on the other part.

In empathy, the person’s feeling can be understood without any need to approve his/her situation in order to understand that person; thus, it does not include any judgment, sometimes listening is enough. In sympathy, however, the other person is perceived as rightful, approved and correct; thus, there is a judgment, and an interpretation is made over the mood and feeling of the person.

The focus of sympathy is the “goodness” of the other. Sympathy is observed more particularly in caregivers.

Empathy may occasionally become sympathy. For instance, if the other person is under threat and if there is an urge to protect/give care to that person, empathy may turn into a sympathetic approach. Nevertheless, the literature claims that using empathy in professional and private lives is more functional both for the person himself/herself and for the other person.

Empathy has several significant functions in psychiatric disorders. The patients do not feel alone and isolated, they recognized that their feelings and thoughts are acceptable and considered important. They cease to be passive during the process of recovery, they become able to take steps to control themselves and start to take independent decisions; their self-confidence increases.

The rate of recovery is found to be higher in those empathized by their circles than those who are not.

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