Can Depression Affect Empathy? How?

Can Depression Affect Empathy? How?

Studies have demonstrated a connection between depressive disorders, empathy, and occasionally mental health medication. Depression affect empathy level. You may be able to acquire the support you require by finding out more about the potential relationship. Empathy enables you to relate to other people.

What transpires then when a person lacks empathy? Could a person’s empathy levels be impacted by their mental health? Low or absent empathy is closely associated with some mental health disorders. Particularly, depression and some antidepressant medications may make you less empathic. It can be beneficial to understand more about empathy if you believe that you or someone you know has reduced empathy levels.

What is Empathy?

What is Empathy

It might be challenging to pinpoint the exact meaning of empathy. Empathy, according to Greater Good Magazine, is understanding how another person is feeling. It requires putting yourself in another person’s shoes and infer their likely ideas.

Many studies distinguish between two types of empathy:

Affective empathy is the sensation we might get when we perceive another person’s feelings. Cognitive empathy is our capacity to understand the feelings of others.

Is empathy related to mental health?

A sense of empathy and psychological well-being may be connected.

For instance, a more recent study from 2007 found that a number of mental health issues are related to decreased levels of empathy. Some persons who suffer from specific mental illnesses might never feel empathy at all.

A 2018 study reveals that instrumental aggression, also known as goal-oriented aggression, may be more likely among people with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) due to reduced empathy.

As a result of their diminished receptivity to other people’s distress signs, a person is, therefore, more inclined to act aggressively for their own benefit.

A 2018 review indicated that Alzheimer’s patients have deficits in cognitive empathy, which may impact cognitive decline. The review also shows that those with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) have severe empathy deficiencies.

Can depression affect Empathy? How?

Can depression affect Empathy? How?

If you’re depressed, you might believe that other individuals are in more pain than you are.

In a 2017 study, respondents were asked to rank how angry they believed someone in a video felt. Those participants in the study who experienced sadness also perceived the individual in the movie as upset. Those who weren’t depressed regarded the person in the film as being in less distress.

In a similar vein, a 2014 study found that depression has an impact on empathy. The findings, however, deviate from those made in the aforementioned 2017 study.

It was specifically observed that study participants with depression performed worse on cognitive empathy, or the capacity to comprehend how another person might be feeling.

Factors Affecting Depression and Empathy

A number of factors, including your age and sexual orientation, anxiety may have different effects on empathy.

As an example, a 2011 study that involved couples discovered that women who were depressed were less likely to be able to discern their partner’s feelings or comprehend their thoughts.

The association between empathy and depression may also shift with age, according to a 2021 study.

Empathy and depression levels were observed to fluctuate in tandem in teenagers, meaning that young people may exhibit both high empathy and higher depression levels. With older folks, the opposite was discovered.



According to some studies, any decreased empathy may actually be caused by antidepressant medications rather than actual sadness.

As demonstrated in a 2019 study, depressed participants didn’t have lower empathy levels prior to commencing treatment. After a period of treatment, their degree of affective empathy decreased. Their levels of cognitive empathy remained constant, though.


It’s crucial to get assistance from an accredited professional if you or a loved one is depressed. Additionally, if you feel that your empathy is lacking, you might want to work on raising it. Establishing a community of support to assist you in talking through any difficulties you’re experiencing is one way to do this.