Psych Central

Why Am I So Uncompassionate?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Increasingly my non-compassion for others has really started to alarm and confuse me. I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, depression, and general anxiety, and all my life I’ve been somewhat apathetic. But others have started pointing out to me that I don’t really react “normally” to other peoples distressing situations, even close friends/family, ex: my grandmothers sister just died and she’s extremely depressed about it, yet I feel absolutely nothing, no sympathy or sadness for her or anything. As a matter of fact, when I first heard about it, I felt contempt and even slightly angry, like “get over it”.
I don’t think it’s simple apathy as my own emotions are like atomic bombs and really unstable. And I’m not unmotivated or uncaring all the time, only when I’m in a depressive state.
Intellectually I DO feel sympathy for other people, and even anger or sadness FOR them, but emotionally, there’s just nothing there. This also happens when sometimes I’ll say something that’s impolite or hurtful. I’m not trying to be mean, it’s just I can’t understand on an emotional level what my words or actions will make the other person feel. Half the time I don’t even know what I feel, but that’s a different story.
I never really knew I was like this until people started pointing it out to me. So now I just pretend like I’m feeling something. Like if I hear about something on the news I’ll say “Aww, I feel so awful for them”. I’m a pretty good actress, so I’m really the only person who knows I’m pretending.
Could I just be narcissistic? I always have been, I admit, pretty self absorbed, vain, and entitled, so I’m wondering if this lack of empathy for others could be that? I’m even starting to wonder if I actually have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as I’ve read about it and it’s pretty much me. My parents have also always suspected that I may have Asperger’s, but I’ve never been tested or anything. I’m just so confused! Any advice or explanation would be so helpful!

A: Thank you so much for bringing your concerns here. The fact that this issue has troubled you so much that it has caused you to write this is important to know. Your desire to correct this is the best source for an improvement there can be. Let’s see if we can capitalize on it.

I think rather than all the guesswork I would make an appointment with a clinical psychologist who specializes in personality testing. These individuals are usually quite skilled at being able to determine various personality disorders by diagnosing the symptoms with objective tests.

From there you can talk with the psychologist about determining a plan for treatment. This takes all the guesswork out and offers you a somewhat more objective opportunity to clarify what is going on.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Nov 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Why Am I So Uncompassionate?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/11/17/why-am-i-so-uncompassionate/

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