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Why Can’t I Feel Empathy?

Asked by on with 1 answer:

From a teen in the U.S.: I have noticed this for quite some time. I can’t feel empathy or sympathy towards people.
An example of this is when my best friend was crying in front of because she was getting death threats, I couldn’t bring myself to actually care. Another example is when my uncle died, and my dad was crying in front of me. I found it hilarious.

Another case is when my best friend was talking about how she saw her mom almost get raped, I just couldn’t bring myself to care. I have also never had a crush on anyone. I just don’t understand why someone would want to get in a relationship with someone, it seems meaningless. Is this normal?

Why Can’t I Feel Empathy?

Answered by on -


I hesitate to assign an opinion of “normal” or “abnormal” on the basis of such little information. The fact that you are concerned enough about your feelings to ask the question does suggest that you are capable of feelings but perhaps you are worried about the vulnerability and the obligation that comes with them.

Empathy means walking in another’s shoes; to let ourselves feel a little or a lot of what the other person is feeling – if only for a moment – so we know better how we can be supportive. I suppose it is possible that you are so self-centered that you don’t want to care about others. More likely at your age is that you don’t know what to do about the feelings of others so you try to avoid the whole problem by shutting out the feelings.

I hope you let yourself start to do what really does come naturally. Kids as young as 2 show empathy when someone around them is hurting. Too often, that natural impulse gets shut down (some or a lot) during the teen years when emotions run high and are sometimes confusing or frightening.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Why Can’t I Feel Empathy?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Why Can’t I Feel Empathy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 May 2018 (Originally: 23 May 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.