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ADHD & Empathy with Dr. Tamara Rosier

In this week’s episode of The ADHD Podcast, hosts Pete Wright and Nikki Kinzer explore the nuances of empathy for those with ADHD. Their guest, Dr. Tamara Rosier, recently presented on “The Unexpected Downside of Empathy” at the 2023 International ADHD Conference. Dr. Rosier, founder of the ADHD Center of West Michigan, explains that while empathy is often seen as a virtue, ADHDers may experience it in a more complicated way.

Dr. Rosier outlines three main types of empathy: emotional, cognitive, and compassionate. Typically, employing all three types leads to well-regulated empathy. However, she notes that ADHDers frequently operate at extremes, either overly empathetic or non-empathetic. This imbalance leaves them vulnerable to several “downsides” of empathy.

First, ADHDers may experience misplaced empathy, making excuses for other’s inappropriate behavior. Second, getting stuck in emotional empathy can lead to empathetic distress and fatigue from taking on too many others’ burdens. Dr. Rosier hypothesizes this stems from the ADHDer’s desire to avoid rejection sensitivity.

Third, ADHDers may underfunction by shutting down empathetically. Fourth, they may overfunction by overcompensating for other’s lack of empathy. Finally, manipulative people can exploit the ADHDer’s emotional empathy to gaslight without triggering their cognitive empathy.

ADHD wiring leads to a complicated relationship with empathy. Our great thanks to Dr. Rosier for sharing her insights this week!

Links & Notes

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.
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