Mind 3 min read

What Does A Lack Of Empathy Look Like?

by Mindvalley May 10, 2019

Many of us have met with those who just can’t seem to connect with others. They act as if our problems just don’t matter. All they seem to care about is themselves.

It turns out, these are telltale signs of someone who has a lack of empathy.

But what makes people behave like this? And why?

What Does It Mean To Have A Lack Of Empathy?


Empathy is the ability to fully understand and share the emotions of others. Empaths are incredible at reading the thoughts and emotions of others, as they always seem to know exactly how you feel.

At the opposite end, to have a lack of empathy is to be uninterested, distant, and apathetic to the problems of others. This kind of behavior is often hurtful, which is why people with no empathy have a hard time building meaningful relationships.

However, these people shouldn’t be judged by this behavior alone. In most cases, they simply don’t have control over their emotional reactions. That’s because there are a number of reasons for a lack of empathy, and some are just beyond our power.

Is lack of empathy a disorder?

It can be. Empathy has many levels, and so does experiencing a chronic lack of empathy.

Believe it or not, many of those who lack empathy were once extremely empathetic. At some point, the trait spiraled out of their control and caused them serious harm. Those who genuinely feel the pain of others is often putting their emotional health at risk.

If burned one too many times, many of them go to the opposite extreme to protect themselves.

empathetic definition

What Is Empathy Deficit Disorder?


In its most extreme form, an empath can be diagnosed with empathy deficit disorder (EDD). Suggested by Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., this disorder makes people physically unable to the emotions of others.

Those with EDD are hardwired with low emotional intelligence. They just can’t step outside of their own skin, which makes them appear to be cold and disconnected from others.

Thankfully, these cases are quite rare. Better yet, there are practices that can help EDD patients build empathy over time.

Why do some people have no empathy?

You are what you consistently do. Your habits shape your character.

—Jon Butcher, Author of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Quest

Many experts agree that empathy is one of the primary default states for humans. With that said, as we go through life, past negative experiences may make us disconnect from the potential effect that others have on us.

While in some ways, it may seem that disconnecting from your emotions and the emotions of others is a tactic of self-preservation, this behavior does more harm than good.

We are a social species. We need each other to survive. And it’s only through fostering healthy relationships with the help of empathy that we can safeguard our emotional health.

Final thoughts

As you can see, a lack of empathy is something that can be changed with practice. Even at its most extreme form, there are many techniques that can help increase the quality of life for apathetic individuals.

It’s important to practice empathy on a regular basis, as it’s one of the essential traits that help us create relationships others will want to nurture.


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Have you met someone who’s lacking empathy? Share your experiences in the comments below.

by Mindvalley
Mindvalley is creating a global school that delivers transformational education for all ages. Powered by community. Fueled by fun. We are dedicated to ensuring that humans live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled lives by plugging in the gaps that conventional education failed to teach us. We do this by organising real-world events around the world and producing world-class quality programmes in several areas of transformation, including mind, body, and performance.

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