Quick Search For Posts On The Following Topics:

Friday, June 18, 2010

My bvFTD Symptoms - Loss Of Empathy

My bvFTD Symptoms - Loss Of Empathy

Everything here is my account of what happened to me, or my interpretation of stuff. Every case of FTD is different. Keep in mind as you read this that the person who wrote this has dementia.

This is a symptom I have read about in What If It's Not Alzheimer's, and I think I have it to some degree. This is one of those symptoms which is very difficult for me to see in myself. I think I have seen some indications of it, but they are clouded by my other emotional symptoms. Mainly an overall blunting of emotions in general.

The other day a friend was sitting at my dining room table crying her eyes out over something or other. I felt nothing.

I had no feelings of sympathy, or of empathy for her at all. This was so dramatic of a change for me that I even noticed it at the time.

Intellectually I knew I should be feeling something, but I did not. It reminded me of the song, Nothing, from the play Chorus Line.

And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
To see what I had inside.
Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And I tried, I tried...

...But I felt nothing
Except the feeling
That this bullshit was absurd!

That just about sums it up... but "Hey!"... I can't add anymore either!

I have noticed on a few other occasions where intellectually I knew I should be feeling something, but it just wasn't there. This is probably a contributing factor as to why my ex-girlfriends are ex's. Sometimes I know I hurt someone's feelings, but it is only an intellectual awareness for me. No emotions are involved.

I do still have some empathy, so it isn't like I never feel anything, but it sometimes just goes away. I still have normal feelings when it involves a family member or loved one... at least I think I do.

I can still recognize intellectually when I should have feelings and do not.


That is why this is another difficult symptom. If the part of my brain which recognizes and interprets emotions in others is broken, I cannot really be sure I can tell when it is happening. Catch 22!

In my Lime Jell-O mind this is related to another symptom: Apathy. I think the two are related because for me "I feel nothing", and "I don't care" are about the same.

All of these emotional and behavioral symptoms are related, and work together to undermine my relationships. There is a lot more to apathy than that, so I will talk about it in another post.

Loss of empathy is probably more easily seen by others than by me. I am guessing I sometimes seem cold, and unfeeling, and unsympathetic. I am very self-centered.  I am more that way than I was before.

I do not like it, and hopefully it will not get any worse than it is now.

Comments are welcome.


  1. I am working my way through "What if it's not Alzheimer's" and finding it slow going. Much is in medical terms so not sure I always understand; need to look up terms I thought I knew. Was hoping it would be more user-friendly. That said, EVERYONE WHO KNOWS YOU SHOULD BE READING THIS BOOK. Your blog notations regarding the changes you see in your behavior and feelings are all addressed here and the more we know the more we can understand and provide empathy for you even if you are unable to provide it for us.

  2. I wonder - do you find it more or less comforting to know what to expect in the way of diminished capacity in certain areas? The book is written for caregivers and as such would be invaluable. But as the person with the FTD, how do you feel knowing what is coming, the impact it will have on you and your family, and not knowing at what rate it will progress? This seems brutal to ask, in some ways, yet no one can tell me but you. This wouldn't fall into the category of lack of empathy, but rather into looking at your own future and knowing, better than any of us, what lies ahead.

  3. Thanks for the comments Matilda.

    I think I am a bit more comfortable with people who understand what is going on, so I agree with with your advice on reading the book. It helps to understand better.

    As for knowing the outcomes: For me I want to know everything I can about it because I have to plan for my future. It is not brutal at all.

    As for the emotional side, the symptom I will be addressing next is Apathy (around page 218). That is my most profound symptom in my opinion, so I saved it for last. I am very detached from my condition, so learning the outcomes and prognosis has almost no emotional influence on me at all. The more I know, the better I can deal with it.

    In many ways it is more difficult for others than it is for me.