Schizophrenia And Empathy

February 5, 2012 Dan Hoeweler

Last year, a small ill kitten showed up at my front steps without a home in the middle of winter. Being allergic to cats I tried to chase him off of my porch, but he persisted to visit. The more often he visited, the more he reminded me of the homelessness that I had experienced years ago as a result of my illness, Schizoaffective Disorder.

Twice in my life I was homeless for extensive periods and in need of help. I am aware of the suffering and humiliation that this can cause, therefore I felt it would not be right to allow him to suffer. Eventually, I took him in and gave him the name “Mr. Giggles”.

The Effect of Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder can rob you of many things in life. It can cause pain, homelessness and disability. There is one thing however that Schizoaffective disorder has never robbed me of, and that is the ability to feel empathy for others. Now when I see him everyday, it helps me to realize that having Schizoaffective disorder does not make me inhumane.

Fear of the Mentally Ill

There are many people who wrongly believe that people with thought disorders, such as Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective disorder are destined for a life of crime and violence. People undergoing psychosis are not predatory by nature, and should not be confused with a “Psychopath”. I doubt there is one psychopath on the planet that would help a kitten in need. Having a thought disorder does not take your compassion away, and given the right treatment there should be no need to fear us.

Since taking him in, Mr. Giggles and I have become very good friends. He has helped me through difficult times in my life. His health has improved vastly and his happiness, in turn, has made me happy.

If you have schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia, I have shared the embarrassment that the disorder can bring. It is a disease that must be fought with every weapon and method that we can devise, so that we may have better control over our lives and behavior. Remember that Schizophrenia does not make you evil or inhumane. If anyone tells you otherwise, then they are just ignorant.

APA Reference
Hoeweler, D. (2012, February 5). Schizophrenia And Empathy, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Dan Hoeweler

December, 17 2015 at 8:05 pm

ty for sharing part of your story. i was homeless for many years becuz of my mental illness. i was blessed as i found a way to get help and my mom helped pay for my schizophrenia meds until i got disability. During the 5 yrs i was homeless i had my dog Ginger and today i am happy to say this is our first winter that we will live inside instead of in the cold in a tent. I have much shame about being homeless and it always helps to know that others have gone through the same thing.

June, 2 2013 at 3:33 pm

I loved Dan's story about schizophrenia and empathy. I am diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and find that my cat is my best friend when I'm feeling sad. I feel that I am a sensitive, kind, caring, and gentle man who abhors violence of any kind. When I was psychotic, I was a danger to myself not anyone else.
I never forgot it when other people treated me with kindness and respect even though I was hostile, suspicious, agitated, angry,at everyone in the world. I felt that the Government had a plot to get me and that ordinary reality was threat to my life. I heard voices saying "that guy is crazy" when I was in public but I didn't realize until much later that the voices were not coming from other people but instead were my own in my own. Today 25 years later I don't hear voices anymore except my own. I feel that I am not so different from anyone else. I am not special and have no need for delusions such as I had before. I want to thank my psychiatrist who got me on medication early and who listened tirelessly to me when I was talking about my "voices".

Jon Mason
March, 29 2012 at 3:41 pm

"There is one thing however that Schizoaffective disorder has never robbed me of, and that is the ability to feel empathy for others."
I used to take my kids for walks in not the best area of town. Many homeless people treated me with such kindness over the years.
You are a great man.
By the way, I like your youtube videos.

Dr Musli Ferati
February, 20 2012 at 10:50 pm

Schizophrenia as representative psychaiatric disorder imply all that complex intelace destruction of psychic apparatus with many implication to normal psychologic state. Among them, empathy exhibit the most emotional despair that remorse our humane feelings. In other words, this mean the necessary to modefy and to change the trivial overlook on this and others psychiatric entities. Before all, it ought to understand that schizophrenia may to cure in order to achieve an optimal level of global life functioning. In consequence, it is unless the innate frightening to patients with this psychosis, because they aren't violent as that we presume. it is impose the urgent deeds to overcome this primitive attitude toward this proccesual psychosis with chronic and devestation course, whether it remain without psychiatric treatment. .

February, 8 2012 at 6:13 am

Thanks for posting this, Dan! I have often read the lack of empathy theory, and, the truth is, many people with schizoaffective disorder are the most sensitive, caring, empathetic, and compassionate people around! Just because sometimes people may not express feelings as others might, does not mean they do not feel them deeply. Often people with schizoaffective disorder are great healers, with great abilities to help both people and animals.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Dan Hoeweler
February, 16 2012 at 8:08 pm

I agree, I think that they may be measuring something other than empathy, and then calling it empathy. Then again, I am not a researcher of any kind.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 12 2017 at 9:47 pm

I'm schizophrenic and I just looked at my DNA analysis and I look like a natural huge empath and got an F according to the set algorithm for getting schizophrenia, but A for relationships. I wanted to see this because empathy was my strength, but also my downfall and I didn't experience apparent symptoms until I experienced trauma where closure was purposely withheld and it took me a long time to realize and accept that not everyone has empathy like me and they purposely wanted to hurt me. I felt guilt when I lost my empathy and went back and forth trying between seeing those who hurt us as better intended and shame and embarrassment when I realized they didn't and my life didn't matter and then I saw how partial society was. I find out I did have a big predisposition for schizophrenia. I felt guilt as I became apathetic for those I loved, distant, but mustered up empathy anyway yet felt hurt over how I was being treated like a leper or like I had the stigma of a pit bull and then I started letting people go, although I miss some of them, who didn't see my needs as important. It became hard to feel empathy with my needs not met without things I appreciated such as love friends a career esteem for others feeling with this stigma about me and that isolation just made me go further down the rabbit hole and in my dillusional state I was pitying the dead, Edgar Allan Poe, those who lost their minds, other schizophrenics, or the forgotten and alone. I mourned my loss of empathy that I felt often during the worst times, because I used to want the best for others and I thought that's how other friend's thought. Maybe they lacked empathy and thought I don't have it. It easier to feel empathy again, regain my esteem, when my needs are met and have a support network and some independence back and hope and then I'm wanting the best for others again. But when I'm down there feeling apathetic, I feel more human again when I'm empacizing for others with mental illnesses and have lost it all and some who even feel guilt over the people who traumatized them keeping them stuck in the past and haven't apologized.
I was kind of insulted by the study I've seen recently because apathy is something natural to feel during depression or after much loss, s I don't think it's a defining characteristic to associate with just people predisposed to schizophrenia. I would like to know what kind of pictures they displayed on the cards they showed patients to measure empathy because death becomes different for schizophrenics because many of them become suicidal realizing they're not going to have a basic life and live among people with a stigma about them. If I saw a picture of a peacefully dying woman, I'd wish I was dead but get sad thinking I'm not going to have loved ones surrounded by me or die with a peaceful mind that I wish had been preserved. I d feel guilty thinking these things. I just get a different perspective about it, whishing I died before I lost myself. If I feel apathy around someone who has nothing to d with my situation or state, and even if they do, I check myself feeling guilty hoping they don't feel the distance thinking of how unnoticed they must feel.

Leave a reply