ANSWERS: 10
  • Psychologically you can imagine that you have the same symptoms as someone else and if you believe it enough then the unconscious can actually make it so. There's no physical reason for the pains, merely if we feel so connected to another person that whatever they do we emulate then on an inconscious level we even emulate their pains.
  • Actually -- yes! Welcome to the wonderful world of mirror neurones. Mirror neurones are a layer of brain cells which act as a reflection, both of our own actions and moods, and of actions and moods which we observe. If we reach out a hand to pick up an apple, then the neuronal connections involved in the formation of intention and the motor neurons involved in conveying orders to our muscles all fire -- and that pattern of firing is exactly mirrored in the (guess where the name comes from!) mirror neurons. Now comes the interesting bit: if we watch someone else reach out a hand to pick up an apple -- our mirror neurons fire in the pattern reflecting "reach out and pick up apple", precisely as they do if we were the one performing the action. Similarly, if we cry and if we watch someone else cry, the pattern of firing in the mirror neurones is the same. If we laugh or if we watch someone else laugh, the pattern of firing in the mirror neurones is the same. And if we watch someone get kicked in the groin....guess. We actually think that this is the physical basis for empathy and emotional understanding -- this is the brain structure which allows us to understand what other people are feeling and thinking, by observing them. Support for this actually comes from populations where empathy does not exist: autistics and psychopaths. One of the diagnostic features of psychopathy is the lack of empathy; where a psychopath may be able to identify what emotion someone else is feeling (and there are several studies which show that doing this is actually more difficult for them than for most, and they require more "extreme" facial expressions before they can assign an emotion to an expression) -- they do not relate what other people are undergoing to themselves in any way. One diagnostic feature of autism, on the other hand, is the lack of ability to identify emotions -- either in other people, or in themselves. And both of these populations actually show developmental deficit or lack of activity in the mirror neurones, when scanned with an MRI. (For an example of some research, see http://cogprints.org/2613/ ) The strength of the response of mirror neurones in the average person, however, is moderated by emotional connection. If we are observing someone we actively dislike, the response is significantly weakened; the appropriate neurons fire, but not in as dense a pattern or for particularly long. If we are observing someone we care about, the reverse is true -- the mirror neurones fire more densely and for longer. In the cases where people report feeling "sympathy pains", there is some evidence that the firing of the mirror neurones is actually having a real effect on the neurotransmitters released in the brain. There is no way that the observer can possibly feel something with the strength or immediacy of the principal individual, but it is entirely possible to provoke something of a "pain" response through such signalling. For more on mirror neurons, see: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3204/01.html or http://www.brainconnection.com/content/181_1
  • No, sympathy pains do not exist. Any feeling you might be experiencing is psychosomatic. Conversely, you may actually have a medically reason for experiencing the same pain, but certainly not just because you were around someone.
  • I've had three instances so far where I've felt something similar to sympathy pains. First time what when I visited my friend after she had her first child. My nipples began to chap for no reason, and I had a hemroid flare. Second time, my husband was having regular migraines, and i began to have them, altho i'd never had them in the past. and most recently, my good friend had her tonsils removed, and my right lymph node swelled and my throat became sore. I don't know what this is, but I'd love to know if anyone else out there has ever had similar expieriences!
  • yes i beleve because my sis got stiches in her right leg and I feel the pain in my left leg so I am mioring her
  • yes!!!!! tonight i caught my foot underneath the door and scraped the skin off it,to be precise it was my right foot and on my big toe.i yelled out in pain and at the same time my 1 year old son started screaming out in agony for no apparent reason only to be seen clutching onto his right foot and rubbing his big toe!!! he was in the room next door to me when this took place,i certainly cant explain it!!! can you?
  • My son had a tonsillectomy today, strangely enough at almost the exact moment they were removing them, MY throat became sore, I almost lost my voice, it is still sore and scratchy tonight. If you are asking if it's pshycosomatic, or a true physical manifestation of "sympathy" pain I don't have an answer, but I think we can say that sympathy pain does exist, either by, being made up by our mind, or firing of mirror neurons, or some other reason.
  • The mind is a powerful, mysterious bitch, ain't it?! ;-)
  • I sometimes blush if someone else gets really embarrassed. So yeah, I guess that's a form of it.
  • Yes, I believe they do. My daughter had to get a vaccination this morning and ever since my arm feels achy, as if I received the same shot. After it happened I actually thought to myself "maybe the nurse grabbed my arm instead of hers." It is very strange, but true.

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