Empathy: It May be Hardwired into Our Brains

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Addiction Specialists from Sunset Malibu link findings in how we are hardwired for empathy to the ways in which we deal with loved ones battling addiction.

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While our associations with the rat may be negative, a study reported in the journal Science suggests that rats are actually empathetic creatures. In several different experiments, when a free rat had the opportunity to release a caged rat in distress, the free rat did so, time and time again. In fact, in one experiment where food was available, the free rats saved food for the caged, distressed rats to eat. This evidence gives strong proof that animal brains, even of animals we don’t often consider to have active emotional or social lives, are wired for emotions such as empathy.

"This research has interesting implications for addiction treatment," said addiction researcher Constance Scharff, PhD. "Very often, addicts are able to continue using because family and friends show what we call ‘enabling’ characteristics. Mom might pay the addict’s phone bill so that she can be sure where the addict is at all times or a friend might bail the addict out of jail because it pains him to see the addict incarcerated. In light of these findings with rats, I have to wonder whether or not some of the enabling behavior we see in families is hardwired into how we behave. After all, who can stand for long to see or hear someone they love in pain? It might be natural to want to help, even when doing so no longer is a benefit to the person in need."

"I’d have to agree," said Dr. Raskin, medical doctor and addiction specialist. "In this series of experiments with rats, it seems that the rat is definitely acting because it is distressed by its compatriot’s pain. Are we so different from rats? We are certainly glad that our loved ones are at least temporarily pain free when we help them, but when we engage in enabling behavior, what we’re really doing is prolonging the addict’s pain so that we don’t have to feel our own."

About Sunset Malibu:

Sunset Malibu Drug Rehab is a top-notch drug treatment center in a private setting with a multitude of treatment options focusing on helping people overcome their addictions and transforming their lives. For information about Sunset Malibu’s effective treatments and intervention services, please call 1-800-332-9202, 24 hours a day.

Source: Sunset Malibu

Related Links: http://www.SunsetMalibu.com

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