Study: The “Double-Edge Sword” of Human Empathy: A Unifying Neurobehavioral Theory of Compassion Stress Injury

An integrative neurobehavioral model for “compassion stress injury” is offered to explain the “double-edge sword” of empathy and inherent vulnerability of helping professionals and care-givers.

One of the most strikingly robust, yet largely invisible scientific findings to emerge over the past decade is identifying the neurophysiological mechanisms enabling human beings to understand and feel what another is feeling.

The compelling convergence of evidence from multi-disciplinary lines of primary research and studies of paired-deficits has revealed that the phenomenon of human beings witnessing the pain and suffering of others is clearly associated with activation of neural structures used during first-hand experience.

Mark Russell and Matt Brickell