Researchers have determined that people react in one of two ways when faced with another person’s emotions. Sometimes people respond with “empathic concern” or caregiving. They see themselves as a source of comfort or support for the other person.
But sometimes people feel threatened by the other person’s emotions and focus instead on themselves. They might try to help, to minimize their own discomfort. Typically they distance themselves. Psychologists call this response “empathic distress.