The Ecstasy of Surrender

The secret key to manifesting power, happiness, and success: letting go.

Are You a Physical Empath?

Empathic illnesses are those in which you manifest symptoms that are not your own. Take a quiz to discover if you're a physical empath and learn tips on how to protect yourself. Read More

Empathic illnesses in families or close-knit groupings?

I wonder if this has anything to do with the odd phenomenon of how a bunch of fertile women living together in a dorm -- besides being the set-up for over 9,000 chauvinistic jokes over time -- tend to end up synchronizing their menstrual cycles to almost hours within each other. Or so-called sympathy pains that occur when one member of a couple is pregnant. (I also wonder if, with the rise in same-sex marriages and couplings, if the pregnancy sympathy pains occur in lesbian partners when one has become pregnant through surrogacy, as sometimes happens with male husbands in heterosexual marriages/relationships.) The other thing I'm curious about is if this has any association with "broken-heart syndrome," where the death of a close family member, friend, or spouse/partner brings about the death of another soon after.

Also, what about family caregivers? My grandmother has been in and out of hospital over the past year with various non-contagious infections and ailments, most commonly UTIs. Not long after she goes in for treatment, my mother gets one and so do I. Obviously you can't "catch" a UTI like you can MRSA or something "in the air"; is this considered an empathy illness? Obviously too, it would have to be among "caregivers" of the same species; a dog getting sick from Parvo wouldn't cause the human companions to catch a canine-specific illness. Nevertheless, how do you explain the above scenario, and what is the association with empathy ailments in the cases of the other above scenarios, including caregiving in general?

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Judith Orloff, M.D., is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and the author of Emotional Freedom.

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