Empathy Rules: Depression, Schadenfreude and Freudenfreude Research on Depression Risk Factors and Treatment



Series: Psychology Research Progress
BISAC: PSY013000

This book presents compelling empirical evidence, collected in the US and Europe, that how one reacts to others’ ups and downs may profoundly affect their own mental health.

Depression continues to devastate a growing number of lives globally. More than 350 million people worldwide have depression (Smith, 2014). While medications and psychotherapy help many, more solutions are urgently needed. Since social factors are known to be influential, innovative exploration of the interpersonal dimensions of depression is vital. This book explains how expressing greater empathy can help. This book is directed at a broad audience, including everyone seeking better relationships, clients wanting to amplify their recovery experience, as well as clinicians and students interested in helping others who struggle with depression.

Schadenfreude (deriving pleasure from others’ misfortune) helps explain our inordinate interest in others’ pain and bad luck. It is why in the news “if it bleeds, it leads,” why so much fiction focuses on tragedy, why attention rivets on the latest celebrity arrest or rehab, and why people poor through obituaries. Granted, schadenfreude is not the whole story. Seeking information about potential threats has survival significance. Part of our brains evolved to focus laser-like on even low risk dangers. And people’s huge appetite for bad news about others’ lives has its social advantages. When adroitly conveyed, this interest communicates concern and caring. It comforts and connects people.

But if the joy that other people’s problems occasionally gives you becomes unveiled, watch out. Nothing hurts more when someone’s down than seeing their own despair delight the listener or obviously make the listener feel lucky (“I’m positively thrilled not to be in that fix; better you than me!”).

The trick, in friendship and other helping relationships, is to dampen expressions of schadenfreude and instead emphasize empathy. But not everyone is skilled at this, which frequently seems to result in interpersonal difficulties and enhanced risk of depression. This book was designed to highlight the perils of excessive schadenfreude when others stumble, as well as the promise of building better relationships through greater expression of “freudenfreude” (sharing others’ joy) when others’ succeed.

Understanding these issues may help the reader improve relationships and reduce depressive symptoms, or possibly enable the reader to assist others battle depression more successfully. Long-term recovery depends heavily upon establishing and maintaining an effective support system. Learning how to balance one’s selfish and cooperative impulses more thoughtfully can be extremely useful in building a more robust social network.

As humanity contends with modern threats, including the hazards of planetary warming, successful solutions require emphasizing empathy and our interconnectedness while curbing our short-term, selfish inclinations. Although responding more optimally to depression is the focus of this book, it invites the application of these ideas to even broader concerns. (Imprint: Nova)

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Background Story

Chapter 1. Nice & Mean: How Freudenfreude and Schadenfreude Shape Relationships
Catherine Chambliss and Amy C. Hartl (Ursinus College, PA, USA, and others)

Chapter 2. Depression Diagnosis and Assessment of Associated Features with the FAST
Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)

Chapter 3. Empathy and Depression: Too Much or Too Little Empathy?
Kayleigh Thompson and Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)

Chapter 4. Empathy versus Social Comparative Processing and Competitive Striving
Rebecca Brown and Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)

Chapter 5. Comparing Etiological Models of Depression
Ryan March, Maria Miller, Rebecca Brown, Jill Lawrence, Victoria Senger and Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)

Chapter 6. Something New: Integrating the Etiological Role of Schadenfreude and Freudenfreude
Catherine Chambliss and Agnieszka Pietraszkiewicz (Ursinus College, PA, USA, and others)

Chapter 7. Explaining the Schadenfreude and Freudenfreude Features of Depression
Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)

Chapter 8. Treatment Strategies to Combat Depression
Caroline Kelly, Brittany Hawley and Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)

Chapter 9. A New Treatment Focus: Interpersonal Mutuality Training to Build Freudenfreude
Catherine Chambliss and Amy C. Hartl (Ursinus College, PA, USA, and others)

Chapter 10. Cultural Casualties Case Study: Mobile Technology May Increase Risk of Depression
Jillian Casarella, Sarah Gow, Anna Shultes, Zoe Hoffeld, Dayna Honrychs, Tara Morales, and Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)

Chapter 11. Cultural Casualties Case Study: Changing Family Roles May Increase Risk of Depression
Catherine Chambliss, Amy C. Hartl, Jenifer Norton, and Megan Giroux (Ursinus College, PA, USA, and others)

Chapter 12. Buoying Spirits & Treating Depression: Applying Empathy Research Clinically
Catherine Chambliss (Ursinus College, PA, USA)


Editors’ Background




“A highly informative and enjoyable read! Like an skilled litigator Dr. Chambliss builds a solid case for appreciating the multifaceted influence of Schadenfreude and Freudenfreude in the development of depression. The reader is left with the obvious conclusion that Empathy Does Rule. This book is a must addition to any clinician’s toolbox.” – John J. Heilenman, Licensed Psychologist and Director of the Group Center at the Center for Mental Health, Reading, PA

“The author writes with clarity and that makes it an easy read even for laypeople seeking a better understanding of schadenfreude and its toxic effect on relationships. Professionals, meanwhile, will find ample documentation. Firmly grounded in empirical research, Dr. Chambliss deftly weaves together the biological psychological interpersonal and cultural variables shaping both empathy and depression.” – Robin Knoblach, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Herndon, VA.

This book might interest both professional clinicians and empathy researchers, as well as laypersons interested in improving their relationships and avoiding depression.

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