Quick Facts

  • After brain injury occurs it is very common for a person to become more self-centered and have difficulty showing empathy for others
  • Empathy refers to one’s ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions and what they are experiencing.

What does it
look like?

  • Express personal needs in a direct and demanding way
  • Unawareness of another person’s thoughts, needs, feelings and experiences
  • Inability to take the emotions of others into consideration
  • Impatience or inability to wait for needs to be met
  • Inability to resonate with other’s and see things from their point of view
  • Lack of logical judgement and reasoning

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Poor communication and social skills
  • Difficulty focusing attention
  • Difficulty self-monitoring behaviour
  • Characteristics of impulsive anger
  • Changes in social skills
  • Rigid thinking patterns
  • Memory and learning difficulties

Possible complications:

  • Loss of friendships and relationships is the most common complication of egocentricity

What can we do?

  • Try to be understanding towards the individual when they are displaying a lack of empathy and egocentricity
  • Promote an understanding of how their actions impact you and how they might impact others
  • Encourage the individual to think about the impact of their actions before they speak or act
  • Ask questions to direct their attention to information (e.g. “How do you think they would feel about …?” “What do you think their feelings and thoughts are about …?”)
  • Praise, praise, praise – give the person lots of encouragement
  • Reinforce waiting, turn – taking and social skills and efforts
  • Nurture friendships and relationships
    • Assist the individual in understanding what they need to do to make friends
    • Support them to remember special occasions and birthdays
    • Support the individual in developing positive communication skills

Encourage and prompt:

  • Reminders/encouragement to say please, thank you and take turns
  • Encourage them to ask someone what they would like to do
  • Help the individual initiate contact and suggest possible activities with friends/family

Develop awareness:

  • Direct attention to the thoughts, feelings, and needs of other people
  • Suggest ways to begin conversations
  • Model considerate and caring behaviour (“Did you notice that I asked him how he was feeling?)
  • Talk with the person regularly and encourage them to pay attention to their communication and interactions with other people
    • What went well?
    • How would they feel if …
    • What would they do differently?
    • It may take time for social and communication skills to be learned
    • Plan activities that build social and friendship skills

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.