Amanda has been working in company X for 7 months. She is a nice and helpful individual, which makes her loved by many coworkers. Known for her wide smile and kind gesture, Amanda always spreads happiness around the room. While she might seem like a happy-go-lucky type of person, there are times when Amanda feels stressed and overwhelmed by her job. However, during such times, she prefers to be silent as she wants to be seen as a cheerful girl.
Some psychologists would describe Amanda’s behaviours as a prosocial employee. According to Oxford Dictionary, prosocial can be defined as a donating behaviour which is positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship. While Amanda might be nicer than most of her co-workers, this prosocial behaviour could make her prone to mental illness. How is that so?
A study titled “Activity in the Amygdala Elicited by Unfair Divisions Predicts Social Value Orientation” revealed that those who value economic equity are more likely to be depressed and those who prefer everything for themselves are happier. The study conducted by Haruno and D. Frith compared individuals who are prosocial and individualistic orientations using functional magnetic resonance imagining. Findings of the research revealed that when exposed to economic inequality, prosocial people have strong activation of amygdala (brain section that is responsible for detecting fear and other emotions, and preparing for emergency events). On the contrary, individualist had strong amygdala when they are the victim of equity. It means both groups have amygdala that were sensitive but prosocials are uniquely sensitive to economic inequity that benefitted them financially. They prone to be guilty amygdalae.
Another recent study by Haruno and team on the same topic and its correlation to depression discovers that the amygdala and brain pattern of prosocial individuals was associated with more depression. Along with the study, many psychiatrist have long suggested that certain personality characteristics, including extreme empathy and a propensity toward feeling guilty are associated with developing depression. Haruno and team’s study proved that this sensitivity might lie in deepest, most primal and more automatic parts of brain.
Although empathy is needed to care for clients and other people, you should know that giving it too much might affect negatively to your own resilience. Therefore, you should understand your own limit of being a prosocial person. Jessica Dolce, compassion fatigue educator, shared that in order to help oneself from depression due to too much care and availability, you can do the following tips:
§ do proactive work by helping people without losing touch with your own body and emotions. Decide when enough is enough and do not be sorry for not being able to help.
§ be kind to yourself by exploring mindful breathing and physical exercise to help let go of some energetic pain. You can also reach out to supportive person or professional who can help you begin to process and release your feelings.
§ teach yourself how to be stable by doing yoga or meditation, along with other contemplative and creative practices. Remember that you need to generate lots of compassion for both yourself and person you care for.