People can feel pain just by witnessing others in agony, according to a new study.
A Monash University study into the phenomenon known as somatic contagion found almost one in three people could feel pain when they see others experience pain.
It identified two groups of people that were prone to this response - those who acquire it following trauma, injury such as amputation or chronic pain, and those with the condition present at birth, known as the congenital variant.
Dr Melita Giummarra, from the School of Psychology and Psychiatry, said in some cases people suffered severe painful sensations in response to another person’s pain.
“My research is now beginning to differentiate between at least these two unique profiles of somatic contagion,” Giummarra said.
“While the congenital variant appears to involve a blurring of the boundary between self and other, with heightened empathy, acquired somatic contagion involves reduced empathic concern for others, but increased personal distress.