What is mirror-touch synesthesia?

This blog answers questions: what is mirror-touch synesthesia? What causes mirror-touch synesthesia? What are the symptoms of mirror-touch synesthesia? Theories about mirror-touch synesthesia. How is the diagnosis of mirror-touch synesthesia done? How to cope with mirror-touch synesthesia?


What is mirror-touch synesthesia?

Mirror touch synesthesia refers to an experience of tactile sensations reported by a person when they see someone else being touched.

This means a person with mirror-touch synesthesia can see and feel what other people are seeing or feeling. Many times it is looked at as an individual’s empathetic nature just that it is much stronger in sensation.

This experience has been associated with increased empathy and emotional perception. However, these findings have been questioned and criticized. Therefore, mirror-touch synesthesia can be referred to as a form of empathetic response between two people.

What causes mirror-touch synesthesia?

Mirror touch synesthesia is considered to be a neurological and developmental disorder. it is believed that the sensory receptors are hyperactive in some people, resulting in them experiencing what they see others experience.

These sensory receptors are present in everyone’s body in a scattered manner and are connected to the neurons in the central nervous system.

In addition to being a rare condition, it is also known that many people barely notice the sensations that they experience while others are physically touched.

While some feel and experience extreme sensations while they observe the same. This can help to conclude that the severity of synesthesia varies among individuals.

It is found that people who experience mirror-touch synesthesia have increased activity in certain areas of the brain when they see another person experience certain stimuli.

There are also studies that suggest this rare condition is genetic.

What are the symptoms of mirror-touch synesthesia?

The most common symptoms of mirror-touch synthesis are:

  • Experiencing pain on the opposite side of the body if another person feels pain.
  • A sensation of being touched when a person sees another person being touched.
  • Sensations such as pain, pressure, tingling when another person is touched.
  • The severity of sensation might range from mild to deep.

How is the diagnosis of mirror-touch synesthesia done?

Until now there has been no authorized specific test that is used for the diagnosis of mirror-touch synesthesia. However, as mirror-touch synesthesia is associated with increased activities in certain parts of the brain an MRI scan can be carried out in order to detect these increased activities.

Extensive research is been carried out in order to find out specific tests or tools that can help to diagnose the condition.

How to cope with mirror-touch synesthesia?

A person experiencing mirror-touch synesthesia can benefit from therapy which helps them to regulate and process the sensations.

One of the common techniques adopted by therapists during therapy is helping individuals carry out mental imagery and imagine a barrier between them and the person who is being touched in order to avoid the sensations that they report.

Apart from therapy in some cases, medication has proven beneficial where the triggered anxiety and depression symptoms can be eased.

As mirror-touch synesthesia can vary in its severity people who are experiencing very low sensations do not even visualize it and hence there is no disruption in their daily routine.

However, individuals who experience these sensations very highly might require to seek professional help.

Theories about mirror-touch synesthesia

Threshold theory

According to the threshold theory of mirror-touch synesthesia, sensory receptors that are present in an individual’s body show high activation that is otherwise below a particular threshold in normal people when they see others being touched.

These extremely low thresholds in people experiencing mirror-touch synesthesia explain how a person can perceive and understand what they are observing in another person.

It is suggested that mirror-touch synesthesia occurs when this threshold is exceeded. This results in the person believing that they are being touched.

Self-other Theory

According to the self-other theory of mirror-touch synesthesia individuals who experience the phenomena are unable to distinguish themselves from other individuals. This is further explained on the basis of overextension of the bodily self into others or as difficulties in the control of body-based self-other representations.

What is the relationship between mirror text synesthesia with empathy?

Empathy by definition refers to one’s ability to understand the feelings and emotions of another the way they are experiencing it.

Many research indicates that mirror-touch synesthesia is found in people who are empathetic by nature in many cases. However, it does seem that not all empathetic individuals might experience mirror-touch synesthesia.

A study pointed out that when people with mirror-touch synesthesia were shown pictures of people they were able to identify their emotions.


Mirror touch synesthesia is a very rare condition that affects about 2% of adults globally. Even though it’s very complex to understand there are individuals who report feeling things that others feel quite literally. Like any other condition if mirror-touch synesthesia is very severe individuals have no other way but to seek professional help in order to carry out a normal life that otherwise would be disrupted by the condition.

A combination of medication, as well as therapy, is the best option for individuals who might be experiencing mirror-touch synesthesia.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How do you know if you have mirror-touch synesthesia?

People who have mirror-touch synesthesia show some signs and symptoms such as:

  • A sense of pain on the opposite side of the body when another person feels pain.
  • A sense of being touched when you see another person being touched.
  • Experiencing different sensations when another person is touched such as a tingling sensation, pain, itching, pressure.
  • The sensations of touch that one experiences may vary from mild to extreme. where one could experience just a sense of touch in mild cases whereas in extreme cases one might feel a kind of deep pain.

What is mirror pain synesthesia?

Mirror pain synesthesia is a phenomenon where people report experiencing sensations such as pain on their own body when they view another person going through pain.

Is mirror-touch synesthesia neurological?

Mirror touch synesthesia is a neurological condition that is experienced by about 1.6% of the population partially.

Do empaths have synesthesia?

It is found that many people who experience synesthesia are empaths. However, in a reverse condition, not all empaths are synesthetes.

Is synesthesia rare or common?

It is believed that about 2% of the adult population experiences synesthesia. Based on these statistics it can be said that synesthesia is a rare condition.


Ward, J., & Banissy, M. J. (2015). Explaining mirror-touch synesthesia. Cognitive neuroscience, 6(2-3), 118–133. https://doi.org/10.1080/17588928.2015.1042444

Mirror Touch Synesthesia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Coping Techniques