Compassion Fatigue | What Is It & How Can You Overcome It

Last Update on December 4, 2020 : Published on December 5, 2020
Compassion Fatigue

“Slowly you may have transformed from a helper to one in need of help. It’s important to talk about this, to identify the wounds you carry.” – Jenn Bruer

Secondary traumatic stress or compassion fatigue is a condition in which a person suffers from tiredness and exhaustion as a result of helping others in trauma or emotional stress. Compassion fatigue can also be termed as burnout but the symptoms and concept of burnout are slightly different from compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue can occur suddenly and unexpectedly. It can be a symptom of other stress-related conditions also. Healthcare workers, therapists, and primary caregivers are particularly sensitive to compassion fatigue. If left untreated, this condition can cause disruptions in their professional lives and can also affect their overall wellness.

Symptoms Of Compassion Fatigue

Symptoms Of Compassion Fatigue

This condition can take a heavy toll. Not only it affects the relationships and performance of a person, it also affects their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. The symptoms you need to look for are:

  • Chronic exhaustion – physical and emotional
  • Feeling detached from oneself
  • Displeasure
  • Feeling burdened
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Frequent headaches
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Poor job performance

Therapists, nurses, primary care physicians, caregivers, and professionals who work mainly in caregiving capacity are at more risk for developing compassion fatigue.

Factors that contribute to a person developing secondary traumatic stress can be:

  • Extreme therapy sessions with a patient/client (for self-harm, suicide, etc.)
  • Being physically harmed or threatened by a patient/client
  • Patient/client dying by suicide
  • Patient/client with experience of abuse and extreme depression
  • Patient/client experiencing grief and loss

How To Overcome Compassion Fatigue

Overcome Compassion Fatigue

Since people who work in the field of primary caregiving are at more risk of developing compassion fatigue, it is essential to remember that they can also develop self-doubt and self-blame.

To overcome compassion fatigue, a person can:

  • Talk about their feelings with a trusted friend or colleague (if they themselves are a mental health professional)
  • Educate and learn more about this condition and its effects on others
  • Be kind to themselves and develop a routine (healthy diet, regular exercising, etc.)
  • Set boundaries. Learn what works and what doesn’t
  • Start a hobby or activity which is different from work
  • Change their environment
  • Develop coping skills and learn not to blame themselves for others’ failures
  • Reach out to support groups

Note: Seeking professional support and guidance from a mental health counselor can help you deal with difficult emotions and can also help in developing coping skills that can help you in the future.

Final Words

Compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a condition in which a person develops second-hand fatigue or exhaustion as a result of caring for someone with a traumatic condition.

Healthcare professionals – nurses, therapists, primary care-givers are at most risk of developing compassion fatigue. This condition can cause people emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion which can prevent them from living a healthy life and affect their performance in their respective professions.

To overcome compassion fatigue, a person can practice self-care, practice mindfulness meditation, reach out to others (support groups or professionals in the field of healthcare), practice being kind and loving to self, and bring changes to their environment and lifestyle.

2020 has caused many professional medicare workers to develop fatigue and exhaustion from caring for others. We need to remember that people caring for us can also feel the need to relax and unburden themselves. They are humans too and they need our care and compassion.

If you are at risk of developing compassion fatigue, reach out to a professional or talk to a trusted friend or advisor. You are not alone and you have our support. With a little guidance and assistance, you can bring a change to your life – personal and professional.

“Be there for others but never leave yourself behind.” – Dodinsky

Stay healthy, stay safe, be kind to yourself.

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.



    yeah.. these can be n number of things that can lead to the compassion fatigue issue and we nee d to identify it before looking for solutions, thanks CalmSage

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