top of page

What is Compassion Fatigue? How to Learn More About It?

If you work in a professional setting that deals with trauma on a daily basis, you might have heard a little something about compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is prevalent in hospitals, psychologist's offices, first responders on a scene, and even homeless shelters for example. If you work in any of these professions, you may experience symptoms of extreme tiredness and desperation. If so, you are one of many who experience compassion fatigue within their professional role. 

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is the cost of caring for others or their emotional pain, resulting from their desire to relieve others' suffering and pain. This can mainly affect care providers but can also be common in others. Compassion fatigue can develop over time and be hard to spot. A few classic signs to look out for can be reduced empathy, feelings of being overwhelmed, emotional disconnect, and self-isolation. 

Compassion fatigue should not be confused with burnout, as burnout is the slow onset of feelings that one’s work has little positive impact. In contrast, compassion fatigue happens when a professional becomes depleted from repeated exposure to another person's trauma. Essentially, the main difference between burnout and compassion fatigue is their origin. Specifically, compassion fatigue stems from dealing with trauma victims, and burnout originates from prolonged stress and being overworked. Both are commonly used to describe extreme exhaustion and stress, but it’s important to know how different they are.

How Compassion Fatigue Affects You

Professionals who nurture, like healthcare workers and therapists, along with first responders like law enforcement officers and fire/rescue personnel, are all professions that consistently face trauma on a day-to-day basis. When a first responder/service provider struggles with compassion fatigue, it affects how they treat others, which is a major prominent in their professional industry.

The symptoms can vary depending on the person, however, the most common symptoms of compassion fatigue include:

  • Feeling detached, numb, or emotionally drained

  • Feelings of helplessness or powerlessness in the face of suffering

  • Increased anxiety, sadness, or irritability

  • Feeling overwhelmed or exhausted

  • Neglect of your own self-care

  • Physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and upset stomach 

  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy

How to Learn About Compassion Fatigue

Stress within your profession may be unavoidable, especially if you are taking in & on someone else’s stress as a part of your daily role. There are many ways to learn more about compassion fatigue and how it could be affecting you. Two suggestions are:  speaking with a mental health therapist, which is a great way to gain more insight into compassion fatigue, its symptoms, and how to overcome them; and looking into medically reviewed articles regarding compassion fatigue is also a great way to learn more about it and educate yourself.  

Additionally, my E-book, The Compassion Conundrum: Strategies for First Responders and Service Providers to Prevent Compassion Fatigue, is another great resource on the definition of compassion fatigue, stress, and burnout. Understanding the differences between each, the effects of each, and how they impact your life, as well as some possible methods of interaction can help significantly in your day-to-day profession. 

  1. Source: Smitha Bhandari (2022) Compassion Fatigue: Symptoms to Look For

  1. Source: Rebecca A. Clay (2022) Are You Experiencing Compassion Fatigue?

2 views0 comments


bottom of page