Compassion Fatigue is a condition that can develop over time in which a person experiences emotional, spiritual and/or physical exhaustion; developing cumulatively in those who care for others. Here are 5 facts about compassion fatigue:
- It is often described as “the negative cost of caring,” and it is characterized by a reduced ability to feel empathy for those they are caring for. Therein lies the dichotomy, as those in caregiving roles tend to be very empathic.
- People in helping professions are susceptible to developing compassion fatigue. This includes those in the medical profession, first responders and therapists. It can also occur when someone is the prime caregiver of a loved one.
- Compassion fatigue can occur as a re-experiencing of patient trauma. It is vicarious; the helper experiences a disruption in their system of meaning, and they can begin to feel weighted by the stories they have heard or images they have seen.
- Increasing irritability is often the first stage of compassion fatigue, followed by symptoms of withdrawal.
- Valuing self-care and setting boundaries (especially in an unsupportive work environment) are two of the most effective coping strategies in preventing compassion fatigue.
For those in helping professions, a great deal of satisfaction comes from helping others. When we are aware of compassion fatigue, we can create preventative measures to decrease the likelihood of it occurring. It requires finding a balance between caring for others while also caring for ourselves.
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