Most readers have likely never heard of Compassion Fatigue. I had not until recently. However, it is a common stress condition that is affecting more and more people each year; primarily in healthcare or serving careers.
Compassion Fatigue is an emotional and physical burden created by the stress of caring for others. According to Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, “prolonged exposure will eventually lead to lack of empathy towards patients’ and/or others’ suffering.” (compassionfatigue.org, 2017) Putting others’ needs before our own repeatedly over time will likely lead to Burnout and/or health conditions related to the unmanaged stress.
Anyone can develop symptoms of Compassion Fatigue. Physicians, nurses, Paramedics and EMTS, home health nurses or aides, and even those caring for family members can and likely will exhibit Compassion Fatigue if the loved one requires extensive care. Basically, anyone who has a disposition to care deeply about others, or is in a profession such as healthcare, is at high risk for developing the condition.
A survey that appeared in Psychology Today showed “86.9% of emergency responders reported symptoms after exposure to distressing events and traumatized patients.” (Pyschology Today, 2012) Therefore, we as front-line providers and caretakers must be aware of not only the needs of our patients that we signed on to support, but our own health and needs as well.
Those of us, myself included, that have a tendency toward having a caring or nurturing disposition even before encountering stressors such as sick elderly, traumatized patients, abuse, violence, etc., are at even greater risk for developing Compassion Fatigue. Also in my research on this topic, Introverted people with higher compassion or “caring” type traits appear to be the most highly impacted. However, there was not much research available to support that.
In order to combat Compassion Fatigue we first must be aware of some of the most common symptoms of the condition in order to recognize early that we may be suffering its affects. Common symptoms of Compassion Fatigue range from; Excessive blaming, frequent anger, isolation, compulsive behavior, nightmares, physical ailments, apathy, detachment or indifference towards patients and/or family just to name a few.
Recognizing some of the symptoms is our first line of defense in heading off what can be a very serious condition if left untreated. If you think you may be suffering even some of the symptoms of Compassion Fatigue, or any mental health change for that matter, get help. Remaining in the situation, doing the same things you are currently doing, and not seeking help will only prolong the problem, making it more difficult to manage.
Do some of your own research on Compassion Fatigue. Learn how to combat this condition. If you are in a healthcare career or care for a loved one, there are ways to manage this so you do not become a statistic. I am including some useful links below along with some resources used in this post.
Take care of yourselves – get healthy, take a vacation, eat well, accept your limitations, and most of all, get help or talk to someone. We have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.
Photos courtesy of the internet
Disclaimer – I am not a physician or mental health specialist. Content is not meant to diagnose or treat any health condition. This is for informational purposes only.
Compassionfatigue.org, (2017). Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project. http://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/compassionfatigue.html
Pyschologytoday.com, (2012), Compassion Fatigue. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201207/compassion-fatigue