Compassion fatigue is also known as vicarious traumatization, or secondary traumatization. It is the result of caring too much. Compassion fatigue is experienced by those in helping/caring roles. It is the result of repeatedly being exposed to the suffering and consequences of those who have experienced traumatic events. It can occur following exposure to one story, or it can result after an accumulating amount of exposure. When one focuses on others and does not incorporate self-care into a daily routine, compassion fatigue can result. Over time, a person’s ability to feel empathy towards others is affected. Responses to situations may also be out of character for that person due to emotional blunting.

Some of the beliefs that those who experience compassion fatigue include:

  • If I don’t do it, no one will
  • No one can do it the “right” way
  • I’m the only one who can take care of this
  • I don’t want to burden others by taking time to care for myself

The first step towards healing is the ability to recognize the symptoms and learn how to manage them in a healthy way. Some of the symptoms of compassion fatigue include:

  • apathy
  • sadness
  • bottled up emotions
  • isolation
  • feeling mentally and physically tired
  • physical ailments (headaches/nausea)
  • difficulty concentrating
  • anger or irritability
  • impaired decision making
  • substance abuse
  • depersonalization
  • decreased ability to feel empathy
  • exhaustion

It is important to recognize if you are experiencing compassion fatigue, and to get help right away. Some of the things that can help you feel better include self-care, balance, and having a support system. Seeking professional help is also recommended.