Signs Of Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue can affect your ability to do your work or complete daily activities â at least temporarily. There are signs that can indicate that you, or someone you know or work with, might be developing compassion fatigue. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for:
Research shows that long-term stress can lead to moderate to severe mood swings â especially as you age. Some of the common signs of compassion fatigue due to excessive stress are:
- Drastic shifts in mood
- Becoming pessimistic or cynical
- Becoming overly irritable or quick to anger
A common sign of compassion fatigue is a dramatic withdrawal from social connections. This can become obvious in neglected friendships or relationships. You may feel emotionally disconnected from others or experience a sense of numbness in your personal or professional life.
Feeling Symptoms of Anxiety or Depression
Anxious or depressive feelings and actions are common responses to stressful or traumatic situations.
Compassion fatigue can leave you feeling anxious about the world around you â either viewing the world as dangerous or being extra cautious about personal and family safety. It can also leave you feeling depressed. You may feel demoralized or question your effectiveness as a professional.
Trouble Being Productive
Long-term stress can affect your memory and lead to difficulty concentrating on your work.
Compassion Fatigue And You: How To Avoid Burnout And Prioritize Self
Deciding that you want to spend time helping others can feel good. People who pursue careers in helping professions will often find a great amount of fulfillment from their careers. This positive feeling of helping others is called compassion satisfaction. First responders, crisis counselors, therapists, nurses and other clinical health care providers, social workers, those who work in clinical psychology, and other professionals in helping fields may find their professions rewarding and experience compassion satisfaction. Similarly, people who devote their time and emotional energy to caring for family members or friends in a non-professional capacity may find supporting their loved ones to be meaningful and important, which can be another way of feeling compassion satisfaction.
What many may not anticipate, however, is that helping can often lead to a hidden danger: compassion fatigue. The issues of burnout and compassion fatigue may not be discussed while you are navigating your career or life choices as a caregiver or helper, but they are occupational hazards that you should be aware of long before they have the chance to develop. With the right tools, self awareness, and self compassion, you can manage compassion fatigue levels, which can help you become a more effective caregiver and meet your own needs in healthy ways.
How Do You Know If You Are Experiencing Compassion Fatigue
One of the key signs of compassion fatigue is that an empath will become desensitized to emotion. They may lose their ability to connect with people and find their emotions replaced with negative conditions including indifference, apathy and even anger. This is a downward spiral, and it is important to understand the signs of compassion fatigue to avoid falling victim to it.
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Developing And Practicing Self
Self-care strategies can be hugely beneficial for anyone, but they are especially helpful for those experiencing compassion fatigue. While identifying and developing self-care strategies that work is important, finding time to actually put these strategies into practice on a regular basis is more important. These strategies not only enable professionals to cope with work stress, they help boost resilience, which is the ability to quickly recover from difficult or trying situations.
Eat a Balanced Diet
While some fatigued individuals may forget to eat or resort to unhealthy processed foods, maintaining a balanced diet is one of the simplest ways to practice self-care. For those on the go all week, finding a time on the weekend to shop for healthy food and prepare meals for the workweek can be extremely helpful. Individuals with compassion fatigue will also benefit from eating three solid meals each day and keeping these meals on a somewhat regular schedule.
Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and increase endorphins, but finding time to exercise can be difficult, especially for individuals who havenât previously had an exercise routine. Starting small with just a few minutes of walking each day and then building to longer workouts can be an effective and sustainable way to build physical activity into everyday life.
Get Consistent Sleep
Establish Work-Life Balance
Address Emotional Needs
Consequences Of Compassion Fatigue
Untreated compassion fatigue has several overarching consequences, both direct and indirect, for the field of social work.
Direct consequences include:
- Poor job performance because of sleep deprivation, stress, and other unhealthy functioning
- Negativity, leading to low morale and a toxic work environment
Indirect consequences include:
- Inability of organizations to deliver high-quality patient care
- High levels of employee turnover
- Inadequate social service provisions
Because of these negative repercussions, compassion fatigue should be recognized early and dealt with swiftly.
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The Cost Of Caring: 10 Ways To Prevent Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue can be a serious occupational hazard for those in any kind of helping profession, with a majority of those in the field reporting experiencing at least some degree of it in their lives. This is no surprise, as it is typically those with the most empathy who are the most at risk.
Compassion fatigue is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and a profound decrease in the ability to empathize. It is a form of secondary traumatic stress, as the stress occurs as a result of helping or wanting to help those who are in need. It is often referred to as the cost of caring for others who are in physical or emotional pain. If left untreated, compassion fatigue not only can affect mental and physical health, but it can also have serious legal and ethical implications when providing therapeutic services to people.
While it is not uncommon to hear compassion fatigue referred to as burnout, the conditions are not the same. Compassion fatigue is more treatable than burnout, but it can be less predictable and may come on suddenly or without much warning, whereas burnout usually develops over time.
Because it can arise so abruptly, it can be important for therapists and others in the helping professions to protect themselves from this condition. Here are 11 ways to prevent compassion fatigue from happening to you:
The Stages Of Burnout Have Been Identified As:
Not only are care givers vulnerable, but members of the team/family are as well. Caregivers/team members should not intentionally expose themselves to trauma, unless required to perform a mission.Commonalitities of Burnout and Compassion Fatigue:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Reduced sense of personal accomplishment or meaning in work
- Mental exhaustion
- Physical exhaustion
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The Origin Of This Lightworkers Dilemma
Lets start at the beginning the point in time where you chose to become a doctor in the first place
You remember that fork in the road? Back when you were making the decision about whether or not you would to apply to medical school. Remember? It was a true choice point, a bifurcation in the course of your life. You could choose:
Go to Medical School OR DO ANYTHING ELSE
You are smart, a super hard worker, you are a helper, driven to make a difference — so naturally you chose to go to Medical School and become a doctor — and probably made someone very proud in the process In that fleeting moment the die were cast and your professional life shifted.
Engage In Outside Hobbies
Maintaining a solid work-life balance can help protect you from compassion fatigue. When all your time is spent working or thinking about work, it can be easy to burn out. Studies have shown work-life balance is becoming more important to workers, and making time for leisure activities and personal hobbies outside of work can help lower stress levels and improve overall life satisfaction.
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Facts About Compassion Fatigue
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:
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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Compassion fatigue can affect social workers in many ways, and it is important to recognize the signs as soon as possible. The issue can manifest itself in the following categories: emotionally , physically , cognitively , and behaviorally .
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Differences Between Compassion Fatigue And Vicarious Trauma
When it comes to compassion fatigue vs. vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue can result in a decreased ability to feel empathy, but doesnât usually result in a fundamental change in worldview. Conversely, vicarious trauma can result in both decreased empathy and a changed worldview, often with individuals viewing the world in a more negative light.
Just as with compassion fatigue and burnout, understanding the difference between compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma is important so that individuals experiencing the symptoms can be appropriately diagnosed and treated.
What Causes Compassion Fatigue Among Veterinarians And Shelter Workers
Its no surprise that euthanasia is a major contributing factor to compassion fatigue in veterinarians. But pet parents, especially those who are difficult to deal with or who neglect their pets, top the list of stressors.
There is also the fact that many veterinarians get to know their patients and their families over the years, so when the time comes to make that final difficult decision, not only do they have to try help the grieving parents, but they also have to cope with their own grief. Unfortunately, there usually isnt time, and they have to move onto the next patient with emotions firmly under control.
Shelter workers also feel the pain of euthanasia, but one of the biggest causes of heartache is the way in which people treat animals as disposable belongings and not sentient creatures. This is related to the extreme cases of abuse and neglect that also cross their paths every single day.
Moral stress and ethical dilemmas affect veterinarians in the private and welfare sector, and are major contributors to compassion fatigue. Dr. Elizabeth Strand, a psychotherapist specializing in compassion fatigue, says that veterinarians face ethical dilemmas 3 5 times per week. Most often this is when clients want them to perform euthanasia when its not necessary and when clients dont want them to perform euthanasia when it is necessary. In an ideal world, the animals welfare comes first, but in reality that isnt always possible.
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Caregiver Burnout Vs Compassion Fatigue
Most caregivers have probably heard of burnout, but many are unfamiliar with the concept of compassion fatigue and how these two conditions differ. Dr. Beth Hudnall Stamm, Ph.D., retired professor and researcher in the field of traumatic stress, defines compassion as feeling and acting with deep empathy and sorrow for those who suffer. Family caregivers are often compassionate individuals by nature. This characteristic is typically considered an asset, but it leaves them at risk for the negative costs of caring for others.
Compassion fatigue is an extreme state of tension and stress that can result in feelings of hopelessness, indifference, pessimism and overall disinterest in other peoples issues, explains Christine Valentin, LCSW, owner of a private counseling practice in New Jersey where she works with adults experiencing anxiety and/or depression related to work, relationships, caregiving and chronic diseases.
Unlike caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue is a secondary traumatic stress disorder that results from exposure to another persons traumatic experience and creates high levels of emotional stress. Compassion fatigue is primarily considered an occupational hazard for individuals who encounter stress and trauma in their work environments, such as nurses, mental health professionals, correctional workers and child protection workers. In fact, it is a contributing factor in why many people in these fields leave their jobs to pursue other kinds of work.
Compassion Fatigue: What It Is What It Does And How To Fight It
Compassion fatigue is fairly well-known in human caring industries, but its less well-known and more common in animal care and welfare. Veterinarians and shelter workers are particularly vulnerable to compassion fatigue due to the emotional fluctuations between extreme highs and lows that may occur several times per day every day.
According to the study, Prevalence of Risk Factors for Suicide Among Veterinarians United States 2014, veterinarians have the highest suicide rates in the medical field and suffer from twice the severe psychological distress than the general public. And its not just experienced veterinarians who have been exposed to years of trauma one in six graduates admit to considering suicide.
An earlier study on veterinary surgeons and suicide found that veterinary surgeons are four times more likely to commit suicide than the general public and twice as likely as other healthcare professions.
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What Is Compassion Fatigue In Social Work
Compassion fatigue is emotional, spiritual, or physical distress that comes from providing care for other people, particularly those in trying circumstances. Compassion fatigue can result from direct exposure to traumatic events, such as in the experiences of first responders who see trauma firsthand.
The symptoms of compassion fatigue in social workers can be similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder . PTSD is a mental health condition caused by experiencing trauma. Symptoms, which include flashbacks, extreme anxiety, and intrusive thoughts, can have significant impacts on work performance and personal well-being. If compassion fatigue goes untreated, workers may experience mental and physical health issues that impair their ability to care for their clients.
Compassion Fatigue In The General Public
A secondary definition of compassion fatigue refers to the experience of any empathetic individual who is acutely conscious of societal needs but feels helpless to solve them. People who actively engage in charity, or volunteering, may come to feel that they cannot commit any more energy, time, or money to the plight of others because they feel overwhelmed or paralyzed by pleas for support and that the worlds challenges are never-ending.
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Clear Difference: Compassion Fatigue Has A More Rapid Onset While Burnout Emerges Over Time Compassion Fatigue Has A Faster Recovery
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue Affects many dimensions of your well-being Nervous system arousal Emotional intensity increases Isolation and loss of morale Depression and PTSD Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted Beliefs and psychological needs-safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control Loss of hope and meaning=existential despair Anger toward perpetrators or causal events
First, you should understand that its a process. Its not a matter of one day, youre living your life with a great deal of energy and enjoyment, and the next, you wake up exhausted and devoid of any energy both physical and emotional. Compassion fatigue develops over time taking weeks, sometimes years to surface. Basically, its a low level, chronic clouding of caring and concern for others in your life whether you work in or outside the home. Over time, your ability to feel and care for others becomes eroded through overuse of your skills of compassion. You also might experience an emotional blunting whereby you react to situations differently than one would normally expect.
When Helping Hurts by F. Oshberg, MD
Watch For These Key Warning Signs Of Compassion Fatigue
You might not be familiar with the term compassion fatigue, but you probably recognize the idea behind it: its the feeling that you have no more empathy left to give.
Compassion fatigue used to be something that mostly struck health care workers, first responders, law enforcement officers and at-home caregivers. But as the pandemic continues and the 24-hour news cycle brings nonstop news of suffering from around the world, were all at risk of compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is similar to burnout. But burnout usually stems from having too much work or too many responsibilities. Compassion fatigue comes from helping othersyou want to keep helping, but youre overwhelmed from being exposed to the trauma of others.
Like burnout, compassion fatigue is a process. It takes time to develop. It keeps building slowly, to a point where you start to not care about yourself or others in your life. You end up overusing your compassion skills and reserves, so you no longer have much to provide, said Yazhini Srivathsal, MD, a psychiatrist with Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale, AZ.
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