Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Symptoms Of Compassion Fatigue And Burnout

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Which One Is Severe Compassion Fatigue Or Caregiver Burnout

Differences between burnout and compassion fatigue

By now, you must be clear about which condition youre suffering from. The major difference between these two is that while compassion fatigue or compassion burnout is a sudden condition, caregiver burnout happens over time and is the result of too many caregiving tasks and responsibilities.

Caregiver burnout needs more attention and is a long-term process, whereas compassion fatigue can get treated easily and has a faster recovery time. So, if youre suffering from the former one, you may need to pay special attention.

You must also know that all conditions can turn into fatal ones if you do not get proper treatment. Anxiety can turn into depression, respiratory problems can turn into major respiratory diseases, and similarly, both of these medical conditions can give rise to severe mental, physical, and emotional distress, if you do not take care of yourself.

In the end, you must remember that too much giving can leave you totally empty and exhausted. We tend to forget that the first person we should look after is our own selves. After all, even God helps those who try to help themselves.

Compassion Fatigue Vs Burnout: Whats The Difference

Given the similarities between these two conditions, people often mistake burnout for compassion fatigue and vice versa.

Although I wouldnt say this confusion is a tragedy, knowing precisely what youre dealing with gives you a better sense of control over your mental and emotional well-being.

The more you understand the difference between burnout and compassion fatigue, the better you can adjust your coping strategies.

Burnout develops over time compassion fatigue strikes suddenly.

In general, burnout results from prolonged exposure to stressful environments where job demands exceed your emotional and mental resources.

In other words, you could reach burnout after several months of constant stress, depending on your resilience and emotional maturity.

As for compassion fatigue, there are times when even one day in the presence of someone whos hurting is enough to leave you emotionally drained.

Compassion fatigue can be a precursor of burnout.

As I said earlier, burnout occurs when youre dealing with constant and excessive demands that outweigh your emotional resources.

But demands can mean anything from job-related tasks and school projects to being emotionally available for someone whos going through a rough patch.

As a caregiver, if you neglect your emotional well-being long enough, you will eventually burn out.

Its easier to recover from compassion fatigue than from burnout.

On a brighter note, compassion fatigue is relatively easier to manage than burnout.

Warning Signs Of Compassion Fatigue

First responders experiencing secondary traumatic stress due to nature of work

We increasingly hear of compassion fatigue, also known as vicarious trauma or secondary traumatic stress, occurring among police and first responders.

Compassion fatigue is the stress resulting from the traumatized individual rather than the trauma itself. It often involves an intense state of tension or excessive preoccupation with the cognitive, physical, psychological and emotional pain and suffering of trauma survivors.

Providing care to trauma victims, being repeatedly exposed to their traumatic experiences and the empathetic care provided to trauma survivors can lead to increased stress, negative emotional reactions and compassion fatigue, in turn, increasing the risk for burnout.

Recognizing early warning signs and seeking early intervention are important. Compassion fatigue can negatively impact and impair an individuals personal, social and occupational functioning and psychological health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders.

Be aware of the following warning signs of compassion fatigue:

Emotional symptoms

Constant thinking or dwelling around the suffering of the trauma survivorsConstant self-blame or thoughts of I should or could have done moreChanges in belief systems or meaning in lifeReduced sense of personal and occupational accomplishment or efficacyDifficulty concentrating, focusing or making decisions.

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Compassion Fatigue In Nursing: What It Is And How To Deal With It

In nursing, compassion fatigue means that a nurse has gradually become less compassionate about the medical challenges his or her patients face. Compassion fatigue in healthcare settings is actually quite common with some studies reporting that 7.3% to 40% of study respondents suffered from the condition.

Theres no doubt that healthcare professionals devote a significant amount of effort and time toward giving patients optimal quality of care, so its important to look at both sides of the fence when trying to understand compassion fatigue in nursing, including what it is and why it happens.

Signs And Symptoms Of Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue Infographic

The 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. It is 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

Tips for Managing Compassion Fatigue

Find someone to talk to.Understand that the pain you feel is normal.Exercise and eat properly.

Neglect your own needs and interests.


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Understanding Burnout And Compassion Fatigue

Burnout is defined as a negative symptom related to chronic workplace stress. When exposed to a stressful work environment where your mental health is not managed appropriately, youre more likely to express 3 characteristic symptoms of burnout.

  • Emotional exhaustion: this dimension of burnout is very common in the healthcare industry. Emotional exhaustion may also be described as being worn out, lacking energy, physically and mentally depleted, or fatigued.
  • Cynicism or depersonalization: when experiencing burnout, you may express feelings of cynicism or depersonalization towards your job or within your role. In other words, you may experience a negative or inappropriate attitude towards patients or clients, loss of idealism, and even complete withdrawal from the job.
  • Diminished professional achievement: feelings of ineffectiveness, lack of accomplishment, or diminished professional achievement can all play a significant role in your current work environment. With burnout comes low productivity and an inability to cope with the tasks that once seemed simple.
  • In the healthcare industry, burnout is closely related to compassion fatigue. As a cost of caring for others day in and day out, many healthcare workers face vicarious or secondary trauma from carrying the weight of their patients pain and distress. In time, compassion fatigue can cause emotional and physical exhaustion that may lead to a reduced ability to empathize with others.

    Is There Such Thing As Compassion Fatigue

    In essence, compassion fatigue describes a state of exhaustion that you experience after spending considerable time with people who are dealing with emotional or physical suffering.

    I dont see compassion fatigue as an illness or problem, but merely the cost of caring.

    Whether youre looking after a sick family member or working as a nurse, as long as youre in a position where you need to provide compassion and care, you will eventually reach emotional exhaustion.

    Sometimes, compassion fatigue can be the result of a tragedy that impacts a specific group. One example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which, according to a recent study, has led to an increase in burnout and compassion fatigue among healthcare professionals.

    Interestingly, the social recognition that healthcare professionals have received over the last year has acted as a buffer, diminishing the negative impact of emotional exhaustion.

    The real problem occurs when you ignore the symptoms and lose sight of your needs. Thats when burnout and depression begin to take a toll on your health and well-being.

    Theres no treatment or cure for compassion fatigue. But theres plenty you can do about it.

    Most mental health professionals will recommend roughly the same strategies as they would for stress and burnout.

    More specifically, its all about prevention, good emotional management, and solid self-care routines.

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    Does Resilience Training Help

    A 2015 study in the Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing argues for resilience training, a program designed to educate care workers about this type of fatigue and its risk factors. Such training teaches how to employ relaxation techniques and build social support networks to cope with symptoms that arise.

    Compassion Fatigue From Crisis Response

    Mental Wellness Moment Preventing compassion fatigue and burnout

    In the last 16 months, HR teams had to take on more responsibility, especially when caring for colleagues. Of course, caring for coworkers isnt a new task for human resource management. However, the sheer volume of crises and those in need of compassion have made the responsibility more challenging for HR professionals.

    This year, changes to HR management included significant differences in our working environments, compensation, benefits, and changes to employment laws. In addition, HR teams have dealt with concerns about recent racial injustices, helping colleagues cope with their mental health, isolation, and grief.

    During the onset of COVID-19, many human resources departments were responsible for terminating employees that companies laid off. All of this adds on top of the personal challenges each HR member may be experiencing.

    Any of those things alone would have been incredibly challenging for HR, let alone managing all of them at once. So its no wonder our human resources departments are struggling with the recent, more complicated aspects of employee relations. Its been exhausting, and HR teams are feeling something different than regular burnout. Instead, theyre experiencing compassion fatigue.

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    What Is The Difference Between Burnout And Compassion Fatigue

    To understand compassion fatigue, its helpful to understand the difference between it and a couple of other similar terms.

    According to Tend Academy, compassion fatigue is different from vicarious trauma in that the latter was coined by Pearlman & Saakvitne to describe the profound shift in worldview that occurs in helping professionals when they work with clients who have experienced trauma. Helpers notice that their fundamental beliefs about the world are altered and possibly damaged by being repeatedly exposed to traumatic material.

    Tend Academy says the difference between compassion fatigue and burnout stems from the latter occurring due to physical and emotional exhaustion that workers can experience when they have low job satisfaction and feel powerless and overwhelmed at work. However, burnout does not necessarily mean that our view of the world has been damaged, or that we have lost the ability to feel compassion for others.

    Burnout And Compassion Fatigue

    Burnout is a special type of stress that caregivers and professionals may experience, including a sense of reduced accomplishment and physical and/or emotional exhaustion. Compassion fatigue encompasses a much greater level of stress and exhaustion, occurring as a result of helping others who experience emotional or physical pain, oftentimes referred to as the cost of caring however, someone presenting with compassion fatigue shows a significant decrease in the ability to empathize with others. Compassion fatigue is a type of secondary traumatic stress, which occurs as a result of helping or wanting to help others who are in need. Though they share similar features, burnout generally develops more slowly over a period of time, while compassion fatigue may have an unexpected onset and can occur without warning signs. Professionals and caregivers who experience compassion fatigue may react to situations differently from the way in which others typically respond, due to an erosion of compassion skills. A majority of individuals in any kind of helping profession experience at least some degree of burnout or compassion fatigue in their lives. Minimizing and managing ones stress are important for self-care and living life more fully. This leads to greater self-compassion, including self-kindness, mindfulness, and our shared humanity.

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    What Is The Difference Between Compassion Fatigue Vicarious Trauma And Burnout

    These three terms are complementary and yet different from one another.

    While Compassion Fatigue refers to the profound emotional and physical erosion that takes place when helpers are unable to refuel and regenerate, the term Vicarious trauma was coined by Pearlman & Saakvitne to describe the profound shift in world view that occurs in helping professionals when they work with clients who have experienced trauma. Helpers notice that their fundamental beliefs about the world are altered and possibly damaged by being repeatedly exposed to traumatic material.

    Burnout is a term that has been used since the early 1980s describe the physical and emotional exhaustion that workers can experience when they have low job satisfaction and feel powerless and overwhelmed at work. However, burnout does not necessarily mean that our view of the world has been damaged, or that we have lost the ability to feel compassion for others.

    Most importantly, burnout can be fairly easily resolved: changing jobs can provide immediate relief to someone suffering from job-related burnout. This is not the case for CF and VT. Helpers can simultaneously experience Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma. They are cumulative over time and evident in our personal and professional lives. They are also an occupational hazard of working in the helping field.

    Read through the examples below and notice if you recognize elements of these scenarios in yourself:

    What Is Compassion Fatigue

    Burnout Vs Compassion Fatigue

    According to the scientific definition, compassion fatigue is a condition in which the person feels physically and emotionally exhausted. It is followed by a lack of empathy and compassion for anyone or anything. It is a sudden change.

    It is very common in people like nurses, doctors, paramedics, police officers, animal welfare workers, therapists, and also in people involved in constant caregiving.

    Now, if we were to say it in simpler words, ask yourself these questions: Are you feeling numb? Are you feeling indifferent to people you used to care about? Are you feeling irritated towards everyone and are you not invested in your work as you were before?

    If you find the little voice in your mind, saying yes to all the above questions without any hesitation, you need to acknowledge that you might be going through a condition of compassion fatigue or compassion burnout.

    For a more insightful approach, given below is a list of all the symptoms of this condition. Read, analyze, and come to a proper conclusion and do not let anything affect your kind and generous personality.

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    Counselling For Burnout And Compassion Fatigue

    Counselling is an important resource for everyone impacted by the current global pandemic, especially healthcare and frontline workers. Through counselling, therapists work to assist you with burnout and compassion fatigue by helping you clearly recognize the source of stress and then work through personalized management strategies.

    Of course, counselling is beneficial for those struggling to manage their symptoms, it also helps those who are on the cusp of entering into burnout. At On Your Mind Counselling, our team of experienced professionals can help you identify the root of the problem even before it begins to spill over into your home and personal life. For more information, book a free consultation today!

    What Factors Contribute To Cf/vt And Burnout

    There are many reasons for which helping professionals can develop compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. These are described in Saakvitne and Pearlmans book Transforming the Pain :

    The Individual:

    Your current life circumstances, your history, your coping style and your personality type all affect how compassion fatigue may impact you.

    Most helpers also have other life stressors to deal with. Many are in the sandwich generation meaning that they take care of both young children and aging parents in addition to managing a heavy and complex workload. Helpers are not immune to pain in their own lives and, in fact, some studies show that they are more vulnerable to life changes than people who do less stressful work.

    The Situation:

    Helpers often do work that other people dont want to hear about. They spend their time caring for people who are not valued or understood in our society. This may include individuals who are homeless, abused, incarcerated or chronically ill.

    Furthermore, our working environments are often stressful and fraught with workplace negativity. This negativity is often a result of individual compassion fatigue, burnout and general unhappiness. The work itself is also very stressful. Dealing with clients/patients who are experiencing chronic crises, who have difficulty controlling their emotions, and/or those who may not get better can be draining.

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    The Current State: Hr Is Not Okay

    Surveys conducted over the last six months have revealed a startling trend in HR. A study by Lattice found that 90% of HR professionals reported that their stress levels increased in the last year.

    In addition, 60% of the same respondents cited emotional exhaustion as their biggest challenge. Another report indicated that 71% of HR team members said 2020 was the most stressful year of their career.

    While employees across all industries have reported increased stress recently, HR professionals are experiencing these challenges at significantly higher rates. Additionally, HR is one of the only professions outside of healthcare to list “emotional exhaustion” as their biggest challenge.

    This dramatic rise in stress has to do with HR teams challenges in the last 16 months. So with that in mind, its easy to see why HR is experiencing compassion fatigue.

    How To Deal With Compassion Fatigue

    Therapist Burnout & Compassion Fatigue| 10 Tips to Recognize the Signs & Address It

    If you or a nurse you know suffers from compassion fatigue, you can take comfort in knowing it is a treatable and manageable condition. Treating it starts with recognizing it and admitting it is a real condition. From here, you can then start with pinpointing why it is occurring.

    From an organizational standpoint, its imperative to make it clear and well-known throughout all departments that compassion fatigue in nursing is real. By making it common knowledge that compassion fatigue is a real condition, it then becomes easier to develop a supportive work environment that encourages realistic workloads for each nurse, proper debriefing strategies, sufficient number of mental health days, collaborative peer support, and more.

    The cornerstone to dealing with compassion fatigue from a personal standpoint is to provide yourself with improved self-care . Improving self-care is often difficult for nurses as they are accustomed to constantly putting others needs before their own, but taking extra time for yourself is essential to keeping compassion fatigue to a minimum.

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