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What Is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion Fatigue

When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care they can experience compassion fatigue. According to the American Institute of Stress, compassion fatigue is:

Also called “vicarious traumatization” or secondary traumatization (Figley, 1995). The emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events. It differs from burn-out, but can co-exist. Compassion Fatigue can occur due to exposure on one case or can be due to a “cumulative” level of trauma.

It is almost as if you are absorbing another person’s pain. Focusing all of your attention, as a caregiver, on taking care of and supporting the person you’re caring for can lead to neglect of your own needs.

Common symptoms of compassion fatigue include:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Reduced sense of personal accomplishment or meaning in work
  • Mental exhaustion
  • Decreased interactions with others (isolation)
  • Depersonalization
  • Physical exhaustion

This can happen to anyone who cares for another, not just paid caregivers. Taking care of a sick family member, friend or loved one can also lead to compassion fatigue.

How to Prevent/Reduce the Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue can often lead to apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions, and even substance abuse. Recognizing the symptoms is important in preventing it from going too far. It often starts with very subtle feelings, like a lack of interest, depression, physical fatigue, and similar symptoms which often seem like normal aspects of everyday life.

In order to prevent or heal from compassion fatigue, you will need to take time away from your work as a caregiver. Taking a break and focusing on your own needs is vital in the healing process. For more on how to heal from compassion fatigue, click here.

Get Respite Care from the Leading Home Care Providers in Wichita, KS

If you’ve been caring for a loved one and need a break, consider respite care – temporary caregiver relief. Call (316) 691-5050 and talk to one of our staff at Progressive Care. We are one of Kansas’s largest home care providers and offer daily 24-hour living assistance, including nighttime watch, respite care, and personal assistance.