Compassion Fatigue—The Practical Side

Compassion fatigue is sometimes called “the cost of caring.” Compassion fatigue occurs when you have had to care too hard for too long. Over time, compassion fatigue can negatively impact one’s ability to empathize for others.  In the beginning stages it can cause you to feel emotionally burned out, mildly apathetic and physically fatigued.

The term compassion fatigue is often used when talking about front line healthcare workers—doctors, nurses, trauma therapists and the like—who are daily consumed with the pain and suffering of humanity. It is a real condition and must be treated as such.

Knowing what compassion fatigue is and the signs to look for is the first step to addressing it. Some argue that burnout precedes compassion fatigue. Burnout is feeling like you have come to an unintentional endpoint physically and emotionally due to caring. Full blown compassion fatigue takes place when you have begun to lose your ability to feel compassion; however, there are in my opinion multiple stages of true compassion fatigue which I will touch on in the personal blog on this piece. 

While many people I have met over the years have never heard of the term compassion fatigue, nor do they use it, lots of people I meet say they are burned out. In fact, sometimes I feel the term “burned out” is used too loosely in our culture or is seen as a badge of honor to prove productivity.  As a therapist who has experienced both burnout and the beginning phases of compassion fatigue, I deem burnout as an important sign that emotional support is needed.

I will address the importance of care to combat burnout and compassion fatigue in the personal blog on this piece. But for now, here are some symptoms of burnout and compassion fatigue.

–fatigue, frustration, negative reactions to others, changed expectations, withdraw, negativity, sadness, detachment and somatic (physical) complaints.

If you are experiencing these or similar symptoms and need the support of a licensed mental health counselor, we can help. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment. 


Yolanda Brailey