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MHM: Compassion Fatigue

Those in caring roles are at-risk of compassion fatigue which can lead to burn-out and secondary trauma. Care for yourself in the face of difficult work.

Those that work in caring roles have a great deal of compassion. This can provide both a deep level of satisfaction in their role but can also come at a cost. Ongoing exposure to the experiences of trauma, stress, and suffering of others can result in compassion fatigue.

Caring for others is TIRING. 

If you've ever played Florence Nightingale to someone for any length of time, you understand that caring for others is tiring. It often involves taking on a physical, mental, and emotional burden that you may not be prepared for.

When we are exposed to the trauma of others, we often find ourselves in an increased state of tension. We may become preoccupied with that persons' cognitive, physical, psychological, and emotional pain and suffering. After a while, we may become indifferent or numb to appeals for care and attention. This is compassion fatigue.

Although a difficult topic to unpack, now is as important a time as ever. Our front line heroes are being tested beyond anything comprehendible. Learn how to identify compassion fatigue in yourself and others.

What might a person suffering from compassion fatigue feel?

  • Emotional exhaustion

  • Reduced sense of personal accomplishment or meaning in work

  • Mental exhaustion

  • Decreased interactions with others (isolation)

  • Depersonalization (symptoms disconnected from real causes)

  • Physical exhaustion

If you're experiencing compassion fatigue...


  • Find someone to talk to ( therapist, clergy, friend, family, supervisor)

  • Understand that the pain you feel is normal

  • Exercise and eat properly

  • Get enough sleep

  • Take some time off

  • Develop interests outside of whichever caring field you work in 

  • Identify what is important to you


  • Deny how you are feeling

  • Blame others

  • Neglect your own needs and interests

  • Make rash decisions (Ex. looking for a new job, buying a new car)

  • Fall into the habit of complaining with your colleagues

  • Work harder and longer

  • Self-medicate

Caring for others is tough work, there’s no way around it. Remembering to take care of yourself first can put you in a better place to take care of those around you. 

For additional resources on compassion fatigue visit Professional Quality of Life


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