Compassion fatigue, also known as burnout, can appear in workers exposed to suffering on a daily basis. Nurses, care workers, doctors, counsellors are all exposed to compassion fatigue. They work with people who are not well every day and their suffering can affect them. Early detection of symptoms of compassion fatigue can prevent more serious symptoms. Five early symptoms of compassion fatigue are as follows:
- Frequent colds: We may think they are related to the weather, to not wearing the right clothes, to the children being frequently ill as they catch colds in school, to a temporary stage of our lives. Be careful. It could also be a symptom that you are developing compassion fatigue.
- Reduced sense of accomplishment: Did your job feel like you were really helping others and it is starting to put you down? Does the day feel longer than it used to? You may have forgotten the reasons that brought you to this job in the first place. You may start developing some symptoms of compassion fatigue.
- Headaches and fatigue: This may be a normal part of your life by now. You have a headache, take an Ibuprofen and forget about it. You tell yourself that it is normal to be tired trying to joggle work, family life and caring for your parents. It may well be, but it can also be a sign that you are doing far too much for others and starting to burn out.
- Moodiness and increased interpersonal conflict: If you find yourself snapping at your loved ones for no good reason, having frequent mood swings, and/or starting to feel like you would like to be on your own for often than usual, you may be developing compassion fatigue.
- Lack of meaning: Eventually, if you don’t pay attention to those symptoms, they may deteriorate, and you may feel numb, disillusioned and you may lose meaning. Your life may appear as having no sense at all.
Some of the more serious symptoms of compassion fatigue are similar to PTSD symptoms, experienced by trauma sufferers. Compassion fatigue is also known as vicarious traumatization. Good news is that you can recognize these symptoms and allow yourself to put yourself first. You need to look after yourself and discover your own ways of making yourself fulfilled and happy on a daily basis. This is known as post-traumatic growth. Empathy can bring you to experience human suffering and develop compassion fatigue; looking after yourself (post-traumatic growth) can help you find higher meaning and connection to others.
Also read: 5 tips to avoid compassion fatigue