Nothing beats the open-hearted desire to help people, that youthful optimism of wanting to change the world. Unfortunately, many of us become jaded and no longer find that joy in the world. People working in the helping professions are particularly susceptible to this. Professionals call it Compassion Fatigue.
No that’ll never be me!
And then one day it hits.
Over time, helping people can eat away at us and make us feel disconnected from life. This particularly happens if we have experienced our own trauma. Sometimes health care professionals experience trauma from the very system set up to help people. They get burned out on paper work, red tape, and unrealistic expectations.
Let me start with some definitions:
Compassion Fatigue (also known as vicarious traumatization or secondary traumatization). The emotional numbness that can occur from working with people who suffer traumatic experiences. It can occur from an accumulation of many experiences or just one.
Burnout is like compassion fatigue in terms of the emotional exhaustion but it is not trauma related. Rather it has to do with too much work and dealing with the “system.”
In Primary Traumatic Stress we experienced or saw a traumatic event first hand.
Let’s talk a bit more about compassion fatigue…
When someone you care for dies, sympathetic friends show compassion but health care professionals, might care for people who suffer illnesses and die who are not family. That is harder to discuss with friends. Many don’t want to hear about death (buzz kill). Sadly, helpers are left to deal with these difficult emotions on their own. They night not even realize it is affecting them at first. And it’s not only death, but the daily experience of listening to people’s problems.
So how do you know if you have compassion fatigue?
Take this quiz and find out.
Next time, we will delve deeper and find a path towards wholeness once again…