Caring too much can be harmful. Trouble can arise when a person focuses on helping others while being unaware of their own quality of life. Destructive behaviors and painful emotions can be associated with this secondary traumatic stress disorder now labeled: Compassion Fatigue. Examples of these symptomes include apathy, isolation, reduced sense of accomplishment, loss of self-worth, emotional instability, and reduced cognitive capabilities. Compassion fatigue can also contribute to the development of other mental disorders such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse. Although the effects of compassion fatigue can cause pain and suffering, learning to recognize and manage its symptoms is the first step toward healing.
While anyone can develop compassion fatigue with enough stress, it is most commonly found in individuals in helping professions such as veterinarians, therapists (paid and unpaid), nurses, doctors, police officers, first responders, animal welfare workers, health unit coordinators and anyone who helps out others, especially family members, relatives, and other informal caregivers of patients suffering from a chronic illness. Other risk factors include: being overly conscientious, desiring perfectionism, being self-giving, having low levels of social support, and experiencing high levels of stress. In addition, previous histories of trauma that led to negative coping skills, such as bottling up or avoiding emotions and having small support systems, increase the risk for developing compassion fatigue.
Linked below you will find quizzes to assess if you run a risk of suffering or are suffering from compassion fatigue. These quizzes are not an official diagnosis. Instead, it is a starting point for you to discuss with your health professional.