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Compassion Fatigue

see also: Compassion; Compassion Quotes

Compassion Fatigue word cloud

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Compassion fatigue , also known as a Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a term that refers to a gradual lessening of  compassion  over time.

Journalism analysts argue that the media has caused widespread compassion fatigue in society by saturating newspapers and news shows with decontextualized images and stories of  suffering .

Compassion fatigue has also been called "secondary victimization" (Figley, 1982), "secondary traumatic stress" (Figley, 1983, 1985, 1989; Stamm, 1995; 1997), "vicarious traumatization" (McCann and Pearlman, 1989; Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995), and "secondary survivor" (Remer and Elliott, 1988a; 1988b).

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The purpose of this webpage is to provide an overview of this important concept.

Also, the purpose is to encourage collaboration toward building a sound theory and research base that will lead to effective programs for preventing and treating compassion fatigue encourage collaboration toward building a sound theory and research base that will lead to effective programs for preventing and treating compassion fatigue.

However, there is growing, indirect evidence that perceptions about self worth (personally and professionally) and the value of family, friends, community, and other social resources are closely related to general morale.

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Compassion fatigue is a one-way street in which individuals are giving out a great deal of energy and compassion to others over a period of time, yet aren’t able to get enough personal support to reassure themselves that the world is a hopeful place.

Child welfare practitioners have a much greater susceptibility to compassion fatigue compared to many other professions due to their exposure to the situations that cause children to come into care.

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Preventing institutional secondary traumatic stress disorder.

[I]f you are exposed to others’ traumatic events as a result of your work, such as in an emergency room or working with child protective services, this is secondary exposure.

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Many of us chose veterinary medicine as a career path because of our connection to animals and the value we place on the human-animal bond.

Veterinary medicine may be the perfect recipe for compassion fatigue: mix large amounts of compassionate care giving with a lack of resources to recharge depleted emotional energy.

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When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface.

While the effects of Compassion Fatigue can cause pain and suffering, learning to recognize and manage its symptoms is the first step toward healing.

The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© is dedicated to educating caregivers about authentic, sustainable self-care and aiding organizations in their goal of providing healthy, compassionate care to those whom they serve.

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Compassion for the victim of a similar situation, or for their responses to the situation, may reawaken memories of these buried feelings.

Compassion fatigue was first named as such in 1992 by Joinson, who pointed out that nurses and ministers were subject to exhaustion of their capacities to provide empathetic care, due to being repeatedly traumatized secondarily by having to deal with the stresses of patients they cared for.

Various authors have followed up on this subject (Figley 1993; 1995; 1997; 2002; 2003; Kottler 1992; McCann and Pearlman 1990; Stamm 1995).

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For example, bombing of the World Trade Center was a critical incident that is leading to widespread critical incident stress.

The stress of the situation added to already stress filled professional and personal lives could result in severe stress, anxiety and feelings of powerlessness.

The risk is the possibility of becoming victims to what Charles Figley, PhD, calls “compassion fatigue”.

Predicting the risk of compassion fatigue: A study of hospice nurses

Factors affecting burnout and compassion fatigue in psychotherapists treating torture survivors: Is the therapist's attitude to working through trauma relevant?

Utilizing compassion fatigue education in Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina

As a teen, MADD Arizona Victim Advocate Kristi Martin knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She wanted to help others.

She left her work as a crisis responder at age 20... It finally got to the point that I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’

“‘Compassion fatigue’ is the emotional toll of working with a traumatized population,” says Charles Figley, Ph.D., a Tulane University professor and the first Dr. Paul Henry
Kurzweg Chair in Disaster Mental Health.

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The symptoms of Compassion Fatigue are important to discuss, because a lot of them are symptoms that people can experience on a daily basis and just explain them away as being due to the stress of daily living.

People in the helping profession have a very difficult time with this.

And as always if these self-care techniques do not alleviate your symptoms please seek out the help of medical and behavioral professionals that offer Compassion Fatigue assistance.

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Southern Baptist Disaster Relief - Chaplain Training Manual - 2007

Compassion Fatigue Compassion fatigue results when caregivers experience a trauma event through listening to the story of the event or experience the reactions to the trauma through empathetic contact with victims or survivors and are unable to distance themselves from the event.

Professionals especially vulnerable to compassion fatigue include chaplains and other helping professionals-emergency services personnel, mental health professionals and counselors, medical professionals, clergy, victim advocates and assistants, and human services personnel.

A caregiver's reflection on September 11.

In letting suffering individuals into the inner depths of one's self, and by feeling their pain as your own, you create a connection that is at the very center of effective intervention.

I listened to some of the cops who worked at the pier say, "I can't let them in, because once I do that I'm finished. I don't want to know their story because it will hurt too much."

One of the dangers in providing spiritual care and/or emotional support is the inherent risk of secondary trauma – of being traumatized simply by hearing the direct victims’ own experience of what the disaster or trauma was like for them.

This phenomenon is known as secondary stress disorder, vicarious traumatisation, and/or compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue, however, is a state that uniquely affects caregivers, e.g. religious leaders, emergency workers, and psychotherapists, due to working with traumatized populations.

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Working primarily with helpers and underserved people; Stamm's efforts focuses on secondary trauma among helpers and cultural trauma.

Stamm's activities focus on recovery from exposure to war and civil violence as well as to terrorism and disaster for all people in community, including helpers.

Among her other activities, in 2008, she testified at the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Health Care Symposium to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs regarding the needs of our service men and women who have experienced injury in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old Army psychiatrist accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., had recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Afghanistan.

His cousin, Nader Hasan, said that Major Hasan had counseled scores of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and was “mortified” about being deployed.

So much is still unknown about the case, but among the many issues raised is the question of post-traumatic stress among caregivers.

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The Little Guide To Beating Procrastination, Perfectionism and Blocks: A Manual for Artists, Activists, Entrepreneurs, Academics and Other Ambitious Dreamers

Please note that hypersensitivity can be rooted in trauma, or other psychological, cognitive or even physical conditions.

Also be cognizant of compassion fatigue, a “secondary traumatic stress disorder” whose symptoms can include hypersensitivity, fear, dissociation (disconnection from the immediate environment), obtrusive daydreams, and disrupted sleep patterns.