by Darcy Young
An introduction to compassion fatigue, including how to identify compassion fatigue and resources to explore.
“Care providers are unique people. We have the gift of being able to connect with others in ways that are difficult to explain and even more difficult for others to understand. Our unique ability to join with our clients that allows us a near first-hand experience of their inner worlds is perhaps out greatest gift; it is also our greatest challenge.”- Karl LaRowe, The Caregiving Personality
Compassion Stress: a natural outcome of knowing about trauma experienced by a client, friend or family member.
Traumatic Stress: extreme emotionally or absence of emotions, fearful, jumpy, exaggerated startle response, and flashbacks.
Vicarious Traumatization: Overly involved with or avoidance of victim/survivor, hyper vigilance and fear for one’s own safety, and intrusive thoughts and images or nightmares from victim’s stories.
Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) …”the natural consequent behaviors and emotions results from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by another…the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.” (Charles Figley, 1995).
Burnout: “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in emotionally demanding situation.” Symptoms include depression, cynicism, boredom, loss of compassion, and discouragement (Pines and Aronson, 1988.)
Compassion Fatigue- “A state of exhaustion and dysfunction biologically, psychologically, and emotionally, as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress” (Charles Figley, 1995).
Compassion fatigue is the exhaustion we feel from bearing witness to the suffering of another whom we care for (teach). Trauma does not need to be present. This term is more commonly used in the health care field, originally started in hospitals with nurses. As teachers when interacting with our students, often they share their stories, many of which include pain and trauma. How often do you hold that space for them and are impacted by their words? We are teachers and other caregivers bear witness to human suffering due to pain or illness, but not necessarily trauma.
Examples of Vicarious Traumatization: Professional
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