Coping with Compassion Fatigue

Helping others who are dealing with trauma can be highly satisfying and rewarding. But it can also take a toll on caregivers – particularly if they have similar issues of their own. You may find yourself comforting a bereaved spouse while you’re trying to cope with fears about your spouse’s safety. You may work hard getting help and assistance for other people while ignoring your own needs. Over time, the stress of helping others can cause symptoms – anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability – that interfere with everyday life. This response is often referred to as “compassion fatigue” or “secondary traumatic stress.”


Left untreated, compassion fatigue can lead to burnout and other conditions that may not go away on their own. If you work with victims of trauma, you can take steps to recognize, limit, and treat these effects.