Compassion fatigue, also known as vicarious trauma or secondary trauma, is a secondary traumatic stress disorder that is common among individuals who work directly with victims of trauma. Sufferers of compassion fatigue may include victim advocates, mental health professionals, law enforcement, prosecutors, medical professionals and other first responders. Individuals may exhibit symptoms such as hopelessness, constant stress and anxiety, a pervasive negative attitude, and a decrease in the pleasure they find in activities they used to enjoy. These symptoms can have detrimental effects, both professionally and personally, and can result in decreased productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of feelings of incompetency and self-doubt. Vicarious trauma may also contribute to high staff turnover in many human service programs.
Learning to recognize compassion fatigue and manage its symptoms are the first steps toward healing. The following resources can help you recognize the causes and symptoms of compassion fatigue and learn how to manage or minimize their impact.