Leading on Empty :: a support group for those in ministry and in helping professions
“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet” (Remen, 1996)
What is compassion fatigue?
Our primary task as helping professionals is first and foremost to meet the physical and/or emotional needs of our congregants, clients and patients. This can be an immensely rewarding experience, and the daily contact with patients is what keeps many of us working in this field. It is a Calling, a highly specialized type of work that is unlike any other profession. However, this highly specialised rewarding profession can also look like this: Increasingly stressful work environments, heavy case loads and dwindling resources, cynicism and negativity from co-workers, low job satisfaction and, for some, the risk of being physically assaulted by patients.
Compassion Fatigue has been described as the “cost of caring” for others in emotional and physical pain. (Figley, 1982) It is characterized by deep physical and emotional exhaustion and a pronounced change in the helper’s ability to feel empathy for their patients, their loved ones and their co-workers. It is marked by increased cynicism at work, a loss of enjoyment of our career, and eventually can transform into depression, secondary traumatic stress and stress-related illnesses. The most insidious aspect of compassion fatigue is that it attacks the very core of what brought us into this work: our empathy and compassion for others.
Signs and Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
Each individual will have their own warning signs that indicate that they are moving into the danger zone of compassion fatigue. These will include some of the following:
- Reduced ability to feel sympathy and empathy
- Anger and irritability
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs
- Dread of working with certain clients/patients
- Diminished sense of enjoyment of career
- Disruption to world view, Heightened anxiety or irrational fears
- Intrusive imagery or dissociation
- Hypersensitivity or Insensitivity to emotional material
- Difficulty separating work life from personal life
- Absenteeism – missing work, taking many sick days
- Impaired ability to make decisions and care for clients/patients
- Problems with intimacy and in personal relationships
Group Now Forming. Contact Shanon for details! 972.292.7092, x. 4