Three Ways To Prevent Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue is A Thing- (5)

Do you ever feel like you care for others more than you care for yourself?  Do you ever feel like your families’, friends’, clients’, even strangers’ problems are burdening you?  I certainly do.  Dawn Clancy’s post, “Three Ways to Prevent Compassion Fatigue” was a much needed read and I hope you all think so, too!

“Compassion fatigue is a phenomenon also known as vicarious traumatization or secondary traumatization. This is a state of emotional, mental, and/or physical exhaustion that comes from exposure to caring for those suffering from the consequences of a traumatic event. This is different from burnout, as burnout does not involve trauma.

Originally this term was coined for healthcare professionals, especially nurses, who experienced symptoms after demanding and draining jobs where the nurse was required to put the patient’s needs above their own. However, compassion fatigue can also occur in other settings, such as a loved one caring for a family member recovering from an addiction.

In order to truly be able to help your loved one through this difficult time, anyone caring for them will also need to be in a healthy state. However, as high levels of stress make one more vulnerable to falling victim to compassion fatigue, it will become increasingly important to familiarize yourself with the ABC’s of Prevention:


In order to know something is taking place, one first needs to know what symptoms to look for. This is important not only for the caregiver themselves, but those around them as well. All involved should be on the lookout for unusual behavior. Keep in mind these symptoms can be destructive emotionally, psychologically, and physically, so there are many ways this condition can present itself.

The symptoms of compassion fatigue include, but are not limited to:

  • Excessive blaming
  • Bottled up emotions
  • Frequent anger and anxiety
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Fainting spells
  • Isolation
  • Poor hygiene
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Apathy
  • Preoccupation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Substance abuse (ironically, this can become a coping mechanism for caregivers of those in addiction recovery)


A key to preventing and also overcoming compassion fatigue is to live a balanced life. The most important aspect of this for a caregiver is to practice self care as well. Often caregivers become so engrossed in the other person’s needs that they neglect their own. Those susceptible to compassion fatigue should make a conscious effort to take “mini-escapes” where they go enjoy something just for them. Look for ways to find meaning in difficult challenges and seek medical treatment if necessary.

Self care and developing this balance is useful both for prevention and for treatment of compassion fatigue. As mentioned here, a healthy balance will help the caregiver to be in a healthy place emotionally, psychologically, and physically so they are in a better position to help their loved one fight their addiction. Because taking care of someone else’s needs takes a great deal of time, caregivers should be wary of eliminating the very things they need to have a balanced life in order to create time for the addict.

Among participating in activities they enjoy, the caregiver should strive to live their life in such a way that reflects their values and priorities. They should work to have a positive attitude, a sense of humor, self confidence, curiosity, focus on the positive, and express gratitude. Regular, honest self-reflection will help to keep this on track.


Just as the person in recovery needs a solid support system, the caregiver does as well. In order for compassion fatigue to be kept at bay, they should work to build a positive support system around them and stay connected to their own self identity. It may be helpful for them to pursue professional support. Oftentimes, recovery centers will even offer support groups for the loved ones of those who are going through the addiction recovery process. Such connections can be instrumental in helping an individual to feel heard, validated, and supported as they try to do the same for someone else.

When someone decides to take on the responsibility of caring for a loved one recovering from an addiction, it is bound to take a toll on many aspects of their life. By being aware of the symptoms of compassion fatigue, putting a plan in place for achieving and maintaining balance in life, and creating a strong support system, a caregiver can find they are in the best position possible to be of help.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. How do you deal with Compassion Fatigue? How do you take care of yourself when the addict or alcoholic in your life takes you to the edge? You can leave your thoughts and comments below in the comment section.

Also, if you know someone that could benefit from learning more about Compassion Fatigue, then please share this post with them. Remember, we’re all in this together!” 

Check out her other posts!


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