What is Compassion Fatigue?

Caring for others is a beautiful (and sometimes tiring) thing.

Compassion fatigue can also go by the name of second-hand shock and secondary stress reaction. It’s a type of stress that is a result of helping or wanting to help one or more people who are suffering from traumatic experiences.

It’s common for compassion fatigue to be mistaken for burnout, but these are two different conditions. The symptoms of compassion fatigue differ from burnout, and it can happen suddenly, unlike burnout, which develops over time. ⏰

In this article, we’re going to talk about the symptoms of compassion fatigue, who is at risk of it and a few ways you can prevent it from happening to you. 💛

Symptoms of compassion fatigue

If your job revolves around caring for individuals who are going through tough times, it’s important that you’re always aware of the compassion fatigue symptoms. Carrying out a routine check-up on yourself every week can help you be aware of how you’re feeling and notice any symptoms.

Some common signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue are:

  • Headaches
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feelings of anger, anxiety or irritability
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Issues in personal relationships
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Dreading going to work and then feeling guilty
  • Lack of empathy or sympathy

Who is at risk of compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is common in those who have jobs revolving around caring for others. ⚕️ In roles where a lot of empathy and compassion are demanded, workers may experience compassion fatigue due to heavy workloads, excessive demands of patients and long shifts. It’s common for professionals whose jobs revolve around a helping or healing capacity. Some job roles that may be more susceptible to compassion fatigue are therapists, counsellors, nurses, carers and even lawyers.

Some reasons that put these job roles at higher risk for compassion fatigue are:

  • Being exposed to extreme issues and emotions
  • Providing services to someone who could be considered dangerous
  • Working with people with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Helping a patient or client with the death and grief of a loved one
  • Being exposed to graphic evidence, accident or crime scenes

How to prevent compassion fatigue

Set boundaries 🚫

When your job is centred around caring for and empathising with others, it’s important that you set emotional boundaries between you and your clients. Try to remain compassionate and show empathy without getting too emotionally involved or taking on other’s emotions. (This one is definitely hard, because you are obviously such a caring person!)

Have healthy relationships outside of work 👬

Having work friendships and relationships can be nice but having healthy relationships outside of your job role is super important. When your professional life tends to be quite emotionally consuming, it can feel like a breath of fresh air to talk to friends and family about other topics. If you’re wanting to talk to a friend about your work, it’s sometimes nice to get advice from an outsider, who doesn’t know the ins and outs of your job.

Keep a journal 📒

When your life feels a bit chaotic and you feel like your emotions are all over the place, journaling can help you create some sort of order in your life. Getting your feelings down on paper can help you process and analyse your emotions, it’s also a great way to be more self-aware. Having a good sense of self-awareness is useful, it allows you to notice when something is feeling different and allows you to solve any issues sooner.

Turn to positive coping strategies 🏃‍♂️

When you’re dealing with compassion fatigue and high levels of stress, it can be easy to turn to negative coping strategies such as alcohol and drugs. This won’t only fix the problem but make you feel worse off in the long run. Finding positive coping strategies is vital in fighting off and preventing compassion fatigue, try making a list of things that help you cope through tough times. Your list could include meditation, running, spending time with friends, reading, relaxing or just about anything that you feel helps you get by.

If you feel like you’re suffering from compassion fatigue, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help from your doctor or a mental health professional.


At Bequest, we know that any kind of stress isn’t a good feeling, it’s easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself, especially when it comes to caring for everyone around you. We offer wills and life insurance so you can make sure your loved ones are looked after when you die. We’ve created a simple and easy process to help you safeguard your future, stress-free! Take a weight off your shoulders and get yours sorted today. 💛

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FF Bequest Limited, trading as Bequest, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority with firm reference number 923791. You can check our authorisation on the FCA Financial Services Register by visiting the following website: register.fca.org.uk . We are registered in England and Wales, Registered office address: Founders Factory, Northcliffe House, London, United Kingdom, W8 5EH. Company Number 12367897.

Regulated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) [ZA662891]. "Bequest" is trademark protected by FF Bequest Limited (UK00003452648). FF Bequest Limited is registered in England and Wales, No 12367897.

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FF Bequest Limited, trading as Bequest, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority with firm reference number 923791. You can check our authorisation on the FCA Financial Services Register by visiting the following website: register.fca.org.uk . We are registered in England and Wales, Registered office address: Founders Factory, Northcliffe House, London, United Kingdom, W8 5EH. Company Number 12367897.

Regulated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) [ZA662891]. "Bequest" is trademark protected by FF Bequest Limited (UK00003452648). FF Bequest Limited is registered in England and Wales, No 12367897.

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