As we have been traveling throughout the city one question that always seems to arise is about compassion fatigue. What is it? There are actually two definitions:
(1) Compassion fatigue is defined in the popular media as a feeling of being overwhelmed, helpless and numbed by media stories of tragedy. A New York Times article explains:
"Fatigue often results “when you’re seeing the same problems repeatedly, when they’re chronic, and when the outcomes are not good,” said Bret A. Moore, a former Army psychologist and co-author of “Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life After Deployment.” “One sign that you’re there is that you start hoping your appointments cancel.”(2) In the academic literature, compassion fatigue is a synonym for vicarious trauma and is experienced by those in helping/caregiver positions. Kirsti A. Dyer MD, defines it as:
"The public has a similar reaction to mass joblessness and starving countries alike: the problems sap the imagination in part simply because they are daunting and have not responded well to previous efforts. We have already pumped billions into each, with little visible effect. If only they would cancel their next emergency. " (read the whole article here.)
"A state experienced by those helping people in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it is traumatizing for the helper; a deep physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion accompanied by acute emotional pain."Here is a handout, in PDF format, that is used by Haven for Hope. It includes an assessment quiz, definitions, a list of symptoms and recommendations for action.