Compassion Fatigue Is More Common Than We Realize
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the year 2020 was unprecedented, not only for the U.S., but for the entire world as well. So many things have happened, but none were more difficult to respond to than the pandemic. And we’re still dealing with it. The coronavirus has affected every industry in the world and caused the loss of jobs, resources, and most tragically, lives.
My wife and I are healthcare professionals. Based on my observations, interactions with others, and counseling work, a growing number of healthcare workers are suffering from compassion fatigue. Most people who work in a profession that helps others can experience this phenomenon when constantly working with victims of disasters, illness, or trauma.
About a month before my pituitary tumor was discovered, I was invited to attend a mentoring retreat for professionals who investigate the abuse and neglect of children. At the time, I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, and I wasn’t aware of the link between its symptoms, which for me included weight gain, purplish marks on my abdomen, and moon face. I also didn’t know much about compassion fatigue.
The retreat didn’t go as expected, because the main speaker took a realistic approach to what people in the field of helping others must constantly deal with — not only at work, but also at home. The experience was eye-opening for many and forced them to reevaluate things in their lives.
I learned the symptoms of compassion fatigue, some of which I’ve experienced while working in social services:
- Working so hard that you become stressed
- Becoming easily angered or irritated
- Distancing yourself from family, friends, and colleagues
- Having difficulties sleeping due to your job
- Becoming preoccupied with a client and their family
- Feeling as if you are trapped by your job
- Losing hope and seeing your job as worthless
- Losing energy and excitement at your job
- Failing to separate personal and professional life
How I worked through it
After it was brought to my attention that I was starting to exhibit some of the symptoms of compassion fatigue, I knew I had to make some changes.
The first thing I did was to examine whether I still enjoyed what I was doing. Today, now that I’ve had time to reflect on the situation, my answer would be no. I was dealing with a tremendous amount of stress each day, most of it centered around whether or not I’d made the right decisions about the cases I was working on.
The next area I examined was how it affected my health. My sleep wasn’t good, and I’d constantly wake up throughout the night. My eating habits were horrible, and my self-care was nonexistent. When I look at those things in their entirety, I realize they played a major role in the health issues I already was dealing with at the time, which I later learned were caused by a pituitary tumor.
After careful consideration, I changed careers for a little while to get myself back into a better mental and physical place. This would help me manage things a little better.
Compassion fatigue is real. If you notice these symptoms, or someone else points them out to you, please seek help. I believe that too often, what people go through in the healthcare industry, both professionally and personally, goes unnoticed.
Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.