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Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue

Caregivers who are experiencing Compassion Fatigue will experience symptoms that include:

Intrusive Thoughts

  • Thoughts and images associated with client’s traumatic experiences
  • Obsessive and compulsive desire to help certain clients
  • Client/work issues encroaching upon personal time
  • Inability to ‘let go’ of work-related matters
  • Perception of survivors as fragile and needing the assistance of a caregiver (saviour)
  • Thoughts and feelings of inadequacy as a caregiver
  • Sense of entitlement or special-ness
  • Perception of the world in terms of victims and perpetrators
  • Personal activities interrupted by work-related issues

Avoidance Symptoms

  • Silencing Response (avoiding hearing/witnessing client’s traumatic material)
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities/cessation of self-care activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of hope/sense of dread working with certain clients
  • Loss of sense of competency/potency
  • Isolation
  • Secretive self-medication/addiction (alcohol, drugs, work, sex, food, spending, etc.)
  • Relational dysfunction

Arousal Symptoms

  • Increased anxiety
  • Impulsivity/reactivity
  • Increased perception of demand/threat (in both job and environment)
  • Increased frustration/anger
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in weight/appetite
  • Somatic symptoms

Source: Gift From Within: An International Nonprofit Organization for Survivors of Trauma and Victimization, “Compassion Fatigue: A Crucible of Transformation,” J. Eric Gentry available from

Compassion Satisfaction/Fatigue Self-Test for Helpers

Helping others puts you in direct contact with other people's lives. As you probably have experienced, your compassion for those you help has both positive and negative aspects. Taking this self-test will help you estimate your compassion status.


What are Possible Causes for Compassion Fatigue?