Coach Forward

Coach Forward

Compassion Fatigue or Caregiver Burnout: Which One Is More Severe and Why?

Compassion is one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon mankind. The will to go beyond yourself and care for someone else exceeds all the other qualities of humans. It is not just about taking care of others but also about being there for them and motivating them to become a better version of themselves.

Similarly, being compassionate towards someone you are not familiar with, time and again, requires a lot of strength and courage. Caregivers and workers involved in professions that require empathy, helpfulness, and understanding are the best examples.

Now, what happens when you feel drained yourself and unable to comprehend someone else’s emotions? In this situation, how can you help yourself?

The first step is to acknowledge that you might be going through something you are unaware of.

Compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout are two of the major reasons why you might be feeling helpless and drained. This article will help you realize which one you are going through, its symptoms, its treatment and if it is severe or not.

What is Compassion Fatigue?

According to the scientific definition, compassion fatigue is a condition in which the person feels physically and emotionally exhausted. It is followed by a lack of empathy and compassion for anyone or anything. It is a sudden change.

It is very common in people like nurses, doctors, paramedics, police officers, animal welfare workers, therapists, and also in people involved in constant caregiving.

Now, if we were to say it in simpler words, ask yourself these questions: Are you feeling numb? Are you feeling indifferent to people you used to care about? Are you feeling irritated towards everyone and are you not invested in your work as you were before?

If you find the little voice in your mind, saying ‘yes’ to all the above questions without any hesitation, you need to acknowledge that you might be going through a condition of compassion fatigue or compassion burnout.

For a more insightful approach, given below is a list of all the symptoms of this condition. Read, analyze, and come to a proper conclusion and do not let anything affect your kind and generous personality.

Compassion Fatigue Symptoms and its Treatment

The word ‘symptoms’ may make you feel scared but remember that in the end, we all are humans and capable of feeling a plethora of emotions.

Let’s take a quick look at the signs that point towards compassion burnout: 

  • Feeling of sadness, constant anxiety, or in some cases, numbness
  • Constant self-blaming and overthinking for the trauma of other people
  • Hypersensitive, insensitive or indifferent towards the suffering of the people you’re dealing with
  • Self-isolating and detaching yourself from your personal as well as professional life
  • Reduced feeling of empathy and helpfulness with an increased feeling of helplessness and easy irritability.
  • Physical symptoms may involve nausea, headache, nightmares, and insomnia.

Once you’re convinced that this might be the root cause of feeling all the above emotions, the best way to treat this is by taking baby steps towards:

  • Learning more about this condition
  • Opening up to your loved ones or mental health professionals
  • Getting regular sleep
  • Taking some time off from work
  • Indulging in hobbies other than work-related
  • Joining support groups and communities
  • Exercising or meditating habits
  • Investing time in yourself

Do not let all this make you feel afraid or overwhelmed. Healing is part of the process towards betterment.

What is Caregiver Burnout?

The Caregiver burnout is a type of condition where the person feels physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.

If you’re a caretaker–a professional one, or an informal one–and you are feeling low, unappreciated, unempathetic, or inefficient in work, you might need to take some time off from others and focus more on yourself.

Statistics say that around 20-40% of the caregivers suffer from critical depression. This makes it necessary for caregivers, like you, to make sure you do not reduce the quality of your life and prevent depression.

Caregiver burnout is a slow process and may happen over time rather than happening suddenly like compassion fatigue.  So, if you’re suddenly feeling low or tired due to your caretaking responsibilities, caregiver burnout is a major contributor to your condition.

Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout and Its Treatment

Again, there’s no need to worry if you’re feeling this way.  When you give your time to others, you might forget to look after yourself. However, this should not stop you from going ahead and changing the notions and myths about caregivers.

After all, you deserve all the kindness in the world and most importantly, self-love and self-awareness.

Given below is a list of all the emotions you might be feeling lately:

  • Feelings of anxiety and sensitivity
  • Self-isolation and avoiding your patients or loved ones
  • Loss of appetite
  • No interest in activities you used to love
  • Increased consumption of alcohol or medication
  • Feelings of self-harm and insecurity
  • Physical symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and body aches.
  • Decreased work efficiency and reduced empathy
  • Irritation while dealing with patients
  • Reduced mental stability and patience

The symptoms may resemble compassion fatigue symptoms. However, the process of healing from caregiver burnout is a long but not an impossible one. Let’s take a look at all the solutions that will lead you to the road of life satisfaction and joy.

  • Ask your friends or consult someone to take up on some of your caregiving tasks. Remember, it is okay to ask for help.
  • Do not numb your emotions. Find someone like a trustable friend or person you can confide in.
  • Let it out by writing it down or talking to a therapist.
  • Give yourself a break from all the duties.
  • Have a life outside caretaking. Go out for dates with your friends or your beloved one and engage in social activities.
  • Do not overwork to an extent that you’re giving up on your diet and sleep.
  • Engage in conversations with other caregivers and have a heart-to-heart conversation with them.

 These treatments are known to be effective and can definitely help you to find yourself once again amidst all the duties and responsibilities.

Which One Is Severe – Compassion Fatigue or Caregiver Burnout?

By now, you must be clear about which condition you’re suffering from. The major difference between these two is that while compassion fatigue or compassion burnout is a sudden condition, caregiver burnout happens over time and is the result of too many caregiving tasks and responsibilities.

Caregiver burnout needs more attention and is a long-term process, whereas compassion fatigue can get treated easily and has a faster recovery time. So, if you’re suffering from the former one, you may need to pay special attention.

You must also know that all conditions can turn into fatal ones if you do not get proper treatment. Anxiety can turn into depression, respiratory problems can turn into major respiratory diseases, and similarly, both of these medical conditions can give rise to severe mental, physical, and emotional distress, if you do not take care of yourself.

In the end, you must remember that too much giving can leave you totally empty and exhausted. We tend to forget that the first person we should look after is our own selves.  After all, even God helps those who try to help themselves.

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