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Signs and Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue

In this episode, you'll learn the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral signs of compassion fatigue. So compassion fatigue is interesting because given what we know I learned in the last lesson, one would think that it would be mostly emotional signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue.

I mean how would it cause physical troubles? How could it cause thinking difficulties and why would your behavior change? So today we'll learn all of that. I first want to start off with the physical symptoms, because these are things that people often don't think about and get missed.

And sometimes people may think that they have other physical conditions, which may actually be true. They may be from compassion fatigue or not, but it's still important to know the symptoms. So physical symptoms of compassion fatigue. The number one that people experience is chronic fatigue. You don't have a lot of energy.

You're dragging. You're always tired and sleepy. Isn't good either. So a person may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. A person might experience high blood pressure or higher pulse, even heart palpitations. Along with that, a person might feel shortness of breath, upset stomach or other gastrointestinal complaints like diarrhea, constipation, nausea, things like that.

People might have headaches or dizziness. One thing that I didn't mention with the fatigue is that this could be actual physical fatigue, or it could be mental fatigue that a person just feels mentally drained and exhausted and sluggish. A person might have a lot of muscle tension. And along with that could be some pain or even chronic pain in your muscles because of that extended muscle tension, a person's appetite might change.

So you might find yourself eating a lot less or having to force yourself to eat because you forget. Or on the other hand, you might find that you're eating a lot more. A lot of times junk food, fried food, sugary, starchy types of food. You might get sick more often. I know when I was initially going through compassion, fatigue, and honestly up until the quarantine for COVID, I was sick literally every other week with what I called some sort of itis, whether it was bronchitis, sinusitis, or some sort of cold. You might also find yourself turning more to alcohol or to drugs. Really anything to numb the compassion fatigue, the emotional symptoms that a person might experience.

So what are those emotional symptoms? The initial ones a person might think of are feeling sad or depressed. You might feel hopeless or like life is meaningless. Sometimes people have some sort of existential crisis or despair. Like what, what is the point? There's no meaning in anything that I do. Some people feel worthless. A lot of times people feel tense and irritable, so everyone bothers them. Every little thing just gets on their nerves. Sometimes you don't enjoy your job and that job could be caregiving for your child or even.

Your other job, you're a full-time or part-time job or your job outside the home because with compassion fatigue, yes. This is something that starts in the home with caring for your child with special needs. If that's how a person gets compassion fatigue, but this can extend to other areas of your life.

It can extend to relationships such as friendships or romantic relationships or family members, even to hobbies and your job so that you don't enjoy your job anymore. Even if that's not what caused the compassion fatigue, it is normal and possible to experience a person might feel more pessimistic either about their child's condition or being able to raise their child or even about your life at work.

And your coworkers and your relationships with them. A lot of times people tend to stop socializing with coworkers and friends, even with family and partners, you might not be as productive, whether that's at work with your actual performance or with your child and taking them to therapies, doing home exercises and other types of medical care.

Another thing a person might notice is increased emotional intensity. So instead of just getting sad, you get depressed instead of just getting worried, you get anxious instead of just getting mildly irritable or tense, you get angry, you get furious. So everything just felt much bigger. You might have a change in your view of yourself, of the world, of your religion or even spirituality.

I know that I've experienced a crisis of faith because of the compassion fatigue that I went through, a person's beliefs might change, and they might not really feel like they're getting their needs met such as their safety, especially if their child is aggressive, especially for frequently, they might not trust other people.

They might not feel comfortable with intimacy anymore. And they might feel like they've lost control or have no control over any aspect of their life. A person might experience a loss of self worth or even the ability to modulate a person's emotions. Some other emotional symptoms include anger toward their children or to their spouses feeling burdened by their children or their family situation, blaming others for their suffering and loss of pleasure.

And that can be in life, in your job, in relationships, in parenting and in hobbies. You might feel reduced empathy as we talked about in the last lesson, or you might even have limited tolerance for stress such as just every little thing is overwhelming. Lastly, with emotions, you might experience nightmares at night.

As far as cognitive symptoms, some signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue include difficulty paying attention, difficulty remembering things, feeling overwhelmed and a person might also have difficulty making decisions.

As far as behavioral changes, a person might, as we talked about a little bit earlier, start to isolate themselves and withdraw from.

For everyone else engaging in poor self-care, and this can be anything from, well, I'm not getting a massage anymore too. I'm not showering anymore. It can be anything from little to big and anything in between. You might have chronic lateness, whether it's for work or a child's appointment. And there could be a lot of relationship conflict, whether that's family, friends, children, or romantic relationships.

So in conclusion, compassion fatigue can really extend to any and every area of life and can take the form of actual physical sensations to emotional symptoms to thinking changes and even changes in how you act and react to things. In the next lesson we will talk about who gets compassion fatigue, who is at risk, and why thank you for listening to this course on Listenable.

I hope you enjoyed it.

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Written by

Jessica Temple