Compassion Fatigue in Animal WelfareJan 02, 2021
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion fatigue has been described by traumatologist Charles Figley (1982) as the “cost of caring” for others in emotional pain. Long-term exposure to abuse and neglect, trauma, euthanasia, grief-stricken clients, etc., not only impacts our work productivity and satisfaction, but it can also affect us mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. If left unchecked, that is, if we don’t learn to manage the stress associated with helping others, our compassion satisfaction can slowly fade, leaving us feeling angry, depressed, anxious, physically exhausted, and emotionally drained.
It’s important to remember that compassion fatigue is not a physical illness or mental disorder. It’s not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It happens to the best of us!
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Compassion Fatigue
Let’s take a moment to look at some of the symptoms and warning signs of compassion fatigue. Could you be at risk?
- Depression or feeling sad
- Insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
- Frequent nightmares or flashbacks
- Fatigue or low energy
- Anger or irritability
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling of isolation
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Loss of interest in things
- Lack of motivation
- Relationship conflicts (personal and/or professional)
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of emptiness
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling numb or apathetic
- Work problems (often late, lots of sick days, etc.)
- Poor concentration
- Bodily complaints such as headaches or sore muscles
- Intrusive thoughts
- Feeling hopeless
- Unhelpful coping skills, such as substance abuse
- Negative worldview or outlook on life
- Suicidal thoughts
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you may be struggling with compassion fatigue. If so, you're in the right place! Whether you just want to check out our free resources or gain additional support by joining The Compassion Fatigue Couch Membership Community, my hope is that you find some validation and healing here.
Who is The Compassion Fatigue Couch for? It's for shelter workers, volunteers, animal control officers, veterinary staff, rescue workers, cruelty investigators, wildlife rehabilitators, animal attorneys, ethical vegetarians and vegans, animal rights activists, pet loss grief counselors, and anyone else who loves, cares for, or works with animals.
I have personally worked in the animal welfare trenches, and it is my hope that this site will help you learn to recognize the symptoms and warning signs of compassion fatigue so that you can take steps to prevent, manage, or overcome it. I hope that it can bring together animal advocates from all over the world to promote compassion, validation, understanding, and above all, a sense of community and support.
Join the Compassion Fatigue Couch for mental health support, education, and resources!