When Is Empathy Damaging?

Mental health is everybody’s business without it the definition of health becomes meaningless. As healthcare professionals we are all made and built for taking care of our patients but in this world of empowerment and awareness of self-care, we need to take care of ourselves first before we can render patient care, the quality of care they deserve. I have learned much when I attended a recent leadership academy about compassion fatigue and it really struck me the most. To tell you what I have learned –

Compassion fatigue is also known as secondary traumatic stress disorder and is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It stems out from absorbing the suffering of others. In some literature, compassion fatigue or CF is viewed as a type of burnout. Based on the American Institute of Stress it may also be called “vicarious traumatization” or secondary traumatization (Figley, 1995). The emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events. It differs from burn-out, but can co-exist. Compassion Fatigue can occur due to exposure on one case or can be due to a “cumulative” level of trauma too.

Based on the diagram above it is a cumulative process that may lead to burnout marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with increased workload and institutional stress, NOT trauma-related.

I guess I’ll stop here and hear your thoughts out on how we can address this challenge in the healthcare profession.

T1- When is empathy considered too much or damaging?
T2- What are the challenges in dealing with compassion fatigue based on your own experience?
T3- How can social media be used as a tool to help address issues related to burnout? Cite examples.

Join us at #HealthXPH on 3/18 at 9pm MLA/ 9am EST and let’s together gear towards mental healthcare!