Being an empath certainly has its benefits, but if you’re not careful with how you use your energy, you might suffer from compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is basically a feeling of exhaustion that results from over-empathizing. The tragic outcome of such a burnout is something every empath fears- a lack of empathy.
Compassion fatigue is a type of stress that involves physical and emotional depletion as a result of caring excessively for someone despite being in significant emotional or physical distress.
People experiencing compassion fatigue usually become indifferent and begins to display a lack of empathy towards the person they’re caring for.
Other symptoms also include headaches, digestive problems, feeling overwhelmed and irritability.
It’s normal to feel emotionally exhausted and overburdened when you take on a “helping role.” And in most cases, the simplest way to alleviate this is by taking a step back and making sure that before others, you’re taking care of yourself first.
Trying to help a friend going through a tough situation impacts you not only because you genuinely care about your friend and want to help lessen their struggle, but also because not knowing how to help to take away their pain can make you feel overwhelmed.
That being said, if you continue to feel anxious, exhausted and unusually detached from the people around you, who you normally love being with, then you may be experiencing a compassion fatigue.
According to a research from Malardalen University States, “Feeling the emotions of others in your own distress may lead to negative consequences. Feeling others’ negative emotions leads to activation in brain regions associated with experiencing pain. Higher levels of emotional empathy may be associated with higher risk for burnout.”
In case you’re wondering if you may be suffering from compassion fatigue, here are 5 warning signs:
1. CURSE OF APATHY: You Literally Can’t Anymore
It can be hard and tiring to listen to a friend talk about some problem they’re facing. Unlike yourself, you feel powerless to help them. When you find yourself feeling apathetic towards a person you know, who is in an unhealthy relationship or is going through a difficult time, then this may be the first sign of fatigue.
Stepping away from the situation (at least for a little while) and asking for help from a trusted friend or counselor may be the best thing for you at this time.
Remember, your friend is likely to pick up on your frustration, which serves good to no one and may just compound any feelings of isolation they are experiencing.
2. ANGER AND RAGE: You’re Angry at the Person Experiencing Abuse
This one can be frustrating and tough because chances are you don’t want to be angry at the person experiencing abuse. Remember, it is NOT their fault, they are simply the victims coming to you for support. But still if you’re feeling any sort of animosity towards your friend, this can cause a lot of internal conflicts.
Sometimes, it’s easier to get angry at your friend for bearing the abuse instead of the root of the problem; their partner who is doing unhealthy or abusive things to them. Just keep in mind that they are going through a lot with their relationship.
It’s ok to set personal boundaries and distance yourself from negativity. Still, if your anger persists, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Speak with a counselor to help you work through your feelings and emotions.
3. ISOLATION: You’ve started to avoid people
If you find that you are not just avoiding the person in an unhealthy relationship or someone with negative energy, but also everyone else in your life, then you may be experiencing compassion fatigue. That doesn’t include wanting to relax and watch Netflix alone on a Saturday night.
What makes compassion fatigue different from the prior is the feeling of being overwhelmed to the point where you have a hard time connecting with others even if they bring positivity and truly care for you and lacking the desire to do anything beyond binge watching Netflix.
4. NEGATIVITY: You’re becoming a Pessimist
It’s hard when you try to help a person and feel like nothing you do is making the situation better. Compassion fatigue amplifies this feeling, making it difficult to be optimistic about anything. If you’re a person who is normally optimistic about life, yet find yourself having a negative comeback for everything and always being cynical, it can be something serious.
A significant negative change in your normal behavior can be a warning of compassion fatigue.
5. FATIGUE: You’re exhausted and tired All. The. Time.
Personally, I don’t remember a single time in my life when I wasn’t tired. But when experiencing compassion fatigue, the exhaustion can be overwhelming to a point where you isolate yourself, it’s why you have stopped working out, and doing things you normally enjoyed like running errands.
You’d rather just stay in bed in sweat pants instead of going out or cleaning your mess. Sometimes you don’t even feel like eating and end up losing a lot of weight.
However some people tend to over eat and gain weight when alone and tired.
Often time’s compassion fatigue is merely a result of forgetting to check-in with yourself, knowing how you’re feeling and not being open or honest about it.
For an empath, sometimes it just feels easier to put other people’s needs before your own. However, we can’t actually be there for others when they need us if we aren’t there for ourselves first.