Depressed, Angry, Hopeless? You may be suffering from Compassion Fatigue.

The word ‘compassion’ has a Latin origin and literally means ‘suffering with’.  Involving sharing the discomfort, pain and distress of other people and animals, compassion can really hurt.

Compassion fatigue is an emotional and spiritual fatigue or exhaustion that takes over a person and causes a decline in his or her ability to experience joy or to feel and care for others. Compassion fatigue can be experienced by caretakers of people as well as animals. Facing a number of crisis & victories, day after day, you can experience a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. Experiencing chronic suffering of animals, toxic circumstances, and the sometimes abusive acts of owners can leave you detached, numb, powerless and angry.

Whatever your role – animal rescue work, sheltering work, animal control work, political advocacy work, volunteer, employee, supervisor, administrator, board member, your compassion for animals can drain your emotionally.

Compassion Fatigue—The Cost of Caring
A video of how caregivers cope

Compassion Fatigue Symptoms

Compassion fatigue is a type of burnout. Whether you are a paid professional, a volunteer—or both—the symptoms are similar:

  • Free-floating anger or misplaced anger
  • Increased irritability
  • Substance abuse, including food, alcohol, drugs
  • Blaming “them” (whoever they are)
  • Chronic tardiness
  • Depression, hopelessness
  • Obsessive worry that you aren’t doing enough; irrationally high self-expectation
  • Diminished joy toward persons/activities that used to bring you happiness
  • Diminished sense of personal accomplishment
  • Low self-esteem
  • Workaholism
  • Diminished balance between empathy and objectivity
  • Hypertension
  • Exhaustion (physical and emotional)
  • Frequent headaches
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Insomnia, sleep disturbances
  • Frequent vague illnesses

Source: Health Leader

Compassion Fatigue Resources

Book: Compassion Fatigue in the Animal-Care Community
Article: “Dealing with Compassion Fatigue (animals)”
Article: Balancing Service and Self Care
Video: Compassion Fatigue: The Value of saying NO!
website: Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project