We can listen, encourage and be supportive but it’s important that we try and maintain a professional distance from the problems of our students or patients. Of course we all know that this is hard to do, sometimes it’s impossible, not to get involved on a personal level but in order to be able to maintain the proper perspective we must try. Were human and so were not always able to maintain that distance and if were not careful we may find ourselves suffering from compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress disorder. One of the characters of this condition is a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among trauma victims and individuals that work directly with trauma victims.
Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including a feeling of hopelessness, a decrease in experiencing pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and an overwhelming negative attitude. These symptoms can have life changing effects on an individual, both professionally and personally. Individuals can experience a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt. With understanding this disorder comes the ability to recognize the symptoms of compassion fatigue and the proper ways of dealing with the accompanying stresser's. We normally tend to try and hid our feelings but in all actuality it’s good to acknowledge our feelings, to discuss them and find good positive releases for them. With understanding this disorder comes the realization that it may be difficult to maintain balance in our life.
Compassion fatigue treatment is a new form of therapy and is designed to help those who become emotionally and physically exhausted in the role of caregiver. When someone develops stress and anxiety as a result of caring for others, he or she is likely to seek escape so many people turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating. When someone enters into compassion fatigue treatment with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the counselor through interviews will find out what that person’s triggers are and why they turn to substance abuse to cope with their problems. They will develop strategies for coping with compassion fatigue without the assistance of drugs or alcohol and educate the patient on productive ways to cope with the stress of caring for others. Through the process that person will develop new life skills designed to get them off of drugs and alcohol and turn their negative outlook positive.