Compassion Fatigue

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion Fatigue can be defined as the behaviors and emotions that naturally arise from empathizing with an individual going through a significant traumatic event. These behaviors and emotions result from the stress of wanting to help the suffering person.

Consistent with any type of exhaustion or fatigue, compassion fatigue will reduce one’s ability or desire to help others.

It can be described as “the cost of caring”.

What does compassion fatigue mean for parents?

Parents can be in a position where they are in direct contact with those who are suffering from mental illness: their children. Parents are required to protect their children from harm, financially support their children, give their children basic life necessities, and provide a safe environment for their children to develop and mature. Additionally, parents face their own mental setbacks and life challenges. This mountain of responsibility can cause an extreme amount of stress that parents might not feel equipped to handle. Even though parents are giving it their all, these stressors can make them feel like their empathy tank is running low. This increases their risk for experiencing compassion fatigue.

Empathy is a Core Competency of parents, but Compassion Fatigue can lead to parents feeling emotionally exhausted and detached from their child’s feelings. Nina Kaiser, Ph.D., a child psychologist in San Francisco, states that “parents with compassion fatigue are often less patient with stressors that would usually sail past them”. Comforting your child or taming a tantrum can feel like running a never-ending marathon.

Have you ever said to yourself?

I want to empathize with my child. 

I am not equipped to handle the challenges my child is facing.

I want to be “present” and attentive when having serious conversations with my children.

I want to help my family improve its mental health. 

If yes, you are likely to experience compassion fatigue. 


  • Signs of physical anxiety such as breathing difficulties, muscle tension, and digestive problems
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • A decreased ability to empathize
  • Irritability and impatience
  • Decreased productivity and job satisfaction
  • A reduced ability to feel pleasure
  • Trouble sleeping
  • An urge to isolate yourself from others
  • Self-doubt and reduced self-esteem

To restore balance, one must first acknowledge their OWN needs

Compassion fatigue could inflict feelings of shame in some parents, making some feel bad for not wanting to help their child or for feeling worn out. In this case, it is important to acknowledge that compassion fatigue is caused by an exposure to suffering, not a “lack of love”.

Self-awareness as a method of self-care might help to alleviate the impact of compassion fatigue and these feelings of shame. Parents who took a 15-week course that emphasized stress reduction techniques and the use of mindfulness in clinical practice had significant improvements in therapeutic relationships and counseling skills. Additionally, studies have shown that Compassion Fatigue was lower in those who self-reported their physical and mental health as “excellent”.

It is time for parents to help their child by taking time to focus on themselves. This requires the frequent use of coping resources including social support, self-esteem, and health-promotion strategies.

Parents NEED balance. Parents need to rest and nourish their mind-body-spirit.

Works Cited

  • How to deal with Compassion Fatigue: 3 mindset shifts to help you feel better – the wellness society: Self-help, therapy and coaching tools. The Wellness Society | Self-Help, Therapy and Coaching Tools. (2021, July 6). Retrieved September 18, 2022, from
  • Figley, C. R. (1995). Compassion fatigue: Toward a new understanding of the costs of caring. In B. H. Stamm (Ed.), Secondary traumatic stress: Self-care issues for clinicians, researchers, and educators (pp. 3–28). The Sidran Press.
  • Juli Fraga, P. D. (2021, September 1). Are you suffering from parental compassion fatigue? you’re not alone but here’s what to do. Parents. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from
  • Mangoulia, P., Koukia, E., Alevizopoulos, G., Fildissis, G., & Katostaras, T. (2015). Prevalence of secondary traumatic stress among psychiatric nurses in Greece. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 29(5), 333–338.
  • Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(1), 139–154.
  • Showalter, S. E. (2010). Compassion fatigue: What is it? why does it matter? recognizing the symptoms, acknowledging the impact, developing the tools to prevent compassion fatigue, and strengthen the professional already suffering from the effects. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine®, 27(4), 239–242.
  • Steinberg, A. (1997). Understanding the secondary traumatic stress of children. Burnout in Families, 29–46.
  • Your duties and rights as a parent. Family & Community Services. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2022, from
  • Yu, X., Sun, C., Sun, B., Yuan, X., Ding, F., & Zhang, M. (2022). The cost of caring: Compassion Fatigue is a special form of teacher burnout. Sustainability, 14(10), 6071.