Is it Burnout? Maybe. Maybe not.

Who doesn’t say they have a lot of stress in their life? It pervades our modern lifestyles to the point it can feel ever present. It can snowball into disorders that turn our world upside down. The underlying cause of stress can lead to compassion fatigue or burnout. Symptoms may overlap but each has its own symptoms and recovery. 

Burnout is well-known, especially to people who bear significant responsibilities but little control in their jobs. This year the World Health Organization recognized burnout as a medical diagnosis, confirming it is not only real but can be very damaging. WHO describes burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

The operative word in WHO’s explanation is “workplace.” In her Psychology Today article on burnout, Paula Davis-Laack agrees. “Burnout is a workplace issue – a chronic process of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy caused by a disconnect or an imbalance between key job demands, job resources, and your ability to recover both at work and outside of work.”

What’s the Difference?

It can be easy to think compassion fatigue is another term for burnout, but in reality the two conditions arise from very different circumstances. Where burnout reflects everyday work stresses, prolonged exposure to other people’s trauma can lead to compassion fatigue. This syndrome is also called vicarious or secondary trauma for its deep effect on those around someone directly traumatized.

Consider it the difference between feeling behind on your work day in, day out  like the drip, drip of a faucet. (burnout) while compassion fatigue may plague

emergency room personnel who treat the injuries of a person horribly injured in a car accident or dying from a gunshot wound. To take this a step further, the physician may experience compassion fatigue and burnout after repeated exposure to traumas.

Why This Blog Matters

This blog provides a forum for people at risk or experiencing one or both of these conditions. Your contributions will help others understand the causes and solutions of their own distress.

Stop by often to share a story, insight or experience of your own. Encourage others to join our community where they can come for a moment of relief, a bit of support or simply a reminder that we can prevent burnout and compassion fatigue, and recover from them if they interrupt our work and well-being.






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