What Is Empathy Fatigue And How To Recover?

Empathy is the act or process of putting yourself in another person’s shoes and trying to look at things from their perspective. Practicing empathy leads to a greater connection among people and helps you better care for your loved ones and others. But is there such a thing as empathizing too much?
When you repeatedly or excessively become identified and involved in another person, animal, or character’s suffering, you suffer from secondary traumatic stress. It is commonly known as compassion or empathy fatigue.

According to an article by Can.V.J., published in the National Library of Medicine, the term compassion fatigue, also used to describe empathy fatigue, is a misnomer(misnaming). That is, compassion does not cause fatigue or secondary traumatic stress, while empathy can. Following is a breakdown of empathy fatigue, its causes, symptoms, and implications.

Empathy Fatigue: A Brief Overview

Doctors, nurses, therapists, and other workers dealing with human suffering are more vulnerable to empathy fatigue. However, situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged military tension, etc., expose ordinary people to the same, leading to increased empathy fatigue.

The emotional signs of empathy fatigue include:
-social isolation,
-feelings of numbness and disconnection,
-anger, sadness, or low mood,
-lack of energy to empathize or care,
-tension, stress, or agitation,
-blaming oneself,
-being unable to respond appropriately, etc.

Other effects of this condition include exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, irregular sleep or appetite, headaches, nausea, conflicting relationships, and work avoidance.

Now that we’ve learned about the different effects of empathy on mental health, let’s look at what you can do to regain balance and happiness.

How To Recover From Empathy Fatigue?

Firstly, you need to take appropriate measures for self-care. Not being compassionate toward yourself eventually makes you unable to be the same toward others. Ways to take care of yourself include traveling(solo or group), spending time in nature, doing something creative, exercising, and meditating.

Read more: 45 simple examples of self-care activities

Secondly, observe how you spend your time. If most of your time goes into your work, which requires you to encounter human suffering, take longer breaks or reduce your work hours. Social media and television, among other activities, might also remind you of people’s painful experiences. It is best to engage in healthy, engaging activities that rejuvenate you.

Finally, spend time with your loved ones and friends. Worries and anxieties might seem to feed away with the people precious to you.

Read more: Why friends are essential for mental health


Empathy fatigue is a condition many healthcare professionals, journalists, and therapists deal with. It causes secondary traumatic stress in the people who empathize or try to help others suffering. However, recovering from this issue is possible through timely self-care, balancing exposure with healthy, relaxing, and rejuvenating activities, and spending time with your loved ones. Meditation is one of the habits that, practiced regularly, can make maintaining your mental well-being easier. On that note, here is a blog post about guided meditation for stress and anxiety to help you relax.

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