Compassion fatigue is common in helping professions, but the condition can also affect people who are caring for a loved one with a substance abuse problem. The condition is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and a significant decrease in the ability to empathize.
It may come as no surprise that people with the most empathy are most at risk for emotional fatigue. A mother who loves her son more than life can easily suffer from compassion fatigue as he battles a heroin addiction. A husband who is fighting to get his wife off prescription painkillers may consume himself in sorrow.
Compassion fatigue is not the same as burnout, and it’s actually more treatable. However, the symptoms can come on suddenly. Knowing how to prevent emotional fatigue can allow you to be a more effective influence. Let’s discuss some of the ways that you can prevent compassion fatigue.
If you are currently caring for someone with an addiction, you may be at risk for compassion fatigue. Learn the signs and symptoms of the condition so that you can seek treatment if they do arise. Common symptoms include:
Reduced feelings of empathy
Feelings of anxiety, irritability or anger
Poor work-life balance
Problems in relationships
Resentment toward the addict
You can’t help your loved one with their recovery if you’re not taking care of yourself. Practicing good self-care puts you at a lower risk for stress and compassion fatigue, so don’t exhaust everything into the needs of someone else. A good regimen includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, routine sleep, a balance of work-life and tending to your emotional needs.
Set Emotional Boundaries
It’s highly important that you set emotional boundaries to protect yourself. You can remain sympathetic and supportive without becoming over involved. You are a separate person with separate needs, and you can’t take on your loved one’s hurt and pain. If you do, you will find yourself overwhelmed and unable to help them through their addiction.
Maintain a Work-Life Balance
When all of your time goes to one thing, it’s easy to get burnt out. Have a good balance in your life that includes healthy friendships, your favorite activities and relaxation techniques. This will reduce stress and improve overall satisfaction in life. Having healthy relationships and outlets for stress also provides relief from the stress of living or dealing with an addict.
Seek Personal Counseling
Consider talking to a therapist if you feel you are at risk or are struggling with compassion fatigue. Family members of addicts benefit from therapy. Not only is it nice to speak with someone about your feelings, but also you can implement strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety. Support groups in the form of Al-Anon or Nar-Anon are also helpful.
The River Source is a holistic treatment center that treats substance abuse in patients over 18. We have a strong family component that allows family members to be involved in their loved one’s recoveries. To learn more about our family-centered treatment programs, call us today.