Empathy attrition syndrome: how to take care of yourself?

Empathy attrition syndrome: how to take care of yourself?

Those who care for other people may be affected by empathy burnout syndrome. If this is your case, learn to take care of yourself.

Empathy is a desirable quality in all people, especially psychologists, doctors and caregivers, however, it can be dangerous if we do not know how to handle certain situations.

Through empathy, as we well know, We can put ourselves in the place of the other person to better understand their feelings and problems.

However, like all things, we must learn to manage our emotions and feelings so as not to endanger our physical or mental health.

In many professions there are already times when stress can be present and become a harmful element, as research indicates.

In fact, stress can be accentuated in such a way that it can even compromise good performance and everyday life.

This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has valued work as positive, and health-promoting, but, at the same time, if there are unfavorable conditions you continue then the mental resources are depleted.

This is more common in those professions in which you must maintain direct and direct contact with those who suffer, eventually suffering from mental and emotional exhaustion.

What is empathy wear syndrome?

The signs in this chart can begin to develop when a person has heard or witnessed traumatic events.

To be cataloged as such, it must be added the feeling of empathy on the part of the professional and the great desire to relieve pain to the people involved.

Some authors define this syndrome as:

"The stress of helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person."

Who proposed this term in the first instance was the psychologist Charles Figley, warning about the importance of knowing about it so that professionals are not affected.

Other terms with which this syndrome is known are that of they would traumatize vicaria, wear by empathy or secondary traumatic stress.

How to know if this syndrome is suffering?

Some of the symptoms that could be experienced by professionals or caregivers who are in constant interaction with people who have experienced traumatic events are the following:

  1. Reexperimentation: emergence of traumatic experiences related to the patient, rumination and flashbacks of the event.
  2. Avoidance: irritability, frustration, saturation, neglect of interpersonal relationships, avoid visiting sites linked to the traumatic event.
  3. Hyperactivation (or hyperarousal): guilt, shame, anxiety or fatigue, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, panic.

The symptoms occur because emotions can be “infected” and therapists, being part of the family system, are also at risk if traumatized, as Figley said.

The good news is that, despite having a difficult onset, if it can be identified, this syndrome can improve, even faster than the burnout, as indicated by the studies.

How to take care of yourself

Although this syndrome may occur suddenly, it can also do so progressively.

Thus, Self-care guidelines are always recommended of the participants, psychologists, caregivers, doctors and other people who suffer from it.

Some suggestions are as follows:

  • Know what are the situations that trigger stress, to be able to detect them and deal with them correctly.
  • Apply techniques of mindfulness or others, such as yoga or meditation.
  • Spend time for leisure activities, since they allow you to disconnect completely from work.
  • Ask for support if symptoms are observed.
  • Avoid overload in the work environment.
  • Accept the limitations and avoid wanting to become "El Salvador" of someone else.
  • Once you have left the scene with the affected person, resume daily activities at home and understand that the therapist's life remains the same.
  • Have contact with nature.

A fundamental aspect is to recognize that those who provide support also need to rest from work and seek professional help if required.

It is necessary to recognize that This picture can affect any health professional, due to high exposure with traumatized patients.

Also, caring for, assisting or caring for people who suffer requires a greater demand and This puts the professional in a situation of vulnerability.

Training on this syndrome is relevant, since, in some cases, it can be triggered in depression, confusion and difficulty in making decisions, which would negatively affect the sufferer.

Finally, it must be accepted that, in life, no person can become the "savior" of another, at the cost of risking your own well-being.


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