Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Compassion Fatigue

When our life involves caring for someone with a mood disorder we can become so caught up in helping that person that it’s easy to overlook our own well-being. We may feel that it just doesn’t seem appropriate to be thinking of ourselves when someone we care about very much is having a difficult time. We’ll get to us when we have time, we may decide, but right now our own needs will just have to wait.

Somewhere in the future those bottled up feelings and concerns are eventually going to surface. We may become so mentally fatigued and physically exhausted that we start isolating from others. When we are around other people they may remark that we appear preoccupied or even sad. We may deny this is the case, but we have to admit to ourselves that we are having trouble concentrating and we simply don’t feel very well. Our appearance may also seem less important. Then, unlike our usual calm and patient temperament, we begin blaming our loved one for our problems. We’ve even considered taking a drink or using a drug to help cope with the pressure, pressure that seems to be getting even worse.

A family member, companion or caregiver displaying these symptoms may themselves be suffering from a disorder: compassion fatigue. This is a normal condition that can result from the ongoing challenges of supporting a loved one in the throes of a brain illness. These are normal yet highly disruptive symptoms that will not go away on their own accord. Untreated, they are likely to only get worse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms such as these, it’s a good idea to see a therapist. Getting this negative condition under control will take hard work, but it can be treated. Talk to a therapist right away.

Just like you tell your loved one, he or she cannot get well by themselves. Maybe you can’t either.

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