5 Signs of Compassion Fatigue and How to Deal with It As an Empath

Published by
Lauren Edwards-Fowle, M.Sc., B.Sc.

An empath by their very nature is extremely sensitive and should always be conscious of the signs of compassion fatigue. Empaths tend to be so acutely aware of the feelings of other people, that at times they can acquire those very emotions themselves.

There are many beautiful aspects to being an empath, and having the gift of being able to relate to and understand the feelings and natures of people. However, it can be emotionally and spiritually draining to be constantly bombarded with these heightened experiences.

What is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is a phenomenon that specifically impacts empaths. These are individuals with a highly caring nature, who often provide nurture within their line of work. Empaths often work as nurses, veterinarians or in philanthropic endeavours.

This condition is serious, and anybody with a strong empathetic nature should be on the look-out for signs of compassion fatigue. The reason that compassion fatigue arises is due to a sense of being overwhelmed by the influx of emotion, and the burden of carrying the distress of other people.

How do you know if you are experiencing compassion fatigue?

One of the key signs of compassion fatigue is that an empath will become desensitized to emotion. They may lose their ability to connect with people and find their emotions replaced with negative conditions including indifference, apathy and even anger. This is a downward spiral, and it is important to understand the signs of compassion fatigue to avoid falling victim to it.

The top 5 signs of compassion fatigue:

1. Feeling numb or indifferent

This is an unusual experience for an empath. When faced with a difficult situation, they automatically feel an engagement with a person or set of circumstances.

Feeling numb or not caring is an early sign of compassion fatigue. When sensory input becomes overwhelming, your response is to protect yourself by blocking acknowledgment of those sensors. If ignored, these feelings can descend from numbness to resentment and even anger.

2. Intentionally becoming isolated

When an empath is completely overloaded, they may decide to retreat and protect themselves from further sensory inputs. This can help to relax and restore your vitality, but isolating yourself can be a dangerous coping mechanism.

Isolation can become an easy solution, which may have a negative impact on other areas of your life. So if you spot this sign of compassion fatigue, try to find a way to be open and share your feelings with those closest to you. Seek help, rather than shutting yourself away from the world.

3. Unusual extreme emotional sensitivity to media

Having experienced emotional exhaustion, it is likely that if you have these signs of compassion fatigue, your emotions and nerves will become frayed, fragile, temperamental and prone to extreme reactions at the slightest provocation.

A quick to spot the signs of compassion fatigue is having a severe reaction that is completely out of character caused by a minor influence, such as a slightly sad book, movie or TV show.

4. Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted

It stands to reason that if your senses simply cannot cope with more emotional burdens, this will quickly begin to impact all areas of your health. Feeling extreme tiredness and exhaustion with no identifiable reason is an indication of compassion fatigue.

If you feel tired and disengaged with no reasonable reason, you may continue to feel this way until you unburden yourself of the load you carry.

5. Acting out of character and struggling to maintain close relationships

Any empath experiencing the signs of compassion fatigue will struggle to behave and act as they normally would. Their emotions and feelings are very fragile and cannot manage any additional senses to deal with.

This can lead to a lack of communication with loved ones, an urgent need to be left alone and create an isolated space. This can ultimately cause hurt and distance between you and those you love.

What to do if you are struggling with compassion fatigue

The first step to recovering is to acknowledge that you are struggling. Being able to identify unusual behaviours that are out of character can be the initial path to recognising the triggers for such changes.

Making a connection with your empathetic nature and appreciating and understanding both the qualities this affords you, and the pressure it puts you under, is crucial. Once you understand and reflect on yourself as an empath, it becomes much easier to identify why outside factors are having a damaging impact on your health and well-being.

If you are experiencing the signs of compassion fatigue, you need to take stock. It might be that you are not showing yourself enough self-care. You could be leaving yourself exposed to exterior emotional stressors that are too much for you to cope with.

One of the hardest things for an empath to do is to take a step back, and be able to prioritise their own well-being. However, if you see signs of compassion fatigue, you must look after yourself first, before you considering dedicating your time or emotional resources to help others.

Having recognised signs of compassion fatigue, the absolute worst thing you can do is to ignore it. This condition will not go away by itself. By failing to balance your emotions, you are not allowing yourself the capacity to stabilise.

It may be that counselling or other support will help. As an empath, it can be hard to explain to others who don’t have an understanding of how deeply you are affected by your surroundings.

Decompress and talk through your emotions first. Then implement practical emotional tools to manage your health. These are essential to moving forward in an enlightened way, without losing the part of yourself which makes you unique.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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Published by
Lauren Edwards-Fowle, M.Sc., B.Sc.