Compassion Fatigue vs. Burnout: What’s the Difference?

Roshni Khatri

23rd Jun'22
Compassion Fatigue vs. Burnout: What’s the Difference? | OpenGrowth

Compassion fatigue is a complex term that is not known by most of us and it is prevalent. It is basically draining of emotional energy for those who deal with the pain of others. In other words, it is a tendency to be progressive and take charge of the people. 

Well, it is associated with the people who work to have the exposure to another person’s trauma, they feel sad for the people and get connected to them. So they can experience the symptoms and may have physical and mental risks. This is because of the worry and care they provide to others. 


Compassion Fatigue


What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is a broader term that encompasses syndromes, like burnout, vicarious trauma and traumatic stress. In simpler words, we can define this as physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, due to getting the exposure to traumatic events or materials. You can also find the symptoms of compassion fatigue similar to stress disorders. 

Compassion fatigue is usually found in the military, first responders, humanitarian aid workers and other health care professionals. This trauma is found in the advocates also who deal with domestic abuse cases, moderators of offline content and journalists on the front lines of wars. 


 Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue

Well, the symptoms of compassion fatigue can vary from person to person and it can have emotional and physical exhaustion. Still, some prime symptoms include headaches, muscle soreness, anxiety, frustration, cynicism, anger, tiredness, depersonalization, and isolation. With this, the inability to recognize personal accomplishments is also a common symptom of compassion fatigue. 


What is Burnout?

It is the result of working for long hours or indulging in too many tasks. Cynicism, depression and anxiety are the prime characteristics of burnout. It often occurs when a person does not have control over the job whether it is work or home, and is asked to do the tasks that are not in the control of their sense of self. 

When a person does not have support and has too many responsibilities then he or she may have the symptoms of burnout. In burnout, you may feel restless, anxious, and have headaches and fatigue. With this, it can also be due to the use of alcohol, drug or food misuse. 


Compassion Fatigue


Compassion Fatigue Vs Burnout

Although you can feel both the conditions still, there are several differences between both the disorders and these are as follows:

  • Compassion is caused due to exposure to traumatic material. On the other hand, burnout occurs when you feel uncomfortable with the job, co-workers, supervisors and poor work culture. 

  • Compassion fatigue is frequent and can be felt quickly even after the first experience of absorbing a traumatic condition. Burnout takes place gradually when you have too much paperwork, lack of resources, long shifts and a list of uncompleted tasks that are to be done yet.   

  • Compassion fatigue is the impact of assisting and helping others. Burnout is the impact of stressful work or home life. 

  • Compassion can be recovered quicker than burnout. Burnout takes a longer recovery time. 


Strategies to Cope with Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a pain that may not be seen on the external body but it destroys you internally. It creates emotional damage and makes you helpless. Here some ways to deal with this trauma are described, have a look!

Give priority to Self-Care

It is not easy to take care of yourself but self-care is essential for long-term caregiving. It increases your confidence and allows you to explore yourself properly. You might feel it is selfish but if you are short-tempered and overwhelmed then will definitely come through the process of caring for others. It directly shows that if you are healthier, you can better care for others. With this you should:

  • Exercise Regularly

  • Eat good food

  • Read Books and Magazines

  • Have a tight Sleep

  • Find the time for a break

Spend time with Friends

It is important to make a balance between work and personal life. I know work comes first, but you need to take a break or outing with friends. Even if this all is not possible then what you can do is just have healthy conversations with your close friends and family. It will heal you emotionally and make you pleased as well. So you should know the significance of work-life balance so that you can have a perfect professional and personal life.

Use some positive ways to Cope with Stress

After a tough day, it is usual to watch T.V. with a bag of chips, cookies and wine bottle in hand but these all are not the positive coping techniques. Instead of doing this, you can make a list of positive health strategies. This idea will make you feel better.

  • Take a walk.

  • Meditate

  • Practice Deep Breathing

  • Take a hot bath Shower.


Compassion Fatigue


Strategies Cope with Burnout

Burnout is also mental trauma, here some strategies to cope with this are described:

Practice Yoga

Doing Yoga is the best remedy for any mental and physical disorders. You can do some basic yoga. It will make you feel more positive and provide you with clarity in life.


We all know that walking is the best exercise. If you do not get the time for the exercises and yoga then you can walk for 30 minutes regularly. It will make you fit and more focused.

Talk About Your Issues

Sometimes just the conversations make you feel lighter. You should talk with the surrounding people and it will make your day. So rather than not sharing things with others, you should go ahead with this. As it is the best remedy for burnout. Besides this, you can build relationships virtually with those who are far from you. As it will give you both peace and contentment. 



Many of us make the effort to come out through the trauma and compassion fatigue. Knowing the goal and the way to reach it, is the simple and practical aspect that can make you feel more relaxed. Whether it is compassion fatigue or burnout we should always put in the effort to deal with it. 

Your willpower can help you to get rid of all these situations. So make firm affirmations, take the right decisions and make your choices. 

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A keen observer, who loves to spend time with nature. A fun loving person, enjoys to explore the new aspects of life. Passionate about reading and learning new things. Roshni is dedicated towards her work and has worked in different professions.