compassion fatigue

noun

Definition of compassion fatigue

1 medical : the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time
  • Unlike burnout, which is caused by everyday work stresses (dealing with insurance companies, making treatment choices), compassion fatigue results from taking on the emotional burden of a patient's agony.
  • —Tim Jarvis
2 : apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance
  • Several fundraising experts said the Las Vegas collection may trail other donation efforts for several reasons, including "compassion fatigue" … . "Compassion fatigue is a real thing. There have been so many things that happened this year," [Sandy] Rees said. "But it does get overwhelming, and I think people start to tune out."
  • —David Montero

First Known Use of compassion fatigue

1961

in the meaning defined at sense 1

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

Medical Dictionary

compassion fatigue

noun

medical Definition of compassion fatigue

: the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those that care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time
  • Some researchers consider compassion fatigue to be similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), except that it applies to those emotionally affected by the trauma of another (eg, client or family member) rather than by one's own trauma.
  • —Michael K. Kearney et al.The Journal of the American Medical Association18 Mar. 2009
  • Clinicians should be aware of how their emotional withdrawal or lability and “compassion fatigue” can jeopardize the care of dying patients and their families.
  • —Deborah Cook and Graeme RockerThe New England Journal of Medicine26 June 2014

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up compassion fatigue? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

having an air of easy unconcern

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens-painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!