Have you ever seen someone else experiencing a terrifying situation or been influenced by hearing about it in detail? In an indirect reaction to the patient’s pain, care practitioners such as doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, and emergency responders who support traumatized patients can experience their own symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This condition is known as exhaustion of caring, vicarious trauma, or secondary traumatic stress.

In order to be able to carry out their task, employees in these occupations must learn to ’emotionally numb’ themselves to what they witness. In coping with the situation, they have to “emotionally detach” to become more mental and cantered. It would then be impossible for those professionals to ‘turn back on’ while back in a healthy atmosphere socially for their families and friends. Some also said that it takes them a few days to process their ‘vicarious stress’ necessary to be physically ready to indeed contribute to loved ones, at which point they are normally at work ‘out on the firing line.’ Some often claim that they see an outlet in alcohol and other mood-altering drugs and habits as a means of escaping their real and oppressive thoughts.

Even if we are not the victim of trauma, we can be affected by trauma; if we are either a witness or sympathize and offer the victim support and compassion. Seeing horrific events can over-stimulate the emotional part of our brain and have a significant impact on our daily lives, as can hearing from the victim, who may be your partner or a family member, about such events.


Secondary Traumatic Stress issue also alluded to as Compassion Fatigue, is an outrageous condition of strain and distraction with others’ enduring. This is the intense pressure that outcomes when an individual catches wind of another’s firsthand trauma encounters. Those most influenced are friends and family, specialists, young government assistance workers, caseworkers, parental figures, and different experts who are so cantered around the consideration of others that they disregard their necessities and are not rehearsing self-care.


The helper’s symptoms, sometimes ignored, can range from psychiatric disorders such as dissociation, frustration, fear, disruption of sleep, loneliness, mood swing, nightmares, and feeling impotent. Professionals may, however, also suffer physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, general constriction, changes in body temperature, dizziness, fainting spells, and hearing damage. Both significant caregiver warning signs that need to be resolved or otherwise may lead to health conditions or burnout.


Symptoms of vicarious trauma can be divided into five categories:

  1. Emotional symptoms:
    • Anxiety and Sadness
    • Irritability and Anger
    • Persistent Feelings of Grief
    • Being Easily Distracted
    • Changes in Mood or Sense ­of Humor
    • Feeling Isolated
    • Feeling Unsafe
    • Increased Drinking and Substance Abuse
    • Changes in Eating and Sleeping Habits
    • Risky Behavior Avoiding People or Favorite Activities
    • Poor decision making
    • Failing to Separate Work-Life from Personal Life
    • Self-medication (alcohol and over-the-counter medications)
  3. Physiological symptoms:
    • Increased Incidence of Headaches
    • Rashes
    • Ulcers
    • Heartburn
    • And Other Signs of Physical Illness
    • Fatigue
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Changes in appetite
    • Headaches
    • Upset stomach
    • Chronic muscle tension
    • Sexual dysfunction
  1. Cognitive symptoms:
    • Heightened negativity and paranoia
    • Failure to concentrate and make decisions
    • Issues in memory
    • Failure to avoid worrying about the trauma suffered by others
    • Confusion or Memory deficiency
    • Trouble making or problem-solving decisions
    • Distressing fantasies or hallucinations
  2. Spiritual symptoms:
  • Loss of optimism or a sense of purpose
  • Feeling isolated from others and generally from the universe
  • Feeling incapable of devotion or undeserving it


If you are a health care provider dealing with traumatized patients who are at risk of Secondary Traumatic Stress, here are a few real harm avoidance and mitigation strategies:

  • Increase Self-Consciousness
  • Preserve a balanced work-life balance
  • Self-care exercise
  • Feed every day sensibly and consistently,
  • Obtain enough sleep
  • A healthy diet for fitness and practice
  • Become conscious of your level of tension
  • Recognizing your responses to difficult conditions
  • Take breaks in the workday.
  • Take sick days
  • Using methods for relaxing
  • Speak to friends about how your job impacts you.
  • Seek for, or build, a technical support network.
  • Recognize your constraints; set boundaries with patients and peers.
  • Spending time with friends and relatives
  • Engage in pleasurable events that are not linked to work (writing, art, music, sports, etc.)
  • Be aware


About the Author Anu Verma

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