Compassion Fatigue: Warning Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of compassion fatigue can appear gradually or suddenly depending on the individual’s circumstances.  The Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) version 5 (2009) developed by Dr. Beth Hudnall-Stamm can be used to measure compassion satisfaction, burnout and secondary traumatic stress (compassion fatigue).  This self-assessment is available as a resource on our website.  Below you will find warning signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue according to Dr. Angela Panos.  If you experience compassion fatigue symptoms and/or have any concerns regarding your personal scores on the ProQOL you should consult with a physician or mental health professional.

Compassion Fatigue:  Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Feeling estranged from others
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Outbursts of anger or irritability with little provocation
  • Startling easily
  • While working with a victim thinking about violence or retribution against the person or person who was victimized
  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts or flashbacks of sessions with difficult clients or families
  • Feeling there is no one to talk with about highly stressful experiences
  • Working too hard for your own good
  • Frightened of things traumatized people and their families have said or done to you
  • Experience troubling dreams similar to a client of yours or their family
  • Suddenly and involuntarily recalling a frightening experience while working with a client
  • Preoccupied with a client or their family
  • Losing sleep over a client and their family’s traumatic experiences
  • Felt a sense of hopelessness associated with working with clients and their families
  • Have felt weak, tired, rundown as a result of your work as a caregiver
  • Unsuccessful / find it difficult to separate work life from personal life
  • Felt little compassion toward many of your co-workers
  • Thoughts that you are not succeeding at achieving your life goals
  • Feel you are working more for the money than for personal fulfillment
  • A sense of worthlessness / disillusionment / resentment associated with your work


Panos, A. Understanding and preventing compassion fatigue – A handout for professionals, Retrieved August 22, 2014 from

Stamm, B (2009).  Professional quality of life:  compassion satisfaction and fatigue subscales, R-IV (ProQol).  retrieved August 22, 2014 from