“I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go on overload and blow up.”
June 8, 2010 4:43 PM   Subscribe

I don't know if it's 'compassion fatigue' so much as just plain old media numbness.
posted by jonmc at 4:48 PM on June 8, 2010

I'll take "Why should I stop watching so much TV?" Alex.
posted by DU at 4:57 PM on June 8, 2010

aka cyborg deer stress.
posted by mendel at 5:20 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Compassion Fatigue" is nothing new; I believe it is held responsible by some for the 1970's becoming the "Me Decade", followed by the 1980's, the "Me Me Me Decade", the 1990's, the "Mine Mine All Mine Decade", and the current "Who, Me? Decade"
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:22 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

My wife works for a crisis help line and they have "wellness sessions" monthly to help combat burnout and compassion fatigue. It's real.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:44 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do find myself justing far too often these days.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:56 PM on June 8, 2010

spikeleeetc. you're right, it's very frequently-occurring in the mental health care field (and related areas like crisis lines, certainly). I kinda wish it had been a part of my education and prep to be in the MH field, because it's something that is tough to stave off if you work with a lot of survivors of trauma, or people who have active suicidal ideation or psychosis, or extremely self-destructive behavior patterns.

Anecdotally, to me it seems like some people are built naturally resistant to burnout and vicarious traumatization/compassion fatigue/whatever you want to call it, and some people are at increased risk or sensitivity. I think it's not a coincidence that a lot of therapists have their own therapists.
posted by so_gracefully at 6:09 PM on June 8, 2010

This subject was dealt with most incisively, I think, in Adam Curtis' brilliant six-minute documentary, "The Rise of Oh Dearism in Television News."
posted by koeselitz at 6:25 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

As Adam Curtis puts it:

“It's like living in the mind of a depressed hippie.

posted by koeselitz at 6:30 PM on June 8, 2010

I think of Neil pretty much every time I hear the last line of that documentary. Good ol' Neil and his lentils.
posted by koeselitz at 6:44 PM on June 8, 2010

I don't care.
posted by Ratio at 7:51 PM on June 8, 2010

It's true. I have it. I caught it from reading so much shit on the internet.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:51 PM on June 8, 2010

My interest level is dropping, my interest level is dropping.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:38 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Compassion fatigue happens when there are an overabundance of sad things happening in the world. The solution isn't to stop reporting about bad things, it's to finally do something about the ones we can stop! A good first step might be to stop throwing so much of our national budget into a big military-shaped hole in the ground.
posted by JHarris at 2:20 AM on June 9, 2010

One man's "Oh dear" is another man's "Oh yeah!"
posted by wobh at 5:32 AM on June 9, 2010

This is why I get my news, when I get it at all, through robot aggregators like Google News or the cool, dispassionate voice of BBC Radio 4. Newspapers and TV news exhaust me with their constant streams of demands on sentiment. They can't just inform you about what's happening; no, they must clamp you into a rollercoaster of reaction -- fear, or outrage, or xenophobia, or indignation, or disapproval, or smugness, or soppiness.

The Economist is also soothing, because it has a well-defined stance and sticks to it. If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow, The Economist would hit our doorstep next week with a series of reasoned insights into its potential effects on global markets.
posted by stuck on an island at 6:07 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a lawyer and I definitely have compassion fatigue. While I never was idealistic enough to think that I can change the world, I do find myself getting more and more cynical the longer I stay in this profession.

I find myself disinterested and disconnected when talking to someone as they detail the litany of problems they need me to help them with. My co-workers and I are constantly engaging in gallows humor and the like as well.

Now that I know what this is, perhaps I can thaw out my heart and feel empathy again.
posted by reenum at 10:40 AM on June 9, 2010

That slideshare presentation on compassion fatigue has a far bigger issue in dealing with Powerpoint fatigue.
posted by storybored at 11:40 AM on June 9, 2010

My interest level is dropping, my interest level is dropping.

Be a little more selfish. It might do you some good.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:59 AM on June 9, 2010

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