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Wear The Gown: Compassion fatigue can leave people emotionally and physically drained

When you try to help others too much, mental health experts say your own mental health can suffer.

SAN ANTONIO — Can being too compassionate have a negative impact on your mental health? Experts say yes! It is called compassion fatigue. It happens when you help others so much, that you don't take care of your own mental health.

"I have a friend that she seems to kind of drown in her problems. And so I invited her to my church, my happy place where I go to find positivity and a good message that I carry on with me for the week," said Richelle Burke, who is a very positive person. But she says in this case it wasn't so easy. "When I went to the bathroom, she asked my friend like, How can we ask her to laugh quieter without just destroying her spirit because it's making other people around us uncomfortable? And that was a moment where it really affected me."

Dr. Vince Callahan, a mental health expert, weighed in.

"You pour your life into it and you don't set boundaries for yourself and you end up going, 'Why am I doing this? And what does it really mean?'" he said.

Compassion fatigue can have many negative impacts, including nightmares, anxiety, depression, and even suicide if emotions become too much to handle. 

"I'm doing the same old thing and I'm tired and I'm emotionally drained and physically drained," Dr. Callahan added.

Dr. Callahan says it helps to learn how to relax, talk to someone, and reach out for help if you need it. 

"The most important thing you can do is not to be an island, but be in a community," Dr. Callahan said.  

For Burke, avoiding compassion fatigue meant creating a little distance. 

"I was like, okay, this is. I'm reaching out to her to give her something positive, but it's affecting me negatively," Burke added.  

Dr. Callahan also says if the person you are trying to help is not able to receive the information or advice you have given them repeatedly, that you may need to tell them it is time for you both to re-evaluate the relationship.

For more information about family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of our Wear The Gown stories on WearTheGown.com

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