Vicarious Trauma (VT): History & Research (4) 

Those Who Have Enormous Capacity for Feelings and Expressing Empathy Tend to Be More at Risk of Compassion Stress. – By Nathan Richards (Re-Union Magazine: Issue 02)

Those at risk of Vicarious Trauma are personal, professional, and situational risk factors as listed below:

The humanitarian worker:

  • Personality and coping style
  • Personal history
  • Current life circumstances
  • Social support
  • Spiritual resources
  • Workstyle

The situation:

  • Professional role, work setting, and exposure
  • Agency support
  • Affected population’s responses and reactions

The cultural context:

  • Cultures of intolerance
  • Cultural styles of expressing distress and extending and receiving assistance
  • The culture of humanitarian work

Everyone is different, so what contributes to one person’s experience of vicarious Trauma may not affect someone else in the same way. Vicarious Trauma is a dynamic process – the factors that are most problematic for someone today may be different from what will affect the same person tomorrow.

Signs and Symptoms:

In broad terms, some common difficulties associated with vicarious Trauma include:

  • Difficulty managing your emotions;
  • Difficulty accepting or feeling okay about yourself;
  • Difficulty making good decisions;
  • Problems managing the boundaries between yourself and others (e.g., taking on too much responsibility, having difficulty leaving work at the end of the day, trying to step in and control other’s lives;
  • Problems in relationships;
  • Physical problems such as aches & pains, illnesses, accidents;
  • Difficulty feeling connected to what’s going on around and within you; and
  • Loss of meaning and hope.

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