Chapter

Empathic Distress Fatigue Rather Than Compassion Fatigue? Integrating Findings from Empathy Research in Psychology and Social Neuroscience

Olga Klimecki and Tania Singer

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738571.003.0253
Empathic Distress Fatigue Rather Than Compassion Fatigue? Integrating Findings from Empathy Research in Psychology and Social Neuroscience

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In this chapter, we discuss the role of empathy as the main precursor for prosocial behavior, taking perspectives that span from social and developmental psychology to social neuroscience. We begin by introducing compassion fatigue in caregivers as a form of pathological altruism. We move on to introduce such relevant concepts as empathy, compassion, empathic concern, and distress; we then review relevant empirical findings from social and developmental psychology and social neuroscience. Finally, we propose a new integrative model that suggests that the term compassion fatigue should be replaced by the term empathic distress fatigue to more accurately account for symptoms of withdrawal and burnout. We conclude by outlining potential ways to circumvent the downside of too much empathy.

Keywords: compassion fatigue; empathic distress; empathy; empathic concern; prosocial behavior; social neuroscience

Chapter.  7783 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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