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Trauma is something most people will experience in their life time either first hand, by way of another person, or third party. Experiencing trauma is common, but being affected by trauma is different for everyone. People process and cope with trauma in different ways, with a small percentage of people developing a full diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others will develop many symptoms of trauma which will affect them for the rest of their lives.

Living with trauma can feel incredibly isolating. We feel as though we are the only people in the entire world who have experienced what we have experienced, felt what we have felt, and are going through what we are going through in trying to cope. When we meet someone who shows us empathy-  “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”- we feel a connection. Empathy is the human ability to connect. Our feelings of empathy help us know that we are not alone in our pain and struggle. As well, we aren’t alone in our happiness and joy. Empathy helps us pay it forward when we begin our own program of recovery for ourselves. Making peace with our past, becoming present, and building a hopeful future, we develop empathy for others in the place we once were. Now we are the understanding hand reaching out to someone confused and lost.

Empathy can lead us to trouble and more harm than help if we let empathy for others outweigh our personal needs. “Empathy fatigue” is a term used to describe a tendency to take on other’s pain and emotions to the point of neglecting personal needs. The Washington Post writes that “…those who regularly prioritize others’ emotions over their own are more susceptible to experiencing anxiety or low-level depression.” Empathy fatigue can lead to more than anxiety and depression. High levels of stress caused by physical as well as emotional exhaustion leads to inflammation, which can result in the development of disease and illness.

Preventing empathy fatigue must first and foremost include healthy boundaries. Boundaries are the invisible mental and emotional lines which separate us from other  people. Clinicians often describe boundaries as the line “Where I begin and You begin”. Learning to create and maintain healthy boundaries is one of the many ways the family can heal when a loved one has been deeply affected by trauma. Empathy brings us together. Boundaries keep us together.

Call The Guest House Ocala today for information on our residential treatment programs for traumas, addictions, and related mental health issues: 1-855-483-7800