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Secondary Traumatic Stress is the profound shift in world view that occurs in helping professionals who work in high-stress and trauma-exposed fields. Over time, repeated exposure to difficult content can have a negative impact on our functioning and overall mental health.

Know Your Warning Signs


  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • Anger and irritability at home and/or at work
  • Avoidance of clients/patients
  • Watching excessive amounts of tv at night
  • Consuming high trauma media as entertainment
  • Not returning phone calls at work and/or at home
  • Avoiding colleagues and staff gatherings
  • Avoiding social events
  • Impaired ability to make decisions
  • Feeling helpless when hearing a difficult client story
  • Impostor syndrome – feeling unskilled in your job
  • Problems in personal relationships
  • Difficulty with sex and intimacy due to trauma exposure at work
  • Thinking about quitting your job (not always a bad idea by the way!)
  • Compromised care for clients/patients
  • Engaging in frequent negative gossip/venting at work
  • Impaired appetite or binge eating


  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Increased susceptibility to illness
  • Sore back and neck
  • Irritable bowel, GI distress
  • Rashes, breakouts
  • Grinding your teeth at night
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hypochondria


  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Negative self-image
  • Depression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Impaired appetite or binge eating
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Reduced ability to feel sympathy and empathy
  • Cynicism at work
  • Anger at work
  • Resentment of demands being put on you at work and/or at home
  • Dread of working with certain clients/patients/certain case files
  • Diminished sense of enjoyment/career (i.e., low compassion satisfaction)
  • Depersonalization – spacing out during work or the drive home
  • Disruption of world view/heightened anxiety or irrational fears
  • Intrusive imagery
  • Hypersensitivity to emotionally charged stimuli
  • Insensitivity to emotional material/numbing
  • Difficulty separating personal and professional lives
  • Failure to nurture and develop non-work related aspects of life
  • Suicidal thoughts

Identify your top three most frequent warning signs

Are they all in one category, or a mixture from each category? Are you currently functioning in the green (healthy), yellow (warning sign) or redzone? Ask family or colleagues to share with you what they think your warning signs are, both at work and at home.

Use a Screener to Assess Yourself

Secondary Traumatic Stress

Take this screener to see if secondary traumatic stress is an issue for you.

Moral Distress

Take this screener to see if moral distress is an issue for you.


Take this screener to see if stress is an issue for you.


Take this screener to see if burnout is an issue for you.

Compassion Satisfaction

Take this screener to see if compassion satisfaction is an issue for you.

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