Crisis Fatigue - What is it?

I know I am echoing millions of people when I say…. 2020 has been tough. In fact, “tough” is the biggest understatement imaginable. And, this year just seems to be getting tougher and tougher.

This week alone we’ve experienced continued political turmoil, social instability, a global pandemic, and record-breaking wildfires - and that’s just what is happening on a national scale. Your hometown, surely, has difficult issues of its own that you’re dealing with on top of all the rest.

With every new crisis compounding on the last, you may have started to feel like you’re right on the edge of your breaking point.

You’re not alone.

There’s actually a name for what you are experiencing, and we as a nation are actually experiencing it together - it’s called “Crisis Fatigue”. 

What is “Crisis Fatigue”?

Crisis fatigue occurs when a stressful incident endures for a long period of time or becomes chronic. We as humans are very well equipped to handle short high stress situations and emergencies, it’s part of our built-in “fight or flight” complex. However, when a crisis situation drags on, our bodies become overwhelmed because we are simply not equipped for that type of situation.

You could think of it like working out. When weightlifting, the first few reps are relatively simple. However, the more reps you do the more tired your muscles become and the harder each rep becomes. Until you reach the point where your body simply can not take any more reps - that’s fatigue.

4 Stages of Crisis Fatigue

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have identified 4 stages of Crisis Fatigue:

  1. Heroic Stage - Individuals band together at the beginning of a crisis to determine how to survive together.
  2. Honeymoon Stage - The initial positive feeling that occurs when we feel like we are “in the same boat” as others and all taking the necessary steps for survival.
  3. Disillusionment Stage - We begin to feel overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted in response to the continued onslaught of negative information.
  4. Fatigue Stage - Our bodies experience burnout due to an overload of cortisol and adrenaline being released for an extended period of time. Individuals can become easily triggered and angry or completely withdrawn in despair.

While everyone’s circumstances are different and we are all encountering the same events in different ways, chances are you are experiencing this fatigue on some level and degree. We will focus next week on healthy ways to cope with the symptoms of crisis fatigue but the best way to get to the root of the issue is to talk with a mental health professional. If you are feeling overwhelmed in this time and need someone to talk to, please email me at or call my office at (310) 614-0323, I would love to set up a time to connect.