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Eco-anxiety (Climate Anxiety): What it is and How to Deal with it

We all agree that climate change is one of the severe problems affecting humanity today, and the idea of climate breakdown is drastically affecting people’s mental health. Environmental and climate issues are causing PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety-related symptoms on a large scale. Eco-anxiety is affecting millennials more than any other generation.

What is Eco-anxiety/climate anxiety?

The Handbook of Climate Psychology defines climate anxiety as a ‘heightened emotional, mental or somatic distress in response to dangerous changes in the climate system’ [ Ref. Climate Psychology Alliance. The Handbook of Climate Psychology. Climate Psychology Alliance, 2020 ]

In simple words, eco-anxiety (or climate anxiety) is when someone feels worried or afraid about the future of the planet and the impacts of climate change.

In other words, climate anxiety, also called eco-anxiety and climate distress, refers to the feelings of helplessness, fear, guilt, and frustration that arise from a sense of impending environmental crisis and the belief that individuals and societies are not doing enough to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

The symptoms of climate anxiety/eco-anxiety can range from mild to severe and can include anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, and even physical symptoms such as headaches or heart palpitations.

Is climate anxiety a mental illness

Climate anxiety is not classified as a mental illness in and of itself. It is a normal human response to a real and pressing global issue that is affecting the environment, society, and individuals' well-being.

Although it is not a clinical diagnosis like depression, people are suffering. People are worried lately about extreme weather changes, dying coral reefs, burning rainforests (like Amazon), and snowcaps melting at the Poles. The influence we have on the environment is finally sinking in, without knowing how to act about it.

The symptoms of climate anxiety can be similar to those of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. In some cases, climate anxiety can exacerbate or contribute to the development of these conditions.

Climate anxiety symptoms

Symptoms of climate anxiety can vary from person to person, but some common signs include:

Obsessive thoughts about climate change: People with climate anxiety may constantly think about the negative impacts of climate change and worry about the future.

Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness: Some individuals may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the climate crisis and believe that there is nothing they can do to make a difference.

Fear and worry: People with climate anxiety may experience fear and worry about the future of the planet, their communities, and their families.

Physical symptoms: Climate anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and difficulty sleeping.

Guilt and shame: People with climate anxiety may feel guilty or ashamed about their contribution to climate change, such as their carbon footprint or lifestyle choices.

A sense of loss or grief: As the impacts of climate change become more apparent, some people may experience a sense of loss or grief for the natural world and the species that are threatened.

Avoidance behaviors: Some individuals with climate anxiety may avoid discussing or learning about climate change as a way to cope with their anxiety.

Why is it affecting millennials and Gen Z?
The environment has been taking a toll on all the greedy deeds carried out by businesses throughout the years. It is not a new story, and millennials are worried that they will have to face the consequences of all those deeds.

Climate change has been growing drastically over the last two decades, and it is meant to keep growing if no actions are taken. The Australian Medical Association recently declared climate change as a health emergency and noted that climate change is the biggest threat to the 21st century. People have been worrying about environmental issues for a long time since the beginning of this century.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl climate change activist from Sweden, rose to prominence for her blunt and matter-of-fact speech on climate change at the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the UN. Let's look back at her speech:

People with eco-anxiety are adopting several changes in their lifestyle choices by reducing their carbon footprint by giving up air travel and by turning into vegetarians or vegans.

Climate anxiety is on the rise

Climate anxiety is a growing concern, especially among youth. Experts warn that an increasing number of children are experiencing anxiety due to the changing climate. [ A recent report highlights that climate anxiety has risen in youth as the climate changes.]

The issue has become so prevalent that even the entertainment industry is beginning to address it. As climate anxiety continues to rise, it's important to take action to address the root causes of climate change and provide support to those experiencing this type of anxiety.

How to Deal with Eco-anxiety

Finding optimism in situations like these can work miracles and help you overcome your anxiety.

Another important thing you should do is to find like-minded people who think like you about particular matters and environmental problems.

Starting local and protecting the nature and green spaces around you is where you should start.

If eco-anxiety starts to create sleepless nights for you, especially after a natural disaster, start believing in your inner power to overcome PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).

You should also focus on not overthinking about the possible outcomes that might happen in the future, and work on preventable measures for the future.

Although every small step counts, big changes can still only be created by business organizations and governmental organizations.

If you’re over-concerned about things, write your worries about environmental problems to your local leaders who have been elected, or to people who possess power. Let them know about your concerns.

You can also focus on building awareness channels using social media to educate people more about environmental changes and their effects on humanity.

As members of the current generation, we hold the Earth in trust for future generations as watchkeepers. We owe future generations nothing but a beautiful planet with rivers filled with clean water, a clear sky, clean air, and low carbon. Don’t forget that we are borrowing this planet from future generations.

In the end, we only have one place to call home, and it's Earth, so it’s our duty to protect it for future generations. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is one all of us share.”

Overcoming Climate Anxiety: Success Stories and Inspirations

Amidst the challenges posed by climate change, there are numerous success stories and sources of inspiration that highlight the transformative power of collective action. Stories of individuals taking proactive measures, such as starting community gardens, implementing renewable energy solutions, or organizing climate strikes, serve as beacons of hope and catalysts for change.

Global movements like Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, and the Sunrise Movement demonstrate the strength of unified voices demanding urgent climate action.

Also, technological advancements, such as renewable energy innovations and sustainable farming practices, provide further hope for a greener future.

Eco-anxiety Treatment

Eco-anxiety is a real and growing problem. It's estimated that one in eight people around the world suffers from some form of anxiety related to the environment. And with good reason. We are seeing the effects of climate change more and more, and it's scary.

There are treatments available for eco-anxiety, and it's important to seek help if you're struggling. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help manage anxiety, and there are also support groups available. If you're feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help.

FAQs about Climate Anxiety

Q1: Is climate anxiety a recognized condition?

A1: Climate anxiety is not an official psychiatric diagnosis but it is a prevalent emotional response to the climate crisis and has gained recognition among mental health professionals.

Q2: Can climate anxiety be managed without professional help?

A2: Yes, individuals can manage climate anxiety through self-care practices, seeking support from communities and loved ones, and engaging in positive actions toward climate change mitigation.

Q3: How can I find local climate action groups in my area?

A3: You can search online directories, join local environmental organizations, or participate in community events focused on climate action to connect with like-minded individuals.

Q4: Are there any books or documentaries recommended for understanding climate anxiety better?

A4: Yes, several books and documentaries explore the topic of climate anxiety. Some notable recommendations include “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore, and “A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety” by Sarah Jaquette Ray.

Q5: How can I support renewable energy initiatives in my everyday life?

A5: Supporting renewable energy can be done by installing solar panels, using energy-efficient appliances, opting for green energy suppliers, and advocating for renewable energy policies in your community.


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