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Are You Suffering from Eco-Anxiety? 4 Ways to Help You Cope

Are You Suffering from Eco-Anxiety? 4 Ways to Help You Cope

The ice caps are melting! Sea levels are rising! The Amazon rainforest is burning! Orangutans will be extinct within 10 years! Planet Earth is dying!

Every day, we’re bombarded with distressing and disturbing updates about the impending threats of climate change and other environmental disasters. It’s enough to make you stressed, sad, and worried sick.

According to the American Psychological Association, one of the biggest dangers of climate change is the erosion of mental health in America. In a 2017 report called “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate,” the APA said the impact of climate change will “cause some of the most resounding chronic psychological consequences.”

Co-written with environmental organizations EcoAmerica and Climate for Health, the report also claims, “Gradual, long-term changes in climate can also surface a number of different emotions, including fear, anger, feelings of powerlessness, or exhaustion.”

Helplessness, hopelessness, and fatalism are on the rise, and the report suggests that climate change, natural disasters, and environmental catastrophes are contributing to mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, aggression and violence, suicidal thoughts and behavior, and more.

Some are calling it eco-anxiety.

The Rise of Eco-Anxiety

If you spend your days fretting about the perils facing our planet, you aren’t alone. Millions of Americans and people around the world are expressing a deep sense of malaise about the possibility of impending environmental doom.

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenage climate activist, launched a school strike for the climate in 2018 and has since become a global icon. In Greta’s 2018 TED Talk, she sounded the alarm bell, saying “We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with up to 200 species going extinct every single day.” That’s scary stuff! Her talk has already been viewed over 3.9 million times. And some 7 million people joined her #weekforfuture climate strikes in 2019.

People’s fears go beyond a personal level. You may not be worried about the impacts of climate change in your own lifetime. You may be more concerned about what it means for your children, grandchildren, and future generations. You may feel tremendous guilt that you haven’t done enough personally to reduce your carbon footprint and that your daily habits are making things worse for the future. At the same time, you may feel powerless to effect change on a meaningful scale.

How Eco-Anxiety is Impacting Mental Health

The number of people experiencing eco-anxiety is rising. A 2018 Yale survey—Climate Change in the American Mindinvolving 1,114 American adults found that 69% of Americans say they’re “somewhat worried” about climate change and 29% are “very worried” about it. About 56% of Americans think their families will be harmed by global warming, and 75% think future generations will be negatively affected.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are seeing a growing number of people who are feeling stressed about the environment. Eco-anxiety can cause many of the same symptoms seen in other anxiety disorders—panic attacks, nervousness, headaches, muscle tension, conflict avoidance, nausea, dizziness, and more. Fear of climate change can also be viewed as a form of phobia.

A 2011 report from the National Wildlife Foundation suggests the mental healthcare system is inadequately prepared to handle the increases in psychological disorders. The report says, “The American mental health community, counselors, trauma specialists, and first responders are not even close to being prepared to handle scale and intensity of impacts that will arise from the harsher conditions and disasters that global warming will unleash.”

What can you do?

Overcoming Eco-Anxiety

If you’re suffering from eco-anxiety, there is help. Many of the therapies and treatments for anxiety disorders and panic attacks, phobias, and depression may be helpful in overcoming feelings of dread about climate change and the environment.

  • Take action. To avoid feeling hopeless and helpless, take small steps in your own life to reduce your carbon footprint. Share your strategies with your friends, family, and loved ones to increase the impact of your efforts.
  • Kill the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts). You don’t need to believe every fearful, scary, sad thought that pops into your head. When distressing thoughts about our environment and climate start swirling in your head, learn how to talk back to them. With practice, you can learn to focus your thoughts so they will help you take action and feel good about it.
  • Psychotherapy. If you’re feeling mired in despair on a daily basis, it’s time to seek help. Several forms of psychotherapy may help you work through your fears and develop a brighter outlook on life.
  • Know your brain type. Not everyone with eco-anxiety is the same. Brain imaging studies have shown that mental health disorders are not single or simple problems. There is more than one brain pattern associated with psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, there are 7 types of anxiety and depression. Knowing your brain type can help you find the best solutions for your needs.

Amen Clinics has helped thousands of people overcome all types of anxiety disorders, panic attacks, phobias, and depression. We use brain SPECT imaging to help identify which type of anxiety and depression you have and to help find the least toxic, most effective personalized solutions as part of a brain-body approach to healing.

If eco-anxiety is has overtaken your life and is interfering with your work, school, home life, or relationships, it’s time to get help. Speak with a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.

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COMMENTS

  1. Jan Clark says:

    I am 61 and have dealt with depression and anxiety disorder all my life. Learned coping skills, psychotherapy and meds have helped me shift my buttons, but new ones – like climate change – sometimes pop up. Thanks for pointing out the Eco-Anxiety is a THING, not my imagination. Once I’m aware of a new ‘button’, I can take steps to manage it. I already am reducing my carbon footprint, but now I know there’s more I can do.

  2. J.s. says:

    I’m midway through an MA in mental health counseling and Contemplative Psychotherapy at Naropa University in Boulder (partly due to a life-changing SPECT and Genomind test done at the Costa Mesa clinic). My curriculum actually involves textbooks, lectures and experiential exercises based on just this subject, and how to treat people who are facing anxiety now, and the grief and loss of catastrophe that will be coming down the pipeline to the next generations.

    This will definitely be a larger field of focus, but like everything, we will be more reactive than proactive. Glad the clinic is mentioning it!

  3. Sarah Edwards says:

    So glad to see you writing about this topic. I am an affiliate here and wrote one of the 1st articles on Eco-Anxiety. It was my specialty in my PhD program and part of my dissertation on the relationship between the natural environment and our mental health. My colleague Linda Buzzell and I wrote one of the first articles on the topic, “The Waking Up Syndrome” in which we outlined six stages a person will often go through as they recognize the seriousness of man-made degradation of nature. https://www.resilience.org/stories/2008-05-01/waking-syndrome/
    Please contact me if Linda or I can be of help in addressing the pressing concern.

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