HomeResourcesMood
Climate change and mental health issues: what is eco-anxiety and how to seek help

Climate change and mental health issues: what is eco-anxiety and how to seek help

Written by
Lewis Orr
Jun 21, 2021

What is eco-anxiety?

Eco-anxiety is “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”[1] Eco-anxiety is a mental illness which is considered in the context of worry about human-caused climate change. These days, 4 out of 5 Australians agree climate change is occurring, with similar statistics echoed throughout the world.[2]

Consider that mental illness can occur as a direct effect of climate change. The extreme weather events connected to climate change can cause civil wars, mass protests, and are a proven contributing factor to an increase in natural disasters. Events such as these have been correlated with elevated records of anxiety, alcohol use, and aggression[3].

Eco-anxiety can be the consequence of these events. We consider also general fear about the relationship between humans and the environment. Many feel guilt over the considerable negative impact the current generation has had and will continue to have on the environment.

Eco-anxiety is not currently listed in the DSM-5, a diagnostic manual used by most mental health professionals in the western world. To get a concept of this condition, if eco-anxiety were, what would its symptoms be? Experts suggest:

The characteristics of eco-anxiety

Irritability

Nightmares

Panic attacks

Unexplained weakness

Insomnia

Loss of appetite

These characteristics were suggested by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).[4]

Considerable anger has been associated with eco-anxiety. A curious form is eco-terrorism: “crime committed to save nature”[5]. This world has been used to describe groups such as the Earth Liberation Front who host mass protests all over the world which have been known to result in violence.

In what ways can we deal with eco-anxiety?

Get out of your own head

“When you’re talking to no one but your computer, it’s easy for your worries to spiral out of control.”[6] Talk to friends and family about the crisis of climate change. These conversations will compel you to challenge your convictions and reframe your thinking.

Take action towards improving the climate

There are thousands of ways you can contribute to the combat of climate change. This will give a feeling of control which can calm anxiety. Everything you can do can have a tiny effect on the environment- this is enough. There is a worthwhile list of choices here: https://davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/top-10-ways-can-stop-climate-change/.

Take a break from environmental news

There is a considerable quantity of disinformation, or “fake news”, about climate change on the Internet.[7] We are not required to constantly expose ourselves to fiery words of debate and terrifying factoids. Especially if this exposure does not contribute to fixing the issue! Be wise in your choice of the extent of news to consume.

Where to get help

While eco-anxiety is not an official medical diagnosis, more and more clinicians are considering this condition in their engagement with patients.[8] Consult your GP, family, and friends for a conversation or formal therapy if the question of climate change is causing you eco-anxiety.


[1]This definition was given in 2017 by the American Psychiatric Association(APA).

[2]Thisis correct as of October 2020- see  https://theconversation.com/new-polling-shows-79-of-aussies-care-about-climate-change-so-why-doesnt-the-government-listen-148726

[3] https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/climate-change-and-mental-health-connections/affects-on-mental-health

[4] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327354

[5]This definition was given by Ron Arnold in a 1983 article and found on thewebsite http://web.colby.edu/social-movements/eg-history-eco-terrorism/

[6] https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/eco-anxiety.htm

[7] https://english.ckgsb.edu.cn/knowledges/climate-change-and-fake-news/

[8] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327354

Climate change and mental health issues: what is eco-anxiety and how to seek help

June 21, 2021

What is eco-anxiety?

Eco-anxiety is “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”[1] Eco-anxiety is a mental illness which is considered in the context of worry about human-caused climate change. These days, 4 out of 5 Australians agree climate change is occurring, with similar statistics echoed throughout the world.[2]

Consider that mental illness can occur as a direct effect of climate change. The extreme weather events connected to climate change can cause civil wars, mass protests, and are a proven contributing factor to an increase in natural disasters. Events such as these have been correlated with elevated records of anxiety, alcohol use, and aggression[3].

Eco-anxiety can be the consequence of these events. We consider also general fear about the relationship between humans and the environment. Many feel guilt over the considerable negative impact the current generation has had and will continue to have on the environment.

Eco-anxiety is not currently listed in the DSM-5, a diagnostic manual used by most mental health professionals in the western world. To get a concept of this condition, if eco-anxiety were, what would its symptoms be? Experts suggest:

The characteristics of eco-anxiety

Irritability

Nightmares

Panic attacks

Unexplained weakness

Insomnia

Loss of appetite

These characteristics were suggested by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).[4]

Considerable anger has been associated with eco-anxiety. A curious form is eco-terrorism: “crime committed to save nature”[5]. This world has been used to describe groups such as the Earth Liberation Front who host mass protests all over the world which have been known to result in violence.

In what ways can we deal with eco-anxiety?

Get out of your own head

“When you’re talking to no one but your computer, it’s easy for your worries to spiral out of control.”[6] Talk to friends and family about the crisis of climate change. These conversations will compel you to challenge your convictions and reframe your thinking.

Take action towards improving the climate

There are thousands of ways you can contribute to the combat of climate change. This will give a feeling of control which can calm anxiety. Everything you can do can have a tiny effect on the environment- this is enough. There is a worthwhile list of choices here: https://davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/top-10-ways-can-stop-climate-change/.

Take a break from environmental news

There is a considerable quantity of disinformation, or “fake news”, about climate change on the Internet.[7] We are not required to constantly expose ourselves to fiery words of debate and terrifying factoids. Especially if this exposure does not contribute to fixing the issue! Be wise in your choice of the extent of news to consume.

Where to get help

While eco-anxiety is not an official medical diagnosis, more and more clinicians are considering this condition in their engagement with patients.[8] Consult your GP, family, and friends for a conversation or formal therapy if the question of climate change is causing you eco-anxiety.


[1]This definition was given in 2017 by the American Psychiatric Association(APA).

[2]Thisis correct as of October 2020- see  https://theconversation.com/new-polling-shows-79-of-aussies-care-about-climate-change-so-why-doesnt-the-government-listen-148726

[3] https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/climate-change-and-mental-health-connections/affects-on-mental-health

[4] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327354

[5]This definition was given by Ron Arnold in a 1983 article and found on thewebsite http://web.colby.edu/social-movements/eg-history-eco-terrorism/

[6] https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/eco-anxiety.htm

[7] https://english.ckgsb.edu.cn/knowledges/climate-change-and-fake-news/

[8] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327354