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Climate Anxiety

Common questions about climate anxiety and how therapy can help.

What Is Climate/Eco-Anxiety?

Eco-anxiety, also known as climate change anxiety, refers to a chronic and/or repetitive feeling of uncertainty, restlessness, hopelessness and helplessness toward the changing climate and its effect on current or future generations. This may include topics such as pollution, overpopulation, natural resources, and more. 

Individuals with eco-anxiety often experience symptoms typical of other anxiety disorders. They may worry about possible future scenarios, feel uncomfortable in the presence of uncertainty, and feel helpless to make impactful decisions. 

The topic of climate change and eco-anxiety has seen a drastic growth in younger populations due to a greater interest in and concern for the environment and the broadcasting of these issues in political and non-political media. 

What Is the Meaning of Solastalgia?

Solastalgia is similar to climate/eco-anxiety in that it describes a negative psychological reaction to the topic of climate change. Where it differs is that while climate/eco-anxiety focuses on the symptoms of anxiety, solastalgia focuses instead on its link to a growing type of depression, in which individuals may adopt a state of hopelessness or helplessness in their ability to make a positive impact as an individual. 

What Is the Phobia of Climate Change?

Phobia of climate change is primarily centered around the effects of climate change both on human beings and the world at large. Individuals with a phobia of climate change may fear the possibility of dwindling natural resources, increases in pollution, instability of weather, among other things. 

The American Psychology Associates defines eco-anxiety as the following: “The chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations.” 

Who Is Affected by Climate/Eco-Anxiety?

While anyone can experience the effects of climate/eco-anxiety, it most often affects the younger generations. Individuals within this group are more drawn to environmental topics, and have increased exposure due to the prevalent use of social media and newsharing. 

How Many People Suffer From Climate/Eco-Anxiety?

A growing number of people suffer from climate/eco-anxiety, especially among the younger generation. It is expected that this number will continue to rise as topics and concerns within the field of climate change begin to become more discussed and addressed in the coming years. 

How Does Eco-Anxiety Differ From Other Anxieties?

Often, anxiety can center around a future event or outcome that may or may not occur. In this way, climate/eco-anxiety differs in that climate change is a proven scientific concept, and its effects are currently known and measured. 

That being said, climate anxiety manifests similarly in that often individuals will worry about the future effects of climate change, rather than its current state. 

How Can I Stop Worrying About Climate Change? How Can I Help My Kid With Eco-Anxiety?

If you are experiencing climate anxiety, the best thing that you can do is limit the time that you spend exploring the subject. While it is good to stay informed, being constantly surrounded by the news cycle on topics that you are interested in can certainly paint a difficult picture for you to contend with. 

Another important step may be to make a list of realistic and actionable items that you can do to participate in the change you’d like to see. From recycling and composing to cutting down on single use plastics, these small steps can help you feel a sense of control and accomplishment and encourage you to stay positive about the uncertain future. 

If you have a child who is struggling in this area, you can help them by hearing their concerns and making practical changes as a family. Letting them lead the charge may also be beneficial, helping them feel a sense of control even at a young age. 

How Can Therapy Help Eco-Anxiety?

Therapy can help you overcome eco-anxiety by providing you with a safe space to express your concerns. Your therapist will work with you to unpack why you feel a certain way, and help you set goals to regain a sense of control and purpose. They may also help you determine when you need to distance yourself from topics of unrest, and how to set personal boundaries. 

Therapy can also help you discover coping strategies to deal with situations of particularly intense feelings or anxiety, including breathwork and cognitive behavioral therapy.