Eco-Anxiety: Effects of Climate Change on Mental Health

Image Credit: InStyle

Researchers coined the term “eco-anxiety” to describe severe anxiety surrounding humanity’s relationship with the earth and environment, fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster, the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and the future of the people and the planet.

Signs & Symptoms

Eco-anxiety may manifest in shock, stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use, aggression, reduced feelings of autonomy and control, or feelings of helplessness, fatalism and fear.

The Numbers

About 70% of people in the United States are worried about climate change and about 51% feel “helpless.”

Many Americans worry about harm from extreme events in their local area including extreme heat (61%), flooding (61%), droughts (58%), and/or water shortages (51%).

Where does eco-anxiety come from?

Eco-anxiety can arise for many different reasons, such as:

  • Being at risk of or experiencing natural disasters & extreme weather, such as hurricanes, droughts & wildfires
  • Worrying for loved ones
  • Media coverage
  • Scientific findings
  • Lack of control over environmental and climate issues
  • Anger or frustration at the state of the world
  • Guilt over one’s carbon or ecological footprint or of previous generations
  • Job and livelihood reliance on the environment (e.g. fishing, tourism and agriculture industries)
  • Reliance on natural resources
  • Deriving sense of identity, belonging and/or community from or having cultural or religious ties to certain geographic regions or nature as a whole
  • Work as a first responder or climate scientist

Those who are most at risk of experiencing eco-anxiety include:

  • Displaced people and forced migrants
  • Houseless individuals
  • Those with pre-existing mental or physical health conditions
  • People of lower socioeconomic status
  • Children and teens

Coping with eco-anxiety

Some ways to cope with eco-anxiety include to:

  • Practice sustainability
  • Educate yourself
  • Focus on resiliency
  • Know when to disengage from news/media
  • Have a healthy level of optimism
  • Exercise and be active
  • Go outside and connect with nature
  • Reach out to others, find community
  • Try therapy, counseling, or an eco-anxiety support group
  • See a healthcare professional if it grows serious

References

--

--

--

The Environmental Justice Coalition is a youth-led organization fighting for intersectional environmental justice and uplifting BIPOC and marginalized communities through political advocacy, policy writing, community organizing, educational initiatives, and content creation.

Recommended from Medium

A WORLD WITHOUT TREES

Valentine: The environment needs to be loved

The World Needs America’s Unwavering Response to the Climate Crisis

What’s the big deal with take out coffee cups?

The Heat Is On

Why Nuclear Power is Our Only Alternative

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Natasha Matta

Natasha Matta

Covering the intersections of STEM and social justice.

More from Medium

Love, Care, and Our Civic Imagination

Re: Purpose

Transformational Leadership