Environmental Anxiety: What Is It?

Climate change is a serious problem we face. As a consequence, many individuals are incredibly anxious. 
Environmental anxiety: What is it?

Unless you’ve spent the last five years living your life hidden in a cave, you know for sure who Greta Thunberg is. If you do not know who she is, she is basically a 17-year-old environmental activist who is incredibly passionate about saving the planet from climate change. We’re wondering if she’s suffering from environmental anxiety. Is it possible?

The truth is that we do not have a sufficient answer. And the reason for this is scientifically speaking, that there is no mental disorder in itself called environmental anxiety.

In 2019, however, a group of experts from the Climate Psychology Alliance invented this term to refer to a phenomenon that can be considered a real and rational concern,  rather than a real disorder.

What is environmental anxiety?

Let us simplify the term as much as possible. Basically, environmental anxiety refers to the concern for the natural habitat we live in. It includes habitat destruction, climate change, pollution and all ecological problems and disasters caused or exacerbated by the actions of human beings and their productive activity on the planet.

People who suffer from these worries feel anxious when they think about their own mortality, as well as their loved ones. Furthermore, it makes them incredibly uncomfortable when they think about the future of the world.

However, it is important not to confuse this with a clinical anxiety disorder. As we have mentioned above, this is not considered to be a pathology. Nor does it present a specific, clinical picture.

Nevertheless, the American Psychological Association (APA) defined this term in 2017. According to them, this chronic fear of environmental fatalities can exacerbate existing mental health problems or trigger previously non-existent problems.

The aforementioned American Association claims that there was a general increase in environmental anxiety in 2019. This is due to the natural disasters that have occurred and the media coverage they had.

Young girl leaning against wall

Climate and mental health

The climate has a direct impact on everyone’s minds. Some individuals feel affected by what is happening at the moment. Others, on the other hand, worry more about what’s coming. For example, the fact that some islands may be completely submerged in a few years due to climate change may be extremely worrying for them.

However, both scenarios can create several emotions. For example, anxiety, shock and dismay. All of these emotions can more or less intensely lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Furthermore, the consequences of climate change affect economic and social activity. Natural phenomena can affect industries such as agriculture, cattle herding and many infrastructures. This can as a consequence create feelings of fatalism, impotence and various forms of mental disorders.

The scientific journal, Global Environmental Change,  launched a study linking depression and anxiety to the environment. When it comes to environmental anxiety, the most affected individuals are actually women and low-income people. However, there is still no clear data according to this.

What do we know about those affected?

First of all, there are certain types of anxiety that one can say are unfounded or disproportionate fears (when comparing them with the strength of and likelihood of the threat). However, when we speak from an ecological point of view, this is a real problem.

Furthermore, this feeling of insecurity becomes a natural response due to the restlessness it provokes. Furthermore, according to the data supporting the existence of the problem, these factors are particularly notable in women.

The reason for this is that women tend to be more concerned about pollution, global warming and climate change. In fact, many of them believe that it can even affect their fertility.

In addition, environmental anxiety also affects young people in an intense way. Teenagers, young adults and even children show a greater connection to the environment  and a great concern for their future. Nevertheless, medieval adults are concerned about this problem because of the impact it may have on their children’s development.

Frustrated woman

Is there a solution to environmental anxiety?

Fortunately, there is still time to alleviate this kind of anxiety. It is safe to say that if it continues in this way, it can become a serious problem for many people. Because of this, the best solution would be to change social and economic behavior, avoid compulsive consumption and trade, and start  implementing greener forms of energy. 

In addition to this, it is also necessary to develop resilience that can work with balanced and environmentally friendly policies that can have a positive effect on the human psyche.

If you switch to healthier habits such as making less use of the car or spending more time in nature, it will also be possible for you to improve your environmental anxiety. It’s up to you!

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