What Is Climate Anxiety and How Can You Cope with It?

Author John Battaglini

Posted Mar 19, 2023

Reads 7.1K

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Have you ever felt helpless, gazing at the bright orange skies as wildfires raged along the west coast? Have you personally been displaced by a natural disaster or heard a distressing news story about potential environmental disasters related to global climate change? If so, then you may be experiencing climate anxiety.

Climate anxiety, also known as climate distress, is an elusive feeling that is becoming more and more common in our daily lives. Terms that identify anxiety related to global climate change have been on the rise as we face growing threats to our mental health from political policies and dangers making individual actions feel insignificant. According to a 2021 survey of 1,000 Americans found that climate change concerns affected their daily life, while another survey of 10,000 young people from around the world found that climate change was one of their top concerns.

Surprisingly, there is a link between climate change and mental health that is gaining recognition among professional organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. However, global governments aren't doing enough to address this growing threat to our mental well-being. So how can we cope with this ominous yet understandable feeling of climate anxiety? In this article, we will explore some practical strategies for managing climate anxiety so that you can feel empowered to take action towards creating a safer future for all.

The Surprising Link Between Climate Change and Anxiety

Climate change holds potential problems that extend beyond rising sea levels and warmer temperatures. A growing number of people in Davenport and across the globe are experiencing an anxiety response to climate news. While some people don't experience persistent or paralyzing anxiety, others are triggered occasionally by climate-related events.

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These feelings tend to be healthy emotions that help people realize the gravity of the situation. However, when anxiety significantly starts to impact daily life, it is time to seek professional help. Chronic sleep problems, panic attacks, and other symptoms can make it difficult for individuals to simply live their lives.

In conclusion, there is a surprising link between climate change and anxiety. As more information becomes available about how our actions impact the environment, it's natural for people to feel overwhelmed at times. However, it's important for individuals to recognize when their feelings cross into unhealthy territory and seek help as needed.

The Possible Consequences: What You Need to Know

Climate anxiety is a term used to describe the overwhelming feelings of worry and fear that result from constantly being bombarded with news about the sheer size of global issues like climate change. It's an issue that has been openly talked about in recent years, thanks to the likes of Greta Thunberg and other environmental activists who have taken a strong stance on climate action. However, for a significant portion of people, this anxiety can create barriers to active participation in environmental activism and justice work.

Severe climate anxiety resulting from personal insignificance and the perceived futility of individual responsibility can hinder engagement with climate action. But it's important to remember that even though we may feel small in the face of such massive global issues, our individual ability to enact real change should not be underestimated. By taking steps towards reducing our own carbon footprint and advocating for systemic change, we can all play a role in creating a future movement towards a more sustainable world.

Unveiling the Triggers of Climate Anxiety: What's Behind It?

Climate anxiety refers to the varying degrees of emotional distress caused by concerns about climate change and its catastrophic impacts. According to mental health research, experiencing nature and the outdoor environment can calm anxieties brought about by climate change-related loss, resource depletion, natural disasters, and land-use change that physically damage the physical environment. A 2015 paper identified "blue spaces," arguing that water-based environments such as oceans, lakes, rivers, and even urban fountains can rectify psychological strain.

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Mainstream media adopts an apocalyptic tone in climate change reporting. Audiences' climate anxiety is exacerbated when social media platforms present bad news with shocking images of dying coral reefs, pollinator loss, melting arctic sea ice sheets, and so on. On-demand access to constant livestream information involving environmental disasters depends on visual media that generate suggestions involving addressing climate change to prevent irreversible disastrous impacts.

Climate anxiety literature highlights quantitative science-led findings that contradict medias' apocalyptic claims about climate change leading to increased fear and environmental doom. The rapidly increasing research into the covid-19 pandemic's effects on people's mental health shows how covid lockdowns and a slower lifestyle have helped reduce single-use plastics and domestic waste. While humanity appears stuck in a high-consumption lifestyle from pre-covid times with limited potential for meaningful change, nations proposing we have only 12 years left to prevent irreversible disastrous impacts due to global warming has gained significant media coverage.

Climate Anxiety Survey and Recent Research

Climate anxiety is a term used to describe the emotional response to environmental issues. Recently, researchers extended their study on climate anxiety to young people in multiple countries. They surveyed 10,000 individuals aged 16-25 years across 10 countries including Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines and Portugal. The results showed that a significant number of young people are extremely worried (45%) or moderately worried (39%) about climate change.

The survey also found out that these individuals experienced emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, powerlessness and helplessness due to environmental issues. It's pretty obvious that younger generations are experiencing climate anxiety generation. Older generations surely experience anxiety as well but younger ones are more vocal about it.

Researchers in Utah conducting interdisciplinary research with colleagues contended that the natural environment is a missing topic in public policy forums because they have not yet considered the impact of an ageing society on the environment’s short-term impacts such as extreme weather patterns, poor air quality and infectious diseases. These physical impacts of climate change can create overwhelming climate anxiety in older generations who feel responsible for creating a sustainable state for future generations including their children and grandchildren. Climate justice is needed urgently!

Unveiling the Truth: Does Climate Anxiety Truly Exist?

Climate anxiety is the feeling of stress and worry about the potential harm that climate change can do to our planet. According to Mark Vahrmeyer, a psychotherapist with the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), climate anxiety can manifest in varying degrees among individuals. In an interview with The Big Issue, Vahrmeyer stated that humans tend to experience anxious feelings when confronted with specific events or situations that they perceive as threatening.

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While some may argue that climate anxiety is simply a result of overblown media coverage, it is important to note that this phenomenon is real and affects many people. The UKCP told The Big Issue that distinguishing people who are experiencing genuine climate anxiety from those who are simply worried about potential impacts is crucial. Climate change is a pressing issue that affects us all and acknowledging its potential consequences can lead to feelings of overwhelm and despair.

In conclusion, climate anxiety does truly exist and it affects individuals on varying levels. As we navigate through these uncertain times, it's important to recognize that our concerns around climate change are valid and deserve attention. Seeking support through psychotherapy or joining community groups focused on environmental activism may be helpful in managing these anxious feelings while taking action towards creating a more sustainable future for our planet.

Experience of climate anxiety varies for different people

Climate anxiety is the fear and worry that people experience due to the present dangers and future consequences of climate change. This feeling is at its highest levels among young people, especially those in their early teens. According to Doherty, who has studied climate anxiety extensively, activists, and climate scientists are also more likely to experience this type of anxiety due to their awareness of the increased risk associated with climate change.

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Moreover, certain communities are more personally affected by climate change than others, which leads them to experience disproportionate impacts on their mental health. For instance, front-line groups such as indigenous peoples or persons of color face increased exposure to environmental risks as a result of racist policies that trace back centuries. As a consequence, it becomes essential to create visibility around the issue of climate injustice and its compounding effects on everyone's mental health.

Finally, people with disabilities or those living in poverty are particularly vulnerable during extreme weather events such as flooding or high heat conditions resulting from sea-level rise. The deadly consequences of these events are further exacerbated by severe housing crises or lack of access to healthy conditions such as clean air. Low-income workers involved in delivery, sanitation construction, farm work face similar challenges due to smoke exposure and other environmental risks. It is necessary to heed alarm systems for evacuation plans that account for houseless populations during these critical moments.

Discovering the Faces of Eco-Anxiety: Who Feels It the Most?

Climate anxiety is affecting people of all ages, but a recent study published in 2021 found that it's hitting certain groups harder than others. According to the research, climate anxiety is affecting 75 percent of 16-25 year olds globally. The study commissioned by climate campaigners friends of the earth and yougov revealed that young people are experiencing eco-anxiety more than any other age group.

The latest news about 2022's record-breaking temperatures and the looming threat of climate chaos only compounds this issue. Those with pre-existing diagnoses of generalised anxiety disorder may be at even higher risk for experiencing climate anxiety. As more people become aware of the devastating impact human activity has on the environment, it is likely that eco-anxiety will continue to affect many individuals.

The Big Issue magazine recently featured an article on climate anxiety in its Inside Big Issue newsletter. This highlights how important it is to raise awareness about this issue and support those who are struggling with it. By understanding who feels eco-anxiety most acutely, we can work towards finding solutions that address their unique concerns and help alleviate their fears.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can talk therapy help with climate anxiety?

Yes, talk therapy can help with climate anxiety by providing a safe and supportive space to process emotions and develop coping strategies for dealing with environmental concerns.

Is climate anxiety the basis for empowerment?

No, climate anxiety is not the basis for empowerment. While it can motivate action, true empowerment comes from taking tangible steps towards addressing the root causes of climate change and creating meaningful change in our communities and beyond.

What does climate anxiety feel like?

Climate anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and distress caused by the ongoing and potential impacts of climate change on the planet and its inhabitants. It can manifest in various ways, such as panic attacks, sleep disturbances, and avoidance behaviors.

Is climate anxiety a crucible?

Yes, climate anxiety can be considered a crucible as it is a transforming or difficult experience that can lead to personal growth and positive change.

Can nature heal climate anxiety?

Nature can provide a sense of calm and perspective that may help alleviate climate anxiety, but it is not a cure-all solution. It's important to take action towards reducing our carbon footprint while also finding healthy ways to cope with our emotions.

John Battaglini

John Battaglini

Writer at RHTB

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