What Is Climate Anxiety?
Climate anxiety, often called eco-anxiety, is described as stress due to changes in the climate. It is the psychological impact on people as they react to the changes in climate happening all over the world.
The American Psychology Association (APA) describes it as:
“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 Anxiety?
Climate anxiety can affect any individual and is not limited to certain groups of people.
Compared to men, women have been seen to have a more consistent high-risk perception of the harm of global warming. This is not to say that men are passive about climate change and do not care about it.
The effects of climate anxiety can be felt among people in any age group.
In a Gallup poll, the younger population in the U.S. appeared more concerned than the older ones. Seventy percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 worry about global warming compared to 62% in the 35 to 54 bracket and 56% aged 55 years and older.
People from all professions and income groups may experience this, although it does not affect people equally. Factors that can cause this difference may include location, livelihood, health, socioeconomic status, and education.
The Causes of Climate Anxiety
A lot of factors contribute to how someone feels about climate change.
The first crucial factor is exposure–how much one has heard or learned about global warming or climate change.
There is a degree to which people who are well-informed and follow reports about climate change tend to be more concerned than those who know less about this issue.
The lack of awareness can cause a sense of detachment from the problem. It will make it possibly seem like something far away and abstract.
This refers to how much one has witnessed firsthand the negative effects of global warming, such as floods, droughts, and other events.
People who have experienced such events may feel vulnerable. They often lack control when they learn how much more needs fixing.
Perception of Climate Change
Another factor is how much one believes in the reality of global warming and its negative effects on people and nature.
People often become worried once they hear reports or news about this issue because it is seen as a real and present danger that must be addressed immediately for the safety and future of humanity.
Personal values also play a major role in whether or not one identifies with the safety of future generations.
People who see themselves as caretakers of the future are more likely to be affected by climate anxiety. This is because they do not want what happened to them to happen to their children and grandchildren.
Those who do not have children or those whose children are already grown up may feel less worried about climate change. They may see climate change as something that does not concern them directly yet.
The Effects of Climate Anxiety
Climate anxiety may result in acute impacts that result from natural disasters or extreme weather events.
Trauma and Shock
Psychological trauma brought about by injury, the demise of a loved one, or damage to personal property is a likely result of climate change.
General anxiety leading to anger, shock, and other intense negative emotions is a type of psychopathology with a high prevalence rate during and after a catastrophic event.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed when an individual experiences intrusive thoughts, hyperarousal, and avoidance of anything that reminds them of the traumatic incident.
Other effects, such as economic instability, loss of jobs, and social disharmony, can lead to even more stress.
This kind of compounded stress can prove extremely harmful to one's physical and mental health, leading to conditions such as heart disease, depression, and anxiety disorders.
Impacts of Stress on Physical Health
Because of stress and anxiety, physical health effects, such as a lowered immune system, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal issues, may arise.
Cardiovascular diseases may also develop due to stress, according to the World Heart Federation.
Chronic impacts can result from longer-term climate changes.
Loss of Autonomy and Control
One of the most significant impacts of climate change is that it diminishes people's sense of control and autonomy.
This happens when individuals feel unable to do anything to prevent a problem from happening. This makes them feel more helpless and hopeless.
Depression, Fear, Fatalism, and Resignation
As a result of the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, people may experience depression, fear, fatalism, and resignation.
Worries about the future and the seemingly irrevocable effects of climate change can cause people to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
These emotions can prevent people from taking action to try to solve the problem. This will induce feelings of resignation and make them feel like giving up.
Coping With Climate Anxiety
There are ways an individual can cope with climate anxiety positively and productively.
Discuss Climate Crisis
Talking to close friends or people you trust about this issue can help because it is a good way to share your anxiety.
It can also give you the chance to learn from others dealing with the same thing.
Having someone listen will help ease some of these emotions. In effect, this will allow you to take back control over your mental health.
While not everyone shares the same opinions about climate anxiety, joining support groups of like-minded people can help spread the message about the need to act on this issue. Furthermore, this may motivate you to get involved.
Engaging in a community activity or even joining an environmental group are some of the ways you can be proactive about climate change.
Setting achievable goals for yourself and taking small steps toward them is an effective coping mechanism against climate anxiety.
Educate Yourself and Others
Learning more about global warming is one way to feel less fearful about the issue.
Better information produces a sense of empowerment that leads to feeling less helpless when dealing with climate anxiety. It will also make you realize that things can be done to limit its effects on humanity.
Commit to Sustainable Activities
Taking part in sustainable activities can also make you feel good. It will remind you that the changes you make are not for naught.
These small yet effective steps will lead you to change bad habits into sustainable ones that benefit yourself and the environment.
Keep a Positive Attitude
A positive attitude is necessary when coping with climate anxiety because it helps remind you there are still ways to take back control over this issue. It allows you to see the brighter side of life.
For people who have firsthand experience of natural disasters, it helps to know that they are not alone and there is someone who can understand how they feel.
Talking to others about climate anxiety in a supportive environment also helps create a sense of resilience and courage. People unite with one another and take effective action on such issues.
The Bottom Line
Climate change is one of the biggest concerns worldwide because it causes irrevocable damage to our planet's environmental health. It can lead to dangerous temperatures, rising sea levels, and other risks that affect the global population.
Climate change is real, as is the mental health struggle that comes with it.
Rather than deal with these emotions in a counterproductive way, it is necessary to be proactive about it. Making sustainable changes toward climate change prevention is essential to help solve the issue.
With the right attitude and realistic coping mechanisms in place, emotions may be managed more effectively. Empowerment may lead to sustainable action that benefits the environment and oneself.
1. How can hypervigilance be dealt with?
Try exercising, meditation, getting enough sleep, or being creative to help your mind relax so you can have more control over your thoughts.
2. What are the coping mechanisms for people who feel guilty about their carbon emissions?
Make small yet effective changes by carpooling or recycling. This will also help you work on yourself in an active way; for instance, learn how to meditate to deal with feelings of guilt constructively.
3. How can fear be managed?
Fear often comes from a lack of knowledge about climate change and its effects. Learning more about it can help because it gives you a sense of empowerment.
4. How do I know if I have climate anxiety?
You may feel anxious when thinking or talking about climate change. You may also have intrusive thoughts that are difficult to control. These will trigger feelings of guilt for not being able to do something about it. It is crucial to figure out what you are afraid of the most so you can deal with these emotions constructively in a way that empowers rather than overwhelms you.
5. How do I deal with children showing symptoms of climate anxiety?
Children are affected by what happens around them. Thus, it is crucial to talk about these issues openly rather than hiding them for fear of scaring youngsters. Keeping the lines of communication open allows children to learn how they can also make positive changes in their lives that will benefit themselves and others in the long run.