What is Eco-anxiety?

The words ‘eco-anxiety’ still sound foreign to most. Although this term is relatively new, recently it begins to concern many people. Eco-anxiety is a chronic anxiety caused by the fear and worries of the possibility of natural disasters occurring in the future. Although there are currently no official records on the number of people with eco-anxiety, anyone from any age group or race can suffer from this type of anxiety.

Environmental issues that can trigger this include the melting of ice caps, global warming, the increase in sea levels, the greenhouse effect, the lack of food products, and air pollution, among many others. However, there are also specific social circles that are more vulnerable to the secondary effects of these issues. This includes people with underlying health problems and those who are suffering from demographical injustice and social crises. Anyone suffering from eco-anxiety may feel lasting hopelessness and anxiety, and would even not wish to have children as they think the world is dying and no longer feasible to live in. 

As reported by the Mental Health and Our Changing Climate journal, this type of anxiety can consist of:

  • Trauma and shock
  • PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Guilt
  • Aggressiveness
  • Feelings of hopelessness, fear, and frustration for not being able to make a change

People would most definitely experience different symptoms of anxiety, so it is important to further investigate the exact cause of such anxiety. The symptoms that arise also should also be taken seriously as if it were ignored, it can severely impact and disrupt someone’s quality of life.

Global Warming

Global warming refers to the increase in the earth’s average surface temperature. The fact that global warming has caused a real impact is indisputable and if it isn’t handled effectively, the effects will be fatal. Since the end of the 18th century, the earth’s surface temperature has increased about 0.4-0.8 degrees Celsius. This increase is more significant compared to ones before.

There are many factors that cause global warming, but the actual root of the trouble comes from people’s selfish intentions who do not think far towards the future nor consider the impacts that may arise in the future. Global warming is commonly known as the greenhouse effect, where, similarly to greenhouses that trap heat, the increase in the earth’s temperature is caused by the gases, particles, and the sun’s heat being trapped on the earth.

Several human activities that cause global warming include:

  • Clearing farmlands with fire
  • Overusing private vehicles
  • Deforestation without subsequent reforestation
  • Smoke from factory fuel combustion
  • Wasteful use of electricity

A few effects caused by global warming include:

  • The melting of ice caps that can cause increasing sea levels and result to massive floods
  • Extreme changes in weather patterns that may disrupt the ecosystem
  • Animal species extinction
  • The damage of sea life biota such as coral reefs due to global warming
  • Droughts that cause harvesting difficulties and insufficient food production
  • Floods due to high rainfalls

Why Global Warming is Concerning

The effects of global warming are not only felt in the environment, but have also impacted the mental wellbeing of people both in the short term and the long run. Natural disasters caused by global warming can very likely cause trauma and shock from losing their loved ones, housing, and can even lead to hopelessness. In post-disaster conditions, anxiety disorders are very likely to emerge, followed by phobias and depression. Therefore, we can conclude that the ongoing global warming crisis not only damages the earth but also the wellbeing and one’s quality of life towards subsequent generations.

Some experts say that if we do not act fast nor maximize our efforts, nobody can guarantee that earth can be saved. This means that the numerous attempts so far are merely preventive and limit the severity of global warming. This has definitely become concerning to most, so it is very important to provide support and help for those in need.

Ways to Prevent Eco-Anxiety 

Although eco-anxiety has only recently received attention, do know that you are not alone. Eco-anxiety can be prevented individually or within support groups. 

Preventing Eco-Anxiety as an Individual

  1. Building a positive mindset in yourself: Individuals who can build a positive way of thinking are generally more capable of resolving the origins of their stress and personal trauma. It is good to develop a good thinking pattern such that one does not get easily influenced by emotions and pessimistic feelings.
  2. Talking to someone you trust: Find a close friend or family member that you can entrust with your problems. Sometimes, what we need is simply a pair of ears to listen and a heart that cares.
  3. Finding your inner peace: Participating in religious communities can make you more immune to mental disorders. For many, faith can provide a feeling of calmness and hope during hard times. Trying out yoga and meditation are also believed to bring spiritual tranquillity and a reason to live.

Preventing Eco-Anxiety Through Social Connections

  1. Professional support: There is nothing wrong with asking help from medical professionals that are qualified to help you deal with these problems. They understand this issue more and can provide trustworthy solutions for you. To do this, medical workers in public health that focus on mental health need to maximize their role and provide easier access to those in need.
  2. Post-disaster response training: A community created in response to disasters can include psychologists, medical workers, and volunteers who are willing to help those who suffer from trauma such that negative feelings like hopelessness, shock, and grief can be dealt with well.
  3. Creating a safe and peaceful environment: Together, we can create a safe environment that is conducive for mental health, such as by building a connection that’s interactive and sensitive to the needs of others.