According to the According to the Climate Psychology Alliance, it is “a heightened emotional, mental or somatic distress in response to dangerous changes in the climate system”, it is a chronic fear and sense of doom generated by the thought of climate change and the current environmental crisis.
This concept is nowadays becoming more and more popular and widespread, and many people are finding themselves to be affected by this type of anxiety.
Doctor Mary-Jayne Rust, an art therapist and Jungian analyst from London, said that this type of anxiety is something she has come across a lot in the UK, but not to extreme levels.
“I’ve been working as an eco-psychologist for 20 years. In my practice there’s been a gradual increase in clients who wish to talk about their relationship with the earth. I’ve noticed a great increase of clients needing to talk about eco-anxiety since the latest IPCC report at the end of last year.”
According to Doctor Rust, young people are the ones who are experiencing eco-anxiety the most, as they feel like the future is extremely uncertain and find it very difficult to live with that thought.
“They are in need of talking it through with a therapist who is aware of the issues. Recently the Brexit issue has been more prominent and several of my clients are saying how chaotic and unstable the country feels, what a shock this is when things are normally quite stable here,” said Dr Rust.
“This often leads to talking about the wider issues and climate change/global crisis. Some people want to talk about it a lot, others just mention it in passing,” said Doctor Rust.
She added: “I believe it can be one of the factors which underlies binge-drinking epidemics, and other addictions, for example. There is a general feeling that the future is so very uncertain and it’s extremely hard to live with that.”
Generation Z is the group that feels the environmental crisis the most. According to a survey carried out by YouGov, 46% of people aged between 18 and 24 feels fairly negative about the future state of the environment. And 65% of them thinks concerns about climate change have not been exaggerated and the threat is as real as scientists are reporting it. , compared to 57% of people over 65.
Although more and more people are feeling this sense of doom and anxiety when it comes to the environmental crisis, hardly any research is currently being carried out on this matter and, according to Doctor Rust, eco-anxiety is still not well understood and recognised.
She said: “Sadly, the psychotherapy profession has not yet taken on board the many ways in which clients might be affected by climate change and the current global crisis.”
However, there are some people who are trying to put to good use this feeling and use eco-anxiety to empower and boost their will and desire to do more for the planet.
The Climate Psychologists, for example, are a team of professionals who recognised the need for climate mental wellbeing support and realised that providing help for climate anxiety could also help tackle climate change. Their mission is to help individuals, families and organisations move from anxiety to action.
If you want to know more about eco-anxiety and transform your feelings into action, there are many sources you can look into, including social media groups like Force of Nature, podcasts, TED Talks and documentaries, like the BBC documentary on eco-anxiety, ‘Costing the Earth’ .
You can also take this little quiz to find out if you do have eco-anxiety.