Home » ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM ECO-ANXIETY? HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM ECO-ANXIETY? HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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If you have had recurring moments of unrest, devastation, and anxiety over the state of your environment so much that you find it nearly impossible to sleep or focus on your school work or job, the higher chances are that you are experiencing something called eco-anxiety. It is natural for humans to feel an unpleasant emotion of anxiety build up when the causes they have dedicated their lives to solving are rapidly collapsing or when there’s an impending loom.

In the last three years, there’s been a 14% increase in the statistics of people suffering from eco-anxiety compared to its first emergence in 2017 and 2018 after Greta Thunberg– the youngest Swedish climate activist– publicly discussed her eco-anxiety.

Eco-anxiety, also known as ecological distress or climate anxiety, is a chronic fear of environmental doom or ecosystem collapse. The American Psychology Association  [APA] defines it as a 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 the next generations. A person must not have first-hand experience an event of climate change or destruction to develop eco-anxiety, merely reading or constantly digesting information or news about these events is enough to ignite great distress in them.

The effects of eco-anxiety vary, ranging from mild– restlessness and lack of focus– to severe– fear of birthing children due to a deep fear of impending destruction or doom of the planet.

In 2018, a report was issued by APA about the mental health impacts of climate change where they stated that gradual, long-term climate changes can also ignite several emotions in people ranging from fear, anger, feelings of powerlessness, or exhaustion.

Eco-anxiety is not a medically diagnosed disorder and is regarded as an individual’s natural response to the plummeting reality of climate change. This condition can be said to affect mostly young adults following a statistical report by CNN which stated that about 84% of people within the age range of 16-25 experience eco-anxiety.

Although it is an unpleasant emotion and causes heightened negative emotional experiences linked with anticipation in victims, it can be inherently managed and adapted to. This adaptation could in turn lead to increased resilience, reflective functioning, and collective action, however, when ineffectively managed, it will be manifested in victims either by conflict avoidance or a more paralyzing effect where the victim develops a grave fear for the future state of the earth so much that they may make grave decisions like deciding to not have children. Although the condition cannot be medically diagnosed, it poses a great threat to the mental health of victims if left unmanaged or unattended, therefore individuals are encouraged to find collective ways of processing their environmental and climate-based emotions to support their mental health and well-being.

CAUSES OF ECO-ANXIETY

Eco anxiety or climate-induced distress may be caused by a couple of varying factors all relating to the anticipation of the destruction or collapse of the environment, ecological structure, or climate. These factors may affect the victim directly or indirectly, some of them include:

  • Living or being part of a susceptible population: Researchers have noted an increased risk of eco-anxiety in susceptible and younger populations, especially rural or indigenous communities and areas that depend on the land, sea, wildlife, or forests for their existence such as the Native Alaskans, the Inuits, etc. Another susceptible group noted for experiencing heightened eco-anxiety is women who may have experienced homelessness, chronic health issues, or other climate-induced crises.
  • Inhabiting areas more exposed to climate change: Feelings of eco-grief, eco-anxiety, and solastalgia are more than likely to be experienced by people who live in areas previously impacted by climate change especially due to their knowledge of the long-term effects of those climate change-induced disasters. Individuals like this are more than likely to live in fear of anticipation of a relapse of these disasters.
  • Personally experiencing an ecological event: Experiencing a traumatizing ecological disaster changes a person’s view of the safety of the climate and ecological state of the world. They experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] and naturally tend to anticipate the reoccurrence of environmental disasters
  • Frequently consuming information about environmental mishaps: People who experience eco-anxiety tend to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like self-harm through digesting negative news, doom-scrolling, and researching reports, especially on the issues that heighten their anxiety. With the ability of the media to disseminate information swiftly, catastrophic news about disasters tends to spread quickly, leaving eco-anxious people with lots of unhealthy information to binge on, which exacerbates their feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Experiencing guilt or concern over your ecological lifestyle and footprint: With the increased dissemination of information and awareness about sustainable ecological living, individuals often try to impact and positively contribute to the protection of the earth by following the numerous and ever-rising trends which can be overwhelming when overdone or trigger feelings of guilt when not done enough. Either of these actions could in turn lead to eco-anxiety.

SIGNS OF ECO-ANXIETY:

 The signs of eco-anxiety may vary from severe to mild in persons. Some of the most prevalent signs include:

  1. Feelings of displacement or like the world is no longer safe for you.
  2. Problems with focusing on work, school, or other important duties.
  3. Obsessing climate or ecological news.
  4. Solastalgia
  5. Increased substance usage to repress emotions and feelings of anxiety
  6. Suicidal thoughts emanate from fear of irreparable damage or destruction of the world.
  7. Grieving over the ecological health of the planet.
  8. Feelings of helplessness over certain environmental conditions.
  9. Unnecessary anger or irritability over some environmental vices.
  10. Depression and anxiety when issues about the earth arise.

The effects of eco-anxiety are varying based on the severity of the condition of the individuals, some of which include;

  1. Heightened levels of physical tension, unease, and mental stress.
  2. Lack of concentration and focus.
  3. Insomnia.
  4. Poor appetite and nutrition.

TREATMENT

Since eco-anxiety is not medically diagnosed, it cannot be treated with the use of drugs or by medical personnel. The most effective forms of treatment for this condition are therapy and counseling from appropriate quarters.  However, there are suggested actions that can be taken that have been assessed to produce positive results on victims of eco-anxiety.  One approach is being vocal and expressive about your environmental passions. Be part of an environmental advocacy group, build specific yet healthy coping skills, and join eco-support groups with people experiencing similar conditions.

You could also create your own small beautiful space and take joy in nurturing it to maturity. It could be getting involved in green agriculture, recycling ventures and energy conservation practices. These activities are time-consuming and could engage your attention more productively in your areas of interest. It helps refocus your thought process away from the ills surrounding the environment.

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