What Is Eco-Anxiety? Cause, Symptoms And How To Cope

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What Is Eco-Anxiety? Cause, Symptoms And How To Cope

This phrase describes a profound fear of environmental catastrophe that an increasing number of people are currently experiencing.

What Is Eco-Anxiety? Cause, Symptoms And How To Cope

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The climate crisis has become impossible to overlook as heatwaves, storms, floods, and wildfires continue to ravage the world. The concerns of numerous young people, whether expressed through protests or social media posts, cannot be dismissed either. In fact, a new term has emerged to encapsulate these persistent worries which is eco-anxiety. Psychologists emphasise that eco-anxiety can have significant impacts on mental well-being, and it appears to be particularly prevalent among the younger generation.

Eco-anxiety is the apprehension caused by concerns over environmental degradation and ecological calamities. This form of anxiety predominantly arises from the present conditions and projected future outlook of the environment, as well as human-induced climate change.

The unease surrounding environmental issues can be attributed to the growing recognition of heightened risks associated with extreme weather events, potential loss of livelihood and housing, worries for future generations, and a pervasive feeling of helplessness.

Symptoms of eco-anxiety

A heightened feeling of despair regarding the planet's transformations is just one symptom of eco-anxiety. There are other possible symptoms to be aware of, including:

Anger or frustration

Anger or frustration is especially directed towards people who deny the existence of climate change or older generations for their lack of substantial progress.

Fatalistic thinking

It is characterised by a belief that the situation is beyond hope or that any efforts to combat climate change are futile.

Existential dread

A deep-seated fear and anxiety about the existential implications of environmental degradation.

Your carbon footprint

Guilt or shame concerning your own carbon footprint and the impact of your lifestyle choices on the environment.

Post-traumatic stress

It results from firsthand experiences of the effects of climate change.

The experience of these emotions can lead to additional challenges, such as:

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Alterations in appetite

  • Difficulties in concentration

Causes of environmental anxiety

The origins of anxiety related to environmental issues can be traced back to various factors. One significant factor is the firsthand experience, or the perceived risk, of climate-related extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires. People who have encountered these events themselves or have loved ones who have been affected may develop anxiety surrounding environmental issues.

Another contributing factor is the overwhelming media coverage of environmental destruction. The constant exposure to news and visuals highlighting the negative impact of human activities on the environment can be distressing. Moreover, the mounting evidence supporting humans' role in environmental degradation adds to the anxiety.

Furthermore, scientific research suggests that people are increasingly experiencing extreme or chronic anxiety due to a sense of helplessness in the face of environmental problems, particularly climate change. The realisation that individuals have limited control over these complex issues contributes to a growing sense of anxiety.

Who is affected by eco-anxiety?

Certain regions are more susceptible to the impacts of extreme weather, particularly coastal communities and low-lying areas. People whose livelihoods depend on the environment, such as those employed in fishing, tourism, and agriculture, are more likely to be affected.

Indigenous communities, who frequently depend on natural resources and reside in geographically vulnerable areas, confront substantial challenges. They may experience anxiety about the potential displacement of their residences, the disruption of their livelihoods, and the erosion of their cultural heritage. 

People working in environmental professions, as well as first responders and emergency healthcare workers, may also be more susceptible to eco-anxiety. These groups experience both physical and mental health effects as a result of changing climates and environmental damage.

Additionally, the following groups are more likely to experience eco-anxiety:

  • Displaced individuals and forced migrants

  • People who are already suffering from mental or physical health conditions

  • Individuals with lower socioeconomic status

  • Children and young adults

  • Older adults

How to cope

Assessing your carbon footprint

Assessing your carbon footprint can provide insights on how to minimise your environmental impact. Opting for active modes of transportation like biking or walking, instead of driving, can enhance your physical and mental well-being while reducing carbon emissions.

Engaging with people 

Engaging with community organisations dedicated to climate protection can offer opportunities to participate in wider policy initiatives aimed at combating climate change.

Educating people

In addition, empowering communities with accurate information about the environment is crucial in fostering preparedness and resilience during times of crisis. 

Reject denial

Climate change is an alarming concept and it's natural to want to shield yourself from eco-anxiety by completely disregarding the distressing reality. However, turning a blind eye makes it more difficult to take action. Moreover, it doesn't provide any solace, as suppressing unwanted emotions typically amplifies them.

Lifestyle changes

Engaging in regular physical activity can significantly alleviate various forms of anxiety.

Opting for activities like walking, running, or cycling, whenever feasible and secure, not only promotes frequent exercise but also contributes to a decrease in personal greenhouse gas emissions by replacing reliance on fossil fuel-based transportation.


While the immediate, tangible consequences of climate change are causing significant damage worldwide, it is important not to overlook the emotional turmoil it generates. Although these feelings may appear less urgent, it is crucial to acknowledge them rather than suppress them. Recognizing our emotions is a vital step towards instigating change.

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