Should we be worried about Eco-Anxiety?

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We are all increasingly aware of the climate crisis and its potential impacts on future generations. Whether we recognise it in ourselves or not, this impending disaster is fostering a new kind of anxiety. Unlike other forms of anxiety, which generally involve an overestimation of threat and an underestimation of our ability to cope with this threat, ecoanxiety is based in a very real fear about what we can see is already beginning to happen to the world around us. You could say that we should be anxious. As Greta Thunberg proclaimed ‘I want you to panic and act as if the house is on fire.’

But what happens when this anxiety becomes an issue that actually hampers efforts to manage this threat; and is ecoanxiety something that is actually relevant to us clinically as psychiatrists? The American Psychological Association produced a 69-page report ‘Mental Health and Our Changing Climate’ in 2017 looking at the wide ranging impacts climate change can have on the psyche. So it looks like this is a growing area we need to pay attention to.

Ecoanxiety is based in a very real fear about what we can see is already beginning to happen to the world around us. You could say that we should be anxious.

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References
Albrecht, Glenn. (2011). Chronic Environmental Change: Emerging ‘Psychoterratic’ Syndromes. 10.1007/978-1-4419-9742-5_3.
Arthur L. Whaley (2009) Trauma Among Survivors of Hurricane Katrina: Considerations and Recommendations for Mental Health Care, Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14:6, 459-476, DOI: 10.1080/15325020902925480
Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica
Rhodes J, Chan C, Paxson C, Rouse CE, Waters M, Fussell E. The impact of hurricane Katrina on the mental and physical health of low-income parents in New Orleans. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2010;80(2):237
Tunstall, Sylvia & Tapsell, Sue & Green, Colin & Floyd, Peter & George, Carolyn. (2006). The health effects of flooding: Social research results from England and Wales. Journal of water and health. 4. 365-80. 10.2166/wh.2006.031.
www.ide.ie Irish Doctors for the Environment
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