Eco-anxiety is anxiety about ecological disasters and threats to the natural environment such as pollution and climate change. Variations to the definition exist such as the broader description explaining it as the "worry or agitation caused by concerns about the present and future state of the environment."
Such anxiety is mirrored by apocalyptic treatment of the theme in movies such as The Road, in which a father and son scavenge in a bleak world set after a major extinction event. People may have nightmares about such ideas and become very worried. For example, one child was so concerned about the threat of drought caused by climate change that he refused to drink water, lest millions die as a result.
Some cite that eco-anxiety is not related to maladaptive forms of worrying nor a pathological expression of anxiety but a constructive or adaptive reaction associated with pro-environmental attitudes and actions. An account, however, states that this condition can involve immobilization, manic re/activity, exhaustion, and insomnia. This indicates that, like general anxiety, eco-anxiety occurs on a spectrum and can be beneficial or harmful to the individual's life depending on the strength of the emotion.
Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who started the school strike for climate, warned to be extremely concerned about the matter: "...I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic." When she was younger, she fell into a depression and she has claimed that this was because of her worries about climate change.
The term "eco-angst" has also been suggested.
In response to eco-anxiety there is an emerging field of eco-psychology that differs from the well establish field of Environmental psychology. Eco-therapy is the form of therapy used in this field specifically to treat those with eco-anxiety. These therapists include Lorin Lindner, Melissa Pickett, and Thomas Doherty. A highly emphasized treatment method of eco-therapy is to inspire patients to take action on environmental issues by doing things like becoming more educated or reducing their carbon foot prints.
- Whitmore-Williams, Susan Clayton; Manning, Christie; Krygsman, Kirra; Speiser, Meighen (March 2017), Mental Health and Our Changing Climate (PDF), American Psychological Association
- Fawbert, Dave (27 March 2019), 'Eco-anxiety': how to spot it and what to do about it, BBC
- Ro, Christine (20 June 2018), How to cure the eco-anxious, Wellcome Collection
- Smith, Andrew; Hughes, William (2013). Ecogothic. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. p. 148. ISBN 9780719086571.
- Carr, Emily (2013), "A Gothic apocalypse", EcoGothic, Manchester University Press, p. 148–154, ISBN 9780719086571
- Albrecht, Glenn A. (2019). Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 77. ISBN 9781501715228.
- Kaplan, Rachel; Blume, K. Ruby (2011). Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living. New York: Skyhorse Publishing Inc. p. 255. ISBN 9781616080549.
- Jon Queally (19 December 2018). "Depressed and Then Diagnosed With Autism,". Common Dreams. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
- Jonathan Watts (11 March 2019). "Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior". Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
- Pihkala, Panu (2018). "Eco-Anxiety, Tragedy, and Hope: Psychological and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change". Zygon®. 53 (2): 545–569. doi:10.1111/zygo.12407. ISSN 1467-9744.
- Cossman, Brenda (2013). "Anxiety Governance". Law & Social Inquiry. 38 (4): 892–919. ISSN 0897-6546.
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