Mental Health

Are You Anxious About Climate Change?

Seeing plastic everywhere you go? Has it made you feel sad, nervous, and possibly even anxious? You’re not the only one, as an increasing number of people grow more eco-conscious leading to climate anxiety.

By Aditi
26 May 2022

Floods, droughts, cyclones, and other natural disasters have become commonplace every year. In many parts of India, temperatures have soared this summer to unimaginable extents. Amidst this, scientists, activists, and organisations rally to lobby governments to take collective action. But that’s not all there is to the story of climate change.


The United Nations Panel on Climate Change has reported that global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades. A 2021 survey by Nature found that almost 60 per cent of respondents felt extremely worried about climate change and its implications. For many others, it has become a cause of anxiety, one that has completely taken over their lives. Climate anxiety is becoming more common, and there is little that people can do about it.


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What is Climate Anxiety?

There’s no denying the fact that climate change is happening, even as you read this article right now. Global temperatures have been rising steadily over the years due to higher greenhouse emissions, modern lifestyles, and large scale production and mismanagement of waste.


The issue of climate change isn’t simply a scientific one; it invades all of our lives. For some, it is an issue that they can’t help feeling anxious, worried, or fearful about. Constantly seeing news of heatwaves, droughts, or even non-stop rain on social media, the Internet, and television can further cause these emotions to spiral. Even something as simple as seeing vegetables wrapped in plastic at a supermarket can cause feelings of anxiousness about the state of the planet.


Why It’s Affecting Today’s Generation

A 2011 scientific paper by Dr. Doherty and Susan Clayton titled ‘The Psychological Impacts of Global Climate Change’ highlighted the possible psychological impacts of climate change. They argued that it wouldn’t be just the people who were working directly on the frontlines, but even those who were aware of the crisis would end up being psychologically impacted. They described three types of psychological impacts:

  • Direct: severe effects of extreme weather events and changing environment
  • Indirect: threats to emotional state based on observation of climate change and concern for instability in the future
  • Psychosocial: chronic social and community effects of climate change events (droughts, migrations, climate-related conflicts)


At the time the paper was released, not many took it seriously. However, mounting climate-related events and the COVID-19 pandemic have made people more aware of climate change. The 2021 Nature survey also highlighted that the highest proportion of respondents (68 per cent) who felt significantly worried about climate change were Indians.


Are You Climate Anxious?

The American Psychology Association defines eco-anxiety as ‘’the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change.’’ It’s not just the fear of what will happen to the current generation but the legacy left for future generations.


Climate anxiety is not something that will affect all people equally. Many will find anxiety hindering their daily lives to the extent that they can’t function normally. Some can feel traumatised about the harm that has already been done to the planet. Anger and frustration are common to feel, especially around those who refuse to acknowledge climate change or don’t take it seriously.


According to Public Service Division, Singapore, and the American organisation NPR, eco-anxiety can have the following symptoms:

  • General worry and dread about the climate and environment
  • Feelings of helplessness, guilt, and frustration
  • Trauma and shock, existential dread about the future
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or panicked about a lack of action
  • Grief and guilt over carbon footprint
  • Obsessive thinking about climate change, loss of natural environments, extinction of wildlife populations, etc.


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Staying Sane

Change does not happen in a day. Whether you are dealing with eco-anxiety or general anxiety, it’s crucial to understand that small steps lead to bigger ripples over time. Climate change is a global issue, and you can’t solve it by yourself. Making small changes in your lifestyle to be more aware and eco-friendlier can help alleviate stress and anxiety to some degree.


Leading a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t only mean you’re doing your bit for the planet but also lessening feelings of guilt you may harbour. Commit to sustainability in all aspects, whether it’s food or transportation. If you want to become more involved, taking part in environmental campaigns and becoming an activist may be right for you. Giving time to activities that you think are important for the planet, like beach cleaning, organising waste, etc., can also make you feel like you’re taking a step forward.


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You’re Not The Only One

Climate change is a phenomenon that all of us have to deal with, whether we like it or not. While it can be less in some areas compared to others, it ultimately is a crisis that is increasingly affecting everyone on the planet. Knowing you’re not the only one feeling this way is important to not feel lonely and isolated. Finding a community of people who feel this way can be important in helping you stay sane and deal with your emotions.


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There will be good days and bad days when it comes to climate anxiety. Educating yourself about the climate and how to deal with the issue is crucial. If it feels unbearable, getting in touch with a therapist who can help you resolve these feelings is crucial.





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