October 4, 2022

ECO-ANXIETY: everything you need to know to feel good

ECO-ANXIETY: everything you need to know to feel good

‍How do wedefine eco-anxiety?

The compound term "eco-anxiety" naturally refers to "ecology" on the one hand, and "anxiety" on the other. The term was coined and theorized in 1997 by Belgian-Canadian public health researcher Véronique Lapaige. 

To date, there is no public, official definition of "eco-anxiety", but the international community is highlighting two characteristic points: firstly, a feeling of worry and anxiety linked to climatic events and the various scenarios that threaten the planet in the coming years. 

Despite the diversity of definitions, in "The Hogg Eco-Anxiety Scale: Development and validation of a multidimensional scale", L.Hogg and R.Watsford and other Australian and New Zealand researchers attempt to provide a precise definition of eco-anxiety. According to them, it is "a term that captures experiences of anxiety related to environmental crises". They point out that the latter refers in particular to "anxiety related to climate change, as well as anxiety aroused by a multiplicity of environmental catastrophes, including the elimination of entire ecosystems and plant and animal species, increased incidence of natural disasters and extreme weather events, global mass pollution, deforestation, sea-level rise and global warming". 

Others, like the epidemiologist A. Desbiolles in "L'éco-anxiété : Vivre sereinement dans un monde abîmé" (Eco-anxiety: Living serenely in a damaged world), point out that eco-anxiety "reflects the anticipatory anxiety that the various scenarios established by scientists - such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - may provoke about the planet's viability in the decades to come". 

What is eco-anxiety: a mental illness or an anxiety? 

Despite the lack of consensus on an academic definition of the term, it is clear that eco-anxiety is not a mental illness. Indeed, psychiatrist A. Pelissolo shows in "Les émotions du dérèglement climatique" that eco-anxiety is neither a "syndrome" nor "a psychiatric diagnosis insofar as it does not appear in either the DSM-5 or the ICD-10, the two classification tools for mental disorders used worldwide". As eco-anxiety is not a mental illness or pathology, the researchers warn of the risk of "pathologizing" the condition, leading to inappropriate and ineffective responses. 

How to identify eco-anxiety?

According to specialists such as A. Pelissolo, "people who claim to suffer from eco-anxiety report symptoms in the field of anxiety disorders: panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, obsessive thoughts, eating disorders, negative emotions". The researcher points out that "these symptoms are the cause of significant disruption in daily life for some individuals, and consultations for this reason are on the increase, particularly in the United States".

Don't confuse eco-anxiety with solastalgia 

The term solastalgia is often associated with eco-anxiety, although the latter, coined by G.Albrecht, means "pain or illness caused by the loss or lack of comfort and the feeling of isolation associated with the present state of one's home and territory". It's important to stress that, despite a misleading association of the two terms, solastalgia depicts a state experienced in the present, whereas eco-anxiety refers to so-called anticipatory anxiety. For A. Desbiolles, "eco-anxiety is anticipatory and eschatological". Solastalgia is more focused on the present or the past: it's nostalgia for a nature threatened with extinction.

Learn to feel good despite eco-anxiety 

In the webinar organized by Evoluno on eco-anxiety, psychologist E.Altenloh gave us the keys to understanding this phenomenon, offering practical advice you can apply right away to feel better in your day-to-day life, despite difficulties and negative emotions. Here we give you the key points raised by the specialist, and invite you to watch the webinar again for more information on the subject. 

Helping yourself

1.Identify the source of your anxiety: try to identify the source of this "eco-emotion".

2.Identifying accessible means of action: how to act? What actions can we take to help ourselves?

3.implement possible actions to reduce them 

Helping others

1.Active listening: ask the person in difficulty open-ended questions 

2.adopt a neutral, non-judgmental stance : 

3.take a non-solutionist approach: don't propose solutions 

Finding help 

1.help from specialized psychologists 

2.avoid "TQR" groups led by people who are not qualified in psychological support

3.groups adapted to your needs and desires : 





Being aware of climate issues is important to change mentalities and advance the trend towards greater sustainability and responsible behavior towards the planet and its resources. However, in addition to protecting the planet, it's also necessary to protect yourself in order to keep a peaceful conscience and clear ideas. Eco-anxiety is not a mental illness; it is possible to change your perception of things and your mental patterns to move towards greater serenity and harmony between you and your environment. If you need it, you can always count on personalized support and a comprehensive approach from qualified psychologists and specialists, as well as our Evoluo virtual solution. 

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