Climate Anxiety and Eco-Grief Counseling

Statements of the Eco-Distressed:

“I think about climate change every day.”

“I fear the future.”

“I’m angry no one is doing anything about this.”

“Why is no one talking about this?”

“I feel guilty for my choices.”

“I’m not sure where it’s safe to live.”

“I’m not sure I should have children.”

Sound familiar?

If this sounds like you, you may be experiencing climate anxiety or eco-grief.

More and more, people are coming to terms with the reality of climate change, and our mental health is being impacted. According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, half of Americans say they are harmed by it right now, and 64% say they are somewhat worried about it.

climate anxiety

Twenty-seven percent of Americans are very worried about climate change, and about one in 10 Americans experiences significant anxiety or depressive symptoms due to global warming.

For youth, things are even more concerning. A 2021 study of youth ages 16-25 in ten countries found that 59% of youth are very or extremely worried about climate change, and

50% report being sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty.

75% of youth say they think the future is frightening.

More than 50% think humanity is doomed.

39% are hesitant to have children.

Climate distress can take the form of climate anxiety—worry, fear, and distress about the future—or eco-grief, which is sadness related to current or anticipated losses in the future. Many individuals experience both climate anxiety and eco-grief. 

Emotions related to climate distress include:

    • Fear
    • Worry
    • Anger/rage
    • Despair
    • Grief
    • Guilt
    • Shame

For some, these feelings occur every day or many days of the week. Some of our clients report thinking about climate change multiple times per day. To them, the anxiety of an imperiled future is high, as is a sense grief: They mourn the loss of the future they thought they were going to have, facing a new, imperiled future for themselves and their children.

One thing is critical to know:

Climate anxiety is an understandable and appropriate reaction to the climate crisis.

According to Britt Wray, author of Generation Dread,

It is reasonable to be worried…It is appropriate to grieve…It is understandable to be scared…It is decent to rage… There is nothing pathological about this pain. It is an unavoidable symptom of a very sick society.

climate anxiety

If you have climate distress or climate anxiety, you’re not crazy, and you’re not overthinking things. You’re facing a harsh reality that many have yet to face. Therefore this experience can be extremely isolating. If you are struggling with your thoughts and feelings about climate change, know that you are not alone.

Counseling can help with eco-anxiety and eco-grief, giving you a safe space in which you can sort through your feelings, learn to cope more effectively with your anxiety, and grieve the losses you need to grieve. It’s through facing our fears head on that we become empowered, so we can both take action to address climate change and cope effectively as things change over time. We don’t have to let our emotions and fears run the show.

“Addressing global climate change begins with attending to the climate within.”—Gabor Mate

If you are seeking help for climate anxiety, it’s important to see a climate-aware therapist, who has already done the difficult work of facing their own fears, reactions, and emotions about the climate crisis. Therapists who are not educated about climate change are at risk of minimizing your fears, not recognizing that they are in fact a healthy and understandable reaction to the climate disaster. They also might become overwhelmed by your concerns, not having faced the realities of climate change or previously faced their own fears and emotions, and not be able to give your concerns the full exploration you deserve.

Interview on WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio
Lecture for 350 Chicago