Is eco-anxiety real?

There’s a stubbornly persistent school of thought in the world that anxiety is “all in the head”.

This worldview projects downward from the ‘tough’ to the ‘weak’. Anxiety is ungenerously framed as lacking the required nerve, or not being able to tolerate the hard stuff.

Some organisational cultures still incubate this worldview and permit the dehumanising of employees in the name of results.

It is perhaps then no surprise that some have reacted with eye-rolling resistance to the introduction of eco-anxiety into the contemporary conversation.

To answer the headline question, eco-anxiety is very much a real and lived experience. Anxiety tends to thrive at the intersection of fear and uncertainty and given the emerging climate crisis, it seems quite logical to be both afraid and uncertain about the medium and long-term prospects for our planet.

The lack of an appropriate response to environmental challenges is rooted in denial and ignorance. And when it comes to eco-anxiety, denial and ignorance will only compound the problem.

Accepting that people are experiencing this along the full symptomatic range allows us to be empathetic, and accordingly more solution-focused. Perhaps the most tragic element of eco-anxiety is to increase the likelihood of disengagement and feelings of despair and helplessness, just at the time when more coordinated action is required.

It’s ok to be anxious. It’s human nature. Accepting it is the first step to dealing with it in a more useful way.


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

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