Eco-anxiety is a relatively new psychological problem. It has been conjectured that it may be a new manifestation of an older problem, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Those who suffer from it become unhealthily obsessed with environmental concerns, and symptoms can mimic OCD.
While being concerned about the environment is not at all unhealthy – in fact, it can be quite the opposite – eco-anxiety takes this concern a step too far. Sufferers are unable to function normally as thoughts of man-made environmental destruction consume their thoughts and result in depression, anxiety, and overall unhappiness.
Even physical maladies have been attributed to eco-anxiety, as tension in the body results in chronic pain and/or fatigue. Eco-anxious people cannot enjoy the natural world because they are preoccupied with the notion that it is being destroyed by global warming, deforestation, and other human actions.
Eco-therapy helps these people let go of the anxiety and appreciate nature once again. Eco-therapists teach their clients that everyone is a part of the natural world, and they should embrace this interconnectedness. Eco-therapists’ clients learn to achieve balance in their everyday lives, such alternating between buying organic and non-organic food.
They also learn balance by gaining an understanding of their place in the natural world – it is vital enough for them to feel significant, but minor enough that they need not worry about having a catastrophic effect on the natural world. In other words, eco-therapy teaches people their place on this earth and how they belong. Eco-therapists help clients build a healthy relationship with nature.
As with any therapy and relationship, healing is a process that takes time. Eco-anxious clients learn the facts about the environment – eco-therapists know that truth is a wonderful remedy for anxiety.
Clients learn to do their part to make a difference, such as saving water and recycling, which helps them feel empowered and active. They come to understand that the health of the planet is connected to their mental and physical health. By taking an active role in helping the environment, clients find themselves more at ease. In helping the earth, they are helping themselves.