700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Eco Anxiety: How to Changing Environment Can Affect Mental Health

Mar 28, 2023
blog eco anxiety

As the environment continues to change, young people have become increasingly worried about Earth’s future. It is understandable to feel anxious when natural disasters like floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, and earthquakes occur: they can create major problems like people being forced from their homes, the burning of forests, and extreme flooding, just to name a few. It is normal to feel sad, angry, or confused after these events.

Chronic worry, or feelings that continue for a long time (or repeatedly) due to this environmental concern, is known as eco anxiety. This type of worrying can have negative impacts on mental health and may lead to general feelings of anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, anger, or feelings of helplessness.

Who Is Impacted by Eco Anxiety?

Eco anxiety can affect anyone, however, people who are more closely affected by natural disasters may be more at risk. Children who have other types of anxiety, such as separation anxiety, social phobia or selective mutism, may also be more susceptible to eco anxiety.

If you and your child live in an area where a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake has occurred and you are forced to leave your home, your child may experience shock or other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Your child may miss their regular routine and may feel angered or upset by the sudden change in their surroundings. If these feelings do not go away and your child continues to express fear over the environment, it is time to seek help.

How Is It Treated?

Eco anxiety can be scary and complex—it affects our mental health and can make us feel trapped. If your child is experiencing eco anxiety, have a conversation. Let them talk about their feelings and express themselves in a judgement free zone. They can also see a therapist who may suggest coping skills, like journaling. A therapist might also help your child examine their thoughts to see how likely they are to come true and what they could do to cope in the worst-case scenario.

How Can My Family Get Involved?

An additional way to combat the fear of eco anxiety is to jump into action! You and your child can commit to environmentally friendly practices like riding your bikes instead of driving, shopping at thrift stores, starting a compost pile or backyard garden, or volunteering at nature preserves. If your child is feeling especially anxious, suggest going for a walk outside. Take the time to talk about the things you see and things you appreciate. This can help your child calm down and feel more connected in the present moment, rather than worrying about the life expectancy of our Earth.

On Our Sleeves
Explore a wide range of free, expert-created children's mental health resources.

Featured Expert

Elizabeth Vickery, PhD
Psychiatry and Behavioral Health

Elizabeth Vickery, PhD is a part of the Pediatric Psychology Physician Team at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

All Topics

Browse by Author

About this Blog

Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.