Climate depression stems from fear of climate catastrophe, feelings of guilt, and helplessness. A psychologist explains what it entails and how to fight against it.

Climate depression is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon that affects children, teenagers, and adults who worry about the future of their children. It cannot be underestimated as it arises from the fear of climate catastrophe, the terrible consequences that come with it, as well as guilt and helplessness. Unless we change our current habits and invest in ecology, we can expect further tragedies like the Australian wildfires. Unfortunately, not everyone can cope with it, and the most vulnerable people suffer from climate depression. We asked a psychologist when it is necessary to seek professional help and how to cope with the paralyzing fear on a daily basis.

What are the symptoms of climate depression? When is it necessary to seek professional help?

Symptoms include a depressive mood, loss of interest, decreased energy leading to increased fatigue and decreased activity. Common symptoms include reduced concentration, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, pessimistic outlook on the future, suicidal thoughts and actions, sleep disturbances, or decreased appetite.

To establish a diagnosis, it is necessary to determine the persistence of the disorder for at least 2 weeks, and that is when you should visit a doctor. It is also important to emphasize that depression can be atypical when symptoms slightly differ from the typical ones. Anxiety takes center stage in the clinical picture, and mood disorders are masked by irritability, alcohol abuse, and hypochondriacal disorders.

How to cope with climate depression?

As with any depression, the most important support is that of a specialist – a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist. Support from loved ones is also very important.

How to cope with panic attacks caused by fear of climate catastrophe?

It’s similar to people who have panic attacks for other reasons. The first step is psychoeducation – learning to recognize physiological symptoms of anxiety, identifying anxious thoughts, and focusing attention on external stimuli. Then, cognitive-behavioral techniques are used, including desensitization, which involves gradually exposing the person to a relaxed version of their experience (or object of fear) in real life or in their imagination. Relaxation, breathing techniques, and meditation are also helpful. It’s recommended to avoid stimulants, including caffeine. Seeking professional support from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist is crucial as well.