Teens Are Struggling With Climate Anxiety. Schools Haven’t Caught Up Yet – Education Week

Record-breaking temperatures stretched across the United States this summer. Severe storms and catastrophic floods are causing mass devastation around the world. Signs of the changing climate have become impossible to ignore.

Teenagers are taking it all in.

Amid the general mental health crisis among youth, the specific issue of climate anxiety is surging. A nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey found that 37 percent of teenagers feel anxious when they think about climate change and its effects, and more than a third feel afraid. Many also said they feel helpless and overwhelmed.

“I feel like generally there’s a lot of hopelessness among people my age,” said Croix Hill, a 16-year-old junior at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. “When talking about it, people are just kind of like, ‘Well, whatever. We’re not even gonna have a planet in 50 years, so it doesn’t even matter.’”

The consequences of climate-related distress are profound for youth. The fear of climate change is influencing their decisions about where to attend college, whether to stay in their hometowns as adults, and even whether to have children. In some cases, these feelings can adversely affect young people’s ability to function on a daily basis, experts say.

What is ‘climate anxiety’?

The term climate anxiety encompasses all the difficult emotions—anxiety, fear, sadness, grief, anger, helplessness, powerlessness, and guilt—that people can experience when confronting the climate crisis, said Britt Wray, a human and planetary health postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who has written a book, Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in the Climate Crisis.

While climate anxiety is present in people of all ages, Wray said, it’s most prevalent among young adults. She’s seen climate anxiety in high schoolers, middle schoolers, and even children as young as 8.

Yet experts warn that school counselors or teachers aren’t prepared to help students emotionally grapple with the climate crisis—something that both social-emotional and climate advocates are hoping to change. Climate change education is spotty and limited across the country, and many teachers don’t receive training or support to teach the science fully and accurately—to say nothing of its social-emotional toll.

“This is an existential human crisis that I think teachers are not prepared to address,” said Chelsey Goddard, a vice president at the Education Development Center who leads the global nonprofit’s health, mental health, and behavioral health work in the United States. “Just to address climate change in the context of science [isn’t] addressing the social-emotional and social science aspect of this crisis.”

I feel like generally there’s a lot of hopelessness among people my age.

Climate anxiety isn’t a clinical mental disorder; rather, the growing consensus in the field is that it’s a natural response to a real and existential threat, Wray said.

The vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is driven by human activity and, if left unchecked, will lead to disastrous consequences, such as extreme heat and more severe storms that displace millions from their homes.

“[The anxiety] can be really hard to deal with because of the intensity of the climate crisis, and the fact that solutions for this crisis aren’t reconcilable by any individual,” Wray said. “There can be a bit of a trapping in the anxiety that occurs when a person feels like they aren’t in control and aren’t able to address the threat by finding the right solution for it.”

Teenagers say they feel anxious, afraid, and helpless

The EdWeek survey, conducted in October, presented teenagers a list of 11 emotions—ranging from angry to optimistic to uninterested—and asked them to select all that apply when they think about climate change and its effects. The top response? “Anxious,” followed closely by “afraid” and “helpless.”

Just 17 percent of the teenagers, who ranged in age from 14 to 18, said they felt optimistic. Only 8 percent said they were unconcerned.

Croix has lived in New Orleans since she was 2. The city is home, but the signs of climate change are everywhere—from remnants of debris from Hurricane Ida, which ravaged the city in 2021, to the wafting smell of controlled marsh fires, which are regularly set to boost the health of wetlands and reduce the sea level rise that’s contributing to the disappearance of Louisiana’s coastline.

Croix Hill, 16, a student at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans poses for a portrait at City Park in New Orleans, La., on Nov. 29, 2022.

She’s also painfully aware of the oft-cited threat that New Orleans could be underwater in the coming decades as sea levels rise. As Croix considers where to apply to colleges, she increasingly feels like New Orleans won’t be where she ends up.

“The increase in hurricanes and detrimental tropical storms that we’ve been experiencing definitely influences the decision that I’m making as far as college and my plans, because I don’t know if that’s something I want to have to deal with,” she said. “I love New Orleans, it’s my city, but I just don’t know if … evacuating every single year, and it getting worse and worse, is something I can deal with.”

Croix isn’t alone in that calculus: A fifth of teenagers said the threat of climate change has impacted the location of where they’d prefer to attend college, and 37 percent said it’s affected where they want to live as an adult, according to the EdWeek survey.

“I feel like the more south you go, the hotter it gets,” said Ocean Bardwell-Jones, a 17-year-old senior at Waiakea High School in Hilo, Hawaii. “Given that I want to be a lawyer, I would not want to wear a suit all the time in a hot environment. That would be awful.”

Ocean and his classmate Alexander Tuson feel like they’re in a bubble in their corner of Hawaii, with its lush rainforests and waterfalls. But the threat of climate change still scares them.

“It feels kind of safe here, but we read all the articles about the giant floods in Pakistan—it’s intimidating,” said Alexander, who’s 18. And he’s noticed signs of environmental distress around him.

“There’s no coral anymore,” Alexander said. “There are some beaches close to here, and there used to be a lot of coral there, and it’s kind of a dull color right now. … I’ve never seen really bright-colored coral, and I think there used to be.” (Coral loses its color as a result of pollutants in the water or rising sea temperatures.)

Meanwhile, a quarter of teenagers said the threat of climate change has affected whether they want to have children, the EdWeek survey found.

Jia Sharma-Chaube, 15, a student at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans poses for a portrait at City Park in New Orleans, La., on Nov. 29, 2022.

“I don’t know anybody my age who’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to have kids,’” said Jia Sharma-Chaube, a 15-year-old junior, also at Benjamin Franklin in New Orleans. “I think the idea that it’s just a natural course—you’re going to get to grow up and get married and have a good job and get a house and have kids—that’s becoming less and less of a realistic option for people my age.”

She added: “I love kids, but like—I don’t know, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable with that, I guess.”

The EdWeek data bolsters what other researchers have found: A global study of 10,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 found that 39 percent say they’re hesitant to have their own children one day because of the climate crisis.

“When I talk to young people, … even though they’re not at all in a place to be thinking about who they might have kids with and all the rest of it, they’re so stressed out about their future that they don’t think it’s fair or responsible to imagine putting another person in that situation as it gets worse,” Wray said.

Educators can help students manage their climate anxiety

Students who are wrestling with climate anxiety need to feel heard and understood, experts say. It can help to have “people with whom you can dwell on these emotions and explore them without fear of someone minimizing them or brushing the distress off as catastrophic thinking,” Wray said.

But often, teenagers say they don’t receive that type of validation from adults in their lives.

“My friends are like, ‘Oh, I talked to my mom, and I’m like, ‘The planet is going to be dead by 2050,’ and she’s like, ‘That’s what they’ve been saying since I was a kid, and it hasn’t died yet!’” Jia said. “It feels kind of like, dismissive.”

I don’t know anybody my age who’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to have kids.’

There’s a growing movement for mental health professionals to be trained to treat climate anxiety. And some universities are in the initial stages of starting to offer climate stress therapy for students, the Washington Post has reported.

But so far, this conversation has been largely missing from K-12 schools, where there are already not enough school counselors to meet young people’s growing mental health needs, experts say.

While the National Association of School Psychologists adopted a resolution in April 2021 to support efforts to reduce the harmful effects of climate change on children, tackling climate anxiety hasn’t been at the forefront of the group’s priorities, said Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, the director of policy and advocacy for the group.

“This is an issue that students are paying attention to, … [but] I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily rising to the top of things we hear,” she said, citing other mental health challenges for young people that have been exacerbated since the pandemic.

Plus, targeted interventions for climate anxiety, especially in high school or middle school students, are still in a nascent phase of study, said Lian Zeitz, the co-founder and director of programs for the Climate Mental Health Network, a nonprofit funded by the Global Fund for Mental Health.

“What does it mean for a generation of young people to be experiencing such existential dread?” he said. “How do we build tools and resources that promote resilience and climate-related action and social connection—things that serve as antidotes to the negative effects of that existential dread, which can be despair and apathy and inaction and maybe isolation, [which can] become depression.”

The Climate Mental Health Network is working with partners to develop resources for middle school teachers to incorporate social-emotional learning practices into science lessons and discussions on climate change. It plans to pilot these resources next school year.

Teachers will need support and self-care while having these conversations, Zeitz added: “It isn’t easy navigating existential conversations with young people or kids that are saying they don’t want to have babies because the climate is ending and everything’s on fire.”

Climate anxiety can be incorporated into districts’ SEL work, experts say

Despite schools’ emphasis on social-emotional competencies and wellbeing, climate anxiety generally hasn’t been a part of that work, said Shai Fuxman, a senior research scientist at the Education Development Center, which works with districts across the country on their SEL needs.

“The connection between that and climate change and climate anxiety hasn’t been made, but it’s not a difficult link to make,” he said. “The skills that we’re already teaching—around self-empowerment, managing emotions, developing goals and setting goals and achieving goals—those are all skills that can easily be applied to the conversations that teachers are having with students around climate change.”

Experts say that teachers should foster a sense of agency and self-efficacy among students when they discuss climate change. While climate change is largely driven by corporations, individuals can still take action—and more than half of the teenagers who responded to the EdWeek survey said they wanted to learn in school what they could personally do to lessen the effects of climate change. About a quarter said when they think of climate change, they feel motivated.

Fuxman said the climate crisis is an opportunity for educators to teach about collective action and working with others toward a common goal.

“Not only will it help address climate change, but it’s a good skill for them to have anyway—to feel a part of something bigger can actually help build self-esteem,” he said. “Like, ‘I’m part of the movement and part of something that is happening to save our planet.’ I think it can be restoring, too, from a mental health perspective.”

While teenage activism around climate change often makes headlines, few survey respondents said they’ve attended climate demonstrations or contacted elected officials in the past two years. Thirty-seven percent of teenagers say they haven’t taken any actions related to climate change during that time period.

“I think a lot of kids are frozen—they either want to push it out of their minds and not think about it, or they’re frozen,” said Goddard, of the EDC. “People will say, ‘Oh, kids just don’t care,’ or, ‘Look at these really wonderful kids out there being activists,’ but there’s this whole group in the middle that I think often just feels like they’re stuck.”

The facts of climate change are overwhelming, but Goddard said it can help for teenagers to work toward change in their own community, such as petitioning school officials to install solar panels on buildings.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m gonna change the world.’ You have to break off a piece of it,” she said.

Schools may have to navigate politically tricky waters

One potential barrier to schools’ helping with the social-emotional toll of the climate crisis? Politics.

While most American adults believe in human-driven climate change, more Republicans than Democrats believe climate change is caused by natural patterns, and Democrats are more likely to have substantial concerns about the environment, surveys show.

Even the term social-emotional learning has drawn the ire of some conservatives, who fear it is teaching their children values they don’t approve of.

“We’re really thinking about how we get resources to people in a range of contexts,” said Zeitz, of the Climate Mental Health Network. “I don’t have all the answers about how to do that, but it’s been clear for us—if we’re really trying to reach more young people and more school systems, we’ll just have to be adaptive to how certain things are framed based on education legislation.”

This work also may require a mindset shift among the adults in school buildings, said Wray, the author of Generation Dread. For one thing, adults will have to come to terms with the fact that young people have a different mindset than they did about their futures.

“Have compassion for that and get curious about really trying to understand the granularity of what that climate anxiety feels like—how it can make a young person feel futureless and abandoned by older generations, which is profound psychological distress that can tear away at the social underpinnings of wellbeing,” Wray said.

After all, climate anxiety can lead to teenagers feeling unmotivated, distracted, and in particularly severe cases, depressed or even suicidal, Wray said: “It’s a serious issue that demands serious consideration and support.”

Signs of depression and anxiety in children and teens – Los Angeles Times

The statistics are repeated again and again in news coverage of the youth mental health crisis, but they’re no less startling: The number of children living with depression and anxiety reportedly doubled during the pandemic.

With the number of stresses bearing down on young people today — the climate crisis, social isolation, pressure to succeed, and so many others for kids with marginalized identities — I don’t find this surprising. But I also think we have a cultural tendency to become numb to this kind of information because it’s so overwhelmingly troubling.

If you’re a parent, this rise in emotional distress among children may feel like a vague and shadowy boogeyman, especially if you aren’t sure of what signs to look out for in your own kiddos.

One reader asked us: Do depression and anxiety look different in kids than in adults?

The short answer is — kind of. There is more similarity than difference in the way anxiety and depression present in kids and adults, but there are some nuances. I thought it would be helpful to lay out what these conditions can look like for children and teens, and how you can support your kids if they’re struggling in these ways.

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You’ll notice that there’s some overlap in how anxiety and depression present in children, and they often co-occur in both adults and children. That’s because these conditions share many of the same risk factors, including environmental stressors and traumatic experiences. Someone who has an anxiety disorder is more likely to be depressed, and vice versa. Also, psychologists invented these categories to organize symptoms into diagnosable mental disorders, so they’re imperfect and sometimes reduce complex problems into labels (an issue I’d like to explore in a future newsletter).

I also want to note that almost everyone feels depressed or anxious at different points in their lives, including kids. But when feeling bad gets in the way of kids living full and meaningful lives, they may be dealing with something more. My goal here isn’t to help you diagnose your little ones, but instead to help you notice patterns that might be out of the ordinary so that you can be there for them.

Depression in kids

Here are some signs of depression to look out for in your kids, according to this week’s experts:

Changes in mood: Frequent crying or sadness may also be a symptom of depression but doesn’t always appear in kids, said Judy Garber, professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University.

The biggest difference in how depression presents in children versus adults is that, instead of appearing sad, kids struggling with depression can often seem irritable or cranky.

This can be tricky when we’re talking about teens in particular, said Jocelyn Carter, professor of pediatric psychology at DePaul University.

“The stereotype is that a lot of teens are grouchy or easily irritable. The kind of grouchiness associated with depression would be a change from their normal personality or way of interacting with the world,” Carter told me. “They might appear irritable most of the day, not just when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do.”

Changes in sleep and appetite: Fluctuations in sleep patterns are normal, but when the changes are significant — sleeping a lot less or a lot more — it could be cause for concern.

Sleeping in late, or staying up late and being tired during the next school day, is pretty common for teenagers, so such sudden changes would need to be accompanied by some of these other shifts in behavior I’m listing.

“You might ask your kid, ‘How have you been sleeping? Have you had any problems falling asleep? Have you been waking up and can’t fall back asleep?’” Garber recommended.

You might also notice that your child is eating more or less than usual. For example, you make their favorite meal and they don’t want it. Or if they’re eating more than usual, that change isn’t related to being more physically active or having a growth spurt, Garber said.

Less energy: “I’ve never met a teen that wasn’t tired,” Garber joked. But fatigue becomes an issue, she said, when their energy levels are so low that they aren’t hanging out with friends or doing their homework because they’re too tired.

Loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy: Kids who are depressed might withdraw socially from friends or their usual hobbies. Younger children might play with their toys less or engage in more solitary behaviors away from other kids, Garber said.

If teens stop hanging out with their friends, they don’t have anyone they consider to be a close friend, or if they suddenly stop using social media and texting, you should check in with them, she added.

Teens, of course, drop interests and pick up new ones all the time.

“It’s fine if someone isn’t playing five sports and an instrument, but there are some kids for whom nothing seems to really work,” said Stanley Markowski, a clinical psychologist in Oakland who works with kids and teens. “They can’t seem to push over that hump — the growing pains of being in the discomfort of trying something new.”

Also, this is a generalization and a product of socialization, but teen boys may be more likely to say, “I don’t care” or “I don’t feel like it,” rather than directly telling you that they’re sad, Garber said.

Feeling bad about themselves: Kids struggling with depression often feel like they can’t do anything right or that no one likes them. “Little kids might say that no one wants to be their friends,” Garber said, “or they’re no good at school and they might as well not try.”

Difficulty concentrating: If your child isn’t able to get their schoolwork done (above and beyond what that usually looks like for them), their mind is constantly wandering and they’re experiencing some of these other symptoms, it could be a symptom of depression, Garber said.

Other considerations: Instead of going inward and withdrawing, some kids externalize their depression, Markowski said. This can look like being mean to their peers or parents, or acting out in other ways. “Boys especially,” he said, “might try to overcompensate for feelings of sadness and vulnerability, and instead act as if they’re invincible.”

Anxiety in kids

As I mentioned earlier, anxiety and depression share some symptoms. Changes in sleeping and eating, irritability, and difficulty concentrating are also signs of anxiety. Beyond that, here is what anxiety may look like in kids:

Frequent worrying: Kids with anxiety are often worried all the time, and it’s hard to make it stop. What they worry about will vary from child to child. They might be preoccupied with something bad happening in the future to themselves or their family.

“Kids with anxiety may want guarantees of safety, that bad things won’t happen,” Carter said.

”One of the things I love about children is that they have a lot of great questions. For most kids, if they’re a little scared or nervous about driving over a bridge, they might ask us what would happen if the bridge collapsed while we drove over it. We could say, ‘That would be bad, but structural engineers work on bridges to make sure we’re safe.’ A kid without anxiety would accept that. A child more prone to anxiety would have many more follow-up questions, be in a lot of distress as you’re driving over it, or refuse to be in the car as you’re driving over it.”

Worry can sometimes show up as separation anxiety in younger kiddos, Garber said, whereas older children and teenagers tend to worry more about school or have social anxiety. They might not go to parties or try out for a team, or never raise their hand in class.

Physical behaviors and symptoms: Anxious kids might pick or bite their nails, or complain of stomachaches and headaches, Markowski said. Older kids might also experience muscle tension or pain in their limbs and back.

In some Latinx and Asian cultures, kids may be more likely to talk about their anxiety symptoms as these sensations in the body. “It’s thought that, within those cultures,” Carter said, “it’s more culturally relevant and less stigmatizing to be talking about a bodily expression of these emotional states rather than emotions directly.”

Other considerations: Garber noted that anxiety tends to be more constant, while depression comes and goes.

How you can help

It’s normal to feel scared and maybe even a little helpless when you can see that your child is struggling. But there’s a lot you can do as a parent to help your kids manage and understand what’s going on.

First off, it’s important to normalize anxiety, depression and difficult feelings.

“Let them know that everyone experiences stress, and many people experience anxiety,” Garber said. “You can tell them that depression is a little less common but that it’s treatable and doesn’t have to last forever.” When you’re anxious or sad, model what it looks like to work through those feelings.

And it might seem obvious, but having these conversations in a warm and accepting way is vital. Let them talk, don’t judge, and don’t tell them what to do. Just listen and don’t try to fix things, Garber said.

“Reflect back on how they’re feeling,” she added. “Say, ‘That’s really hard, and I can understand why you’re feeling that way.’”

Encouraging kids to get involved in fun activities that connect them to other kids and their own creativity can help them cope.

“Movement, a sense of community and learning new skills in a different environment,” Carter said, “can really boost a kid’s self-esteem and sense of competence.”

If these symptoms are affecting your child’s functioning at home, at school or in their relationships, it may be time to get the help of a mental health professional, experts told me. If they’re having thoughts of killing themselves or are self-harming, seek medical attention immediately.

“In general, it’s better to look at it earlier before it grows,” Markowski said. “Kids are good at hiding stuff. Sometimes we don’t know it’s a problem until it’s pretty big. Getting a professional opinion will let you know whether it’s developmental or something a bit more concerning.”

Kids can be so resilient. But they need our support, warmth and attention.

Until next week,

Laura

If what you learned today from these experts spoke to you or you’d like to tell us about your own experiences, please email us and let us know if it is OK to share your thoughts with the larger Group Therapy community. The email GroupTherapy@latimes.com gets right to our team. As always, find us on Instagram at @latimesforyourmind, where we’ll continue this conversation. See previous editions here.

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More perspectives on today’s topic & other resources

In this episode of “Head-Lines,” The Times’ mental health puppet show, kids can learn more about social anxiety and what that looks and feels like. If you want to keep the conversation going, there’s an accompanying discussion guide for parents, with suggestions for how to talk with your kids about anxiety.

What to do (and not do) when children are anxious, according to the Child Mind Institute. This guide addresses the best way for parents to respond to an anxious child, how kids can learn to tolerate anxiety, and how parents can help kids stay calm in stressful situations.

The Child Mind Institute also has great resources for parents with children struggling with depression, including what to do if you think your teen is depressed, and how to help kids who are too hard on themselves.

Other interesting stuff

The implications of the debate over whether “extreme racism” is a mental illness. If extreme racism were to become accepted as a mental illness, more suspects in hate-crime cases could potentially have recourse to mount “insanity” defenses in court.

Developing nations have been serving as a proving ground for a model called community-based care, where lightly trained laypeople — someone like your grandmother, not a doctor — deliver brief mental health interventions in informal settings like homes or parks. The U.S. is taking note.

Group Therapy is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. We encourage you to seek the advice of a mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have about your mental health.

Why We All Should Get Screened for Anxiety – Psychology Today

Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released, for the first time, a recommendation that all adults under age 65 should be screened for anxiety.

Global rates of anxiety surged following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The USPSTF cited that 40% of women and 26% of men will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Given how common anxiety is, anyone may benefit from getting screened for anxiety.

What anxiety is

From time to time, we all experience some form of worry or anxiety. In some cases, anxiety can be a motivator; in other cases, it can be exhausting and paralyzing—almost pathological. In the pathological case, we may get stuck in thought loops and overthink. Further, we may experience physical symptoms, such as a tight chest resulting in difficulty breathing. To manage our anxiety, we may completely avoid potentially life-enriching experiences that might trigger it, such as social gatherings.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the U.S. but as a society, we have only begun to accept it as a potentially serious mental health condition. Once considered a personal weakness, anxiety was not viewed as a real mental health condition until recent decades.

From an evolutionary psychiatry perspective, anxiety serves to protect us. When our ancient ancestors lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, anxiety helped them survive. A fight-or-flight response to an incoming predator was a critical, life-saving feature of the body’s anxiety system. Today, few of us encounter life-threatening situations on the daily. Instead, many of these evolutionary features simply became anxiety symptoms (e.g., panic attacks).

The importance of diagnosing anxiety

Living with anxiety is difficult. With anxiety, an individual may avoid important life experiences and events, and have an increased risk for depression. Severe anxiety also has a high correlation with suicidal thoughts. Further, individuals with anxiety may cope by using substances, and develop substance use problems as a result. Anxiety is a serious health condition, and early intervention and treatment are critical.

Limitations of anxiety screening

There may be some disadvantages to testing for anxiety through a screener. Screeners administered by clinicians will likely be self-report questionnaires evaluating the severity of anxiety symptoms. Screening in this manner runs the risk of overdiagnosis, which may lead to unnecessary referrals to treatment and increased stress. Additionally, there are many types of anxiety, which cannot be entirely identified with a simple screener. When following up for a possible anxiety diagnosis, clinicians may need to be vigilant about considering all potential types of anxiety.

Ultimately, despite the potential barriers to anxiety screening as proposed by the task force, its implementation will benefit all of us. Mental health conditions regularly go undiagnosed in our healthcare system; by making screening routine for all American adults, detection rates may be improved. Promoting a greater focus on mental health will also help destigmatize it and increase funding and research, ultimately facilitating access to mental health resources and treatment.

Worried about climate change, you may have eco-anxiety – Spectrum News NY1

Many people are worried about our climate and are seeking help to navigate their emotions.

Over two-thirds of Americans have experienced eco-anxiety, according to a 2019 survey from the American Psychological Association (APA).


What You Need To Know

  • A fear of the effects of climate change is called eco-anxiety
  • According to the APA, over 60% of Americans have experienced eco-anxiety 
  • 59% of young people surveyed in The Lancet are worried about climate change 

What is eco-anxiety?

Eco-anxiety or climate anxiety is not a mental illness, but a chronic fear of environmental doom and the associated concern for one’s future and that of the next generations.

Eco-anxiety can make you feel hopeless, angry or fearful.

We talked to two mental health professionals about climate anxiety.

Carol Bartles is a licensed marriage and family therapist who helps people with eco-anxiety. The California therapist says there is an emotional response to what is happening with climate change.

“We cannot turn on the TV these days without seeing evidence of it [climate change], wildfires, flooding cities, hurricanes, melting glaciers. It’s there for us to see and, of course, we are going to have an emotional reaction to it,” said Bartels.

Climate distress also encompasses other emotions as well. People with climate anxiety could also feel guilt about the environment, feeling grief over a destroyed habitat or extinct species, or feeling hopelessness about the world.

“The anxiety is often focused on as the main emotion, but it is a constellation of different emotions that fits the circumstance,” Bartels said.

Young people & climate distress

Children and young adults are also worried about the effects of climate change and our environment. According to a study by The Lancet, 84% of young people between the ages of 16-25 are moderately worried about climate change while 59% are extremely worried about it.

It’s not surprising to clinical psychologist Dr. Steve O’Brien that young people are worried about climate change. The Florida psychologist specializes in treating children, teens, and young adults on a range of mental health issues, including climate distress.

Through his years of practice, he found that the younger generation is much more tuned in about current events and the environment.

“The [kids] that are concerned with the environment are people who are socially minded, globally aware, very conscientious and they think a lot about their future and also think in a global sense about the future of the world,” explained Dr. O’Brien.

He also told us because of more news coverage around climate change and weather events, some kids have become preoccupied with it.

“They will worry about whether if there is a hurricane. If they live in Florida, that’s a common one. If they live somewhere else, whether if there is an earthquake or tornado. They are often very weather preoccupied,” Dr. O’Brien told Spectrum News.

Plus, Dr. O’Brien says kids dealing with some form of eco-anxiety also care a lot about the environment and animals too.

“I will hear parents talk a lot about how much their child loves animals and they feel for them. So, a lot of this eco-anxiety it’s not just for the environment it’s self and the preservation of the land, the climate or the well-being of the people in it but the well-being of the animals in it as well,” said Dr. O’Brien.

Managing eco-anxiety

Managing eco-anxiety varies from person to person. At her practice, Bartels focuses on validating the emotion of her climate distress clients and making realize they their feelings could be useful.

“These feelings [from eco-anxiety] can lead to developing resilience and to motivate us to making changes in this world,” Bartels said.

She also encourages her patients to get more connected with nature by gardening or sightseeing.

Bartels says this will help people get gratitude and appreciation for their environment and, in return, build resilience and engage in a way that values our environment.

For Dr. O’Brien, he advises his patients to practice the 3 r’s, which are recognition, relaxation and redirection.

It’s all about recognizing the anxiety and realizing that everything that concerns you will not happen right now.

Plus, part of managing climate anxiety includes relaxing your brain and redirecting your emotion into enjoyable and productive tasks.

Eco-anxiety is still new in the mental health space, but people are now recognizing they are dealing with it and are seeking help. 

Our team of meteorologists dives deep into the science of weather and breaks down timely weather data and information. To view more weather and climate stories, check out our weather blogs section.

Dr. Lynda M. Gantt: How does anxiety affect the older population? – Santa Maria Times

Everyone experiences anxiety at some time in their life. It is a universal emotion. In fact, it has been recognized as part of the human condition since time began.

It was first recognized in the medical writings of the Greek physician Hippocrates. Hundreds of years later, the philosophers Seneca and Cicero recognized both the benefits and dangers of anxiety.

Charles Darwin noted similarities in how anxiety and fear were expressed in mammals as an adaptive behavior. However, anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders reported in older adults.

When Chronic Disease Overlaps with Anxiety – Psychology Today

Samer Daboul/Pexels

Anxiety symptoms include excessive apprehension, restlessness, being easily fatigued, muscle tension, and hyper-arousal.

Source: Samer Daboul/Pexels

This post was co-authored with Rebecca Lewinson.

For a large portion of the population, chronic disease is a reality, impacting their emotional, physical and financial well-being. Coping with a chronic disease is difficult, however, it can be even harder when someone is also experiencing anxiety. Anxiety is a future-oriented negative emotional state resulting from perceptions of threat, characterized by a perceived inability to predict, control, or obtain desired results in upcoming situations. Symptoms include excessive apprehension, restlessness, being easily fatigued, muscle tension, hyper-arousal, and difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Anxiety serves a purpose for all of us. Anxious feelings, while uncomfortable, tell us that there is something in the future that could harm us, and hence motivates us to act. Think of anxiety as a set of alarm bells; if there is a fire, we want those alarm bells to go off.

For most of us, this anxious feeling passes when whatever thing or situation we are nervous about passes. For others though, the alarm bells keep going off, even when there is no fire, danger, or anything that requires us to be quick-thinking, fast-acting, or to make a big decision. When that happens, it can become all-encompassing, impacting social or occupational functioning, thus crossing the line to be considered an anxiety disorder. For more than two weeks at least, their thoughts are plagued by frequent, uncontrollable worries, they might almost always feel tense, and/or they may also feel irritable or exhausted a good portion of the time.

This experience becomes complicated when someone also has a chronic disease. The worries, emotions, or physical sensations they have are often based on the reality of their symptoms. For example, if a patient has recently had a heart attack, the chest tightness that people often experience with anxiety might be assumed to be an issue with their heart. Or the shortness of breath experienced by those with a lung condition could be conflated with anxiety. Cancer patients going for imaging tests of tumors would naturally feel anxiety given the uncontrollable situation. Moreover, anxious thoughts, such as “What if I die from my disease?” can be a real possibility.

Given the complex relationship between anxiety and chronic disease, if you suspect your anxiety is excessive, you could take a validated online screening survey. If you score in the elevated range, it is important that a diagnostic interview be conducted, preferably by a healthcare provider who specializes in mental health and chronic disease. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your history and symptoms, and have an interview about the context around your symptoms as well as your chronic disease.

There are several different anxiety diagnoses with which you may be diagnosed, such as generalized anxiety disorder, or even post-traumatic stress disorder if the onset of your chronic condition was indeed traumatic, as can happen with sudden cardiac arrest or stroke. The clinician will also assess for other conditions that tend to cluster with anxiety that would need to be addressed for you to have a successful outcome, such as substance use disorders. Indeed, many patients have been suffering untreated for many years and turn to substances to reduce anxiety, ultimately developing an addiction.

How anxiety and chronic disease are related

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition, with around 7 percent of people in the general population suffering from one at some point in their life. Yet, they are even more common among those with a chronic disease, reaching 26 percent of patients with coronary artery disease and 48 percent in patients with cancer. This is important, given that those who have a chronic disease and anxiety have a lower quality of life, experience delays in receiving anxiety treatment (if they access it all), and are more likely to be hospitalized and even die, compared to those with a chronic disease alone.

While most anxiety disorders will begin in adolescence or young adulthood, it is also common to develop symptoms or have a recurrence of anxiety upon diagnosis with a chronic disease, or even after dealing with that chronic disease for some time. Co-occurrence of chronic disease and anxiety is also more likely in lower socioeconomic populations.

There are several mechanisms that link anxiety to chronic disease. For example, certain forms of anxiety are related to heart rhythm issues. More broadly, there are physiological mechanisms, such as a heightened stress response, which leads to increased circulating cortisol. This has been shown to have negative health effects. Research is emerging on inflammatory and metabolic links.

Those with a chronic disease who also experience anxiety are also more likely to engage in less healthy lifestyles, exacerbating risk factors, including eating an unhealthy diet, using tobacco or alcohol to regulate mood, and being physically inactive. Indeed, some chronic disease patients have “anxiety sensitivity,” believing that the feeling of arousal associated with exercise, such as their heart pounding, has harmful consequences, when in fact exercise is ameliorative for both anxiety and chronic disease.

Anxiety Essential Reads

Identifying anxiety in patients with chronic disease

Sadly, anxiety can be erroneously perceived by healthcare providers as a “normal” response for patients with chronic disease, and benign. It is true that everyone experiences some anxiety, and at moderate levels, it can motivate a chronic disease patient to seek and follow treatment. But for many, anxiety disorders go unrecognized. This can result in delayed diagnosis, treatment, reduced quality of life, and exacerbation of chronic disease progression. This is unfortunate given the many safe and effective treatment options available for anxiety disorders. These will be discussed in part two of this post.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it might be warranted to make an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your concerns, and potentially arrange a diagnostic interview.

Rebecca Lewinson is a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at York University, Toronto.

Do You Have “High-Functioning” Anxiety? – Psychology Today

David Garrison (Pexels)

Source: David Garrison (Pexels)

Anxiety is an extremely common problem. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder. The 40 million includes individuals with all types of anxiety problems, some of which are unfortunately very disabling. Others, however, seem to be able to function at a high level, despite their distressing feelings of anxiety.

Anxiety is essentially fear, which is, of course, a basic if unpleasant emotion. To our misfortune, anxiety features only too frequently in our lives. We feel anxiety very often simply because we need this emotion to stay alive. When fear is dulled or inhibited by chemicals such as alcohol, we do unwise things that could kill us, or we fail to take notice of potential dangers lurking around us.

Anxiety is an alarm, and like any other alarm, it is impossible to ignore. You may decide to “conquer the fear” by powering through it, but you will still feel it. Unfortunately and very unfairly, some equate feeling anxious with lacking courage and moral fiber, or being cowardly, when in fact those who get up in the morning despite their anxiety are arguably more courageous than those who don’t feel the fear in the first place. And those who can’t even get up in the morning because of their anxiety deserve our help and sympathy.

Fight or Flight

Fear produces the “fight or flight” response in humans. When confronted with a threat, animals (including ourselves) fight only when they think they can win; otherwise, it makes better sense to flee. Either way, our body and mind become aroused during the fight or flight response. This arousal allows us to gather very quickly all the bodily energy and mental focus necessary for either fighting or running away.

These two options (fighting or fleeing) correlate with the different responses we find in anxiety. On the one hand, a feeling of fear typically promotes avoidance, the equivalent of the “fleeing” response, while other individuals may push through the fear and move forward regardless.

This would be the “fight” response that is found in “high-functioning anxiety.” Although high-functioning anxiety is not a formal diagnosis and is not in the DSM-5, the term has been used to characterize those who experience anxiety sensations that, on the surface, have no negative effects on their functioning. These high-functioning individuals may have a good job and a successful life but feel constantly tense and apprehensive. They cannot relax, have frequent indigestion, and find it difficult to sleep at night.

The Anxiety “Spectrum”

It is helpful, I think, to see anxiety as a dimension or spectrum, with normal, unavoidable, and intermittent anxiety at one end of the spectrum, the high-functioning sufferers probably somewhere in the middle (some of whom might still merit a more formal anxiety diagnosis), and the full-blown clinical, and certainly diagnosable, anxiety disorders at the opposite end of the spectrum. I am making a distinction between the different points in the spectrum simply because I think it is important to make it clear that whether a given individual is able to function or not is a sign of the severity of their anxiety rather than a personal option, or a question of personal courage and stamina.

Anxiety is awful, even when it is a normal part of life. The sufferer will need support and treatment when it gets even worse. We should not assume that the high-functioning anxious individual doesn’t need this support. Even less, we should not blame the functionally challenged and severely anxious person for their challenges by implying that they lack the courage to confront their fear.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

Screening for Anxiety Now Recommended in Children 8 and Older – University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, anxiety disorders were one of the most common mental health concerns among children. Pre-pandemic, health care providers and caregivers could expect a third of children to meet the criteria for anxiety disorders by the time they were through adolescence.

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Caregivers Experience Significantly More Anxiety Than Non-Caregivers—Here’s How To Protect Yourself Ahead of Time – Parade Magazine

A lot goes into caring for an older adult, whether it’s your parent, grandparent or another relative. The worry can cause additional stress and anxiety, and data from a Parade and Cleveland Clinic survey found that 36 percent of caregivers suffer from depression and anxiety, which is 114 percent more than non-caregivers.

And caregivers themselves are the first to admit this.

“Being a full-time caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s [is] packed with anxiety. This progressive disease gets worse over time, so you are constantly dealing with new changes and behaviors,” says Kris McCabe, a family caregiver, dementia advocate, TikTok caregiving influencer and full-time caregiver to her grandmother. “People with Alzheimer’s can experience frustration, confusion and their own set of anxieties—so it’s a rollercoaster one minute to the next not knowing when [my grandmother] will be triggered by something or if her emotions will get the best of her.” With all of the anticipated unknown, McCabe admits that she often finds herself in fight or flight mode.

Caring for a loved one long-distance can cause a lot of anxiety as well. “For me, it felt like my thoughts and emotions were always trapped in either the fear of the future and not knowing how much longer I’d have with my dad, or how much worse the disease would get,” says Laura Smothers-Chu, long-distance caregiver, Certified Dementia Practitioner, Certified Senior Advisor, and the CEO & Founder of Befriended Heart.

“There are also the sorrows and regrets of the past—yearning to go back to my life before my dad was diagnosed,” Smothers-Chu admits. “It was extremely difficult for me to keep my mind and feelings in the present moment. Other symptoms of my caregiver anxiety included irritability, judging myself, feeling like my thoughts were on a runaway train, having problems sleeping, developing headaches or migraines, and feeling helpless about how to support my parents from hours away.”

What Are Some Signs of Caregiver Anxiety?

Anxiety can cause anything from physical symptoms to emotional symptoms, or both. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the following symptoms can be signs of anxiety:

  • Worrying that you aren’t able to control
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • A faster heart rate than usual
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble concentrating and remembering

To cope with caregiver anxiety and protect your health, it’s helpful to have a few go-to techniques and relief outlets ahead of time. 

Here are seven ways to protect yourself from caregiver anxiety

1. Find a community and join support groups

Feeling like you are alone in this situation can intensify anxious thinking. However, talking with others who may be going through a similar situation gives you the relief of knowing you aren’t alone. 

“Learn who you can find support from among your family, friends and different social communities you’re a part of, even on social media,” suggests Smothers-Chu. 

“Joining caregiver support groups and connecting with like-minded individuals who truly understand what you’re going through has been one of the most beneficial releases for me. It’s a safe space to complain and air out all your frustrations without judgment,” agrees McCabe.

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2. Talk to a therapist

Often, talking to someone really helps. Finding a counselor or therapist to learn coping skills or even just vent to can help prevent and curtail anxiety. 

“If you want to find a therapist, but have no idea where to start, try this website: Find a Therapist. It’s an easy way to locate a therapist based on your zip code and find the best fit for you based on each therapist’s areas of expertise, insurance types they accept, session costs, qualifications and treatment approaches,” advises Smothers-Chu. She also suggests meeting weekly with a therapist to really help with the anxiety and stress that comes with caregiving. 

3. Try relaxation techniques

When you’re feeling anxious, your breathing often changes without you realizing it. You may even be holding your breath or taking fast, shallow breaths. 

To prevent that, relax your body and breathe slow, deep breaths in through your nose, and exhale through the mouth. Purposely breathing in a slow, controlled manner will help anxiety. McCabe says taking deep breaths helps her feel better, especially when she’s constantly on the go. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and acupressure can also help manage caregiver anxiety. “Explore mindfulness and meditation to understand how to live in the present moment. Accessing this part of your brain will help you learn how to prevent your emotions and thoughts from taking the wheel of your life,” says Smothers-Chu.

4. Set aside time for yourself

Don’t forget about yourself just because you’re busy taking care of someone else. Set aside time for yourself, even if it’s a few minutes to a couple of hours. “I give myself time for me every day. Even if I can only find five minutes, I’ll take it,” says McCabe. 

5. Get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy diet

As the saying goes, secure your own oxygen mask first—so make sure you’re as healthy as possible.

“Try to move or exercise at least three times a week,” Smothers-Chu says. “I did the things I loved so they didn’t feel like a chore—swimming, walking outside and yoga for relaxation.”

6. Educate yourself and set realistic goals

Being a caregiver comes with many responsibilities, such as managing medications, cooking, handling paperwork, scheduling appointments, monitoring symptoms and much more. It may feel like you need to do all these tasks immediately, but a checklist will help. Start by educating yourself about the stages of the illness or disease your loved one is going through and research what other caregivers in that situation deal with daily. 

“Once you learn more about the illness or disease, you can start to offer specific ideas to help your parents plan ahead and navigate it,” Smothers-Chu says. “Examples might include finding and hiring an elder law attorney, financial advisor, doctor and home care company. All of these solutions can provide peace of mind, and hiring home care can give a much-needed break to the hands-on caregiver.”

7. Try anxiety medication

If your anxiety is getting in the way of your daily activities, medication may be helpful. There are many medications that can help improve your mood and treat your anxiety, so ask your healthcare provider or therapist about options to help with caregiver anxiety.

And remember that it’s okay to feel the emotions of frustration, anger, anxiety and stress while being a caregiver. “Anxiety comes from our fear of the unknown, and fear is okay to feel,” Smothers-Chu says. “In my work with my clients, I teach them how important it is to feel this emotion, embrace it in love and compassion and non-judgment, and then let it go.”

Sources:

Mindfulness worked as well for anxiety as drug in study – KSL.com

A woman meditates on the beach in Miami Beach, Fla. According to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, mindfulness meditation worked as well as a standard drug for treating anxiety in the first head-to-head comparison. (Lynne Sladky, Associated Press)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

WASHINGTON — Mindfulness meditation worked as well as a standard drug for treating anxiety in the first head-to-head comparison.

The study tested a widely-used mindfulness program that includes 2 1/2 hours of classes weekly and 45 minutes of daily practice at home. Participants were randomly assigned to the program or daily use of a generic drug sold under the brand name Lexapro for depression and anxiety.

After two months, anxiety as measured on a severity scale declined by about 30% in both groups and continued to decrease during the following four months.

Study results, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, are timely. In September, an influential U.S. health task force recommended routine anxiety screening for adults, and numerous reports suggest global anxiety rates have increased recently, related to worries over the pandemic, political and racial unrest, climate change and financial uncertainties.

Anxiety disorders include social anxiety, generalized anxiety and panic attacks. Affected people are troubled by persistent and intrusive worries that interfere with their lives and relationships. In the U.S., anxiety disorders affect 40% of U.S. women at some point in their lives and more than 1 in 4 men, according to data cited in U.S. Preventive Services Task Force screening recommendations.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that emphasizes focusing only on what’s happening at the moment and dismissing intrusive thoughts. Sessions often start with breathing exercises. Next might be “body scans” — thinking about each body part systematically, head to toe. When worried thoughts intrude, participants learn to briefly acknowledge them but then dismiss them.

Instead of ruminating over the troubling thought, “you say, ‘I’m having this thought, let that go for now,”’ said lead author Elizabeth Hoge, director of Georgetown University’s Anxiety Disorders Research Program. With practice, “It changes the relationship people have with their own thoughts when not meditating.”

Previous studies have shown mindfulness works better than no treatment or at least as well as education or more formal behavior therapy in reducing anxiety, depression and other mental woes. But this is the first study to test it against a psychiatric drug, Hoge said, and the results could make insurers more likely to cover costs, which can run $300 to $500 for an 8-week session.

The results were based on about 200 adults who completed the six-month study at medical centers in Washington, Boston and New York. Researchers used a psychiatric scale of 1 to 7, with the top number reflecting severe anxiety. The average score was about 4.5 for participants before starting treatment. It dropped to about 3 after two months, then dipped slightly in both groups at three months and six months. Hoge said the change was clinically meaningful, resulting in noticeable improvement in symptoms.

Ten patients on the drug dropped out because of troublesome side effects possibly related to treatment, which included insomnia, nausea and fatigue. There were no dropouts for that reason in the mindfulness group, although 13 patients reported increased anxiety.

The study “is reaffirming about how useful mindfulness can be when practiced effectively,” said psychologist Sheehan Fisher, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Scott Krakower, a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, said mindfulness treatments often work best for mildly anxious patients. He prescribes medication for patients with more severe anxiety.

He noted that many people feel they don’t have time for mindfulness meditation, especially in-person sessions like those studied. Whether similar results would be found with online training or phone apps is unknown, said Krakower, who also had no role in the study.

Olga Cannistraro, a freelance writer in Keene, New Hampshire, participated in an earlier mindfulness study led by Hoge and says it taught her “to intervene in my own state of mind.”

During a session, just acknowledging that she was feeling tension anywhere in her body helped calm her, she said.

Cannistraro, 52, has generalized anxiety disorder and has never taken medication for it. She was a single mom working in sales during that earlier study — circumstances that made life particularly stressful, she said. She has since married, switched jobs, and feels less anxious though still uses mindfulness techniques.

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