LATELY MY MIND HAS been playing an apocalyptic art-house video of melting ice, burning forests, and tsunamis, inspired by an onslaught of alarming news about climate change, including the recent report that oceans are heating up 40 percent faster than expected. I worry about the kind of world my 9-year-old daughter will face as an adult: a smoldering, barren, plastic-coated wasteland?
I happen to be chronically anxious, but I’m not the only one catastrophizing: Psychologists say eco-anxiety is on the rise. It can afflict people who have lived through a weather disaster to the point where they experience PTSD, but even those who have simply heard or read about climate crises may develop a persistent sense of unease. “I’m seeing it most in people in their 40s and younger,” says Karen Cassiday, PhD, a psychologist in Deerfield, Illinois, and past president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “They describe an existential terror along the lines of, what will become of me and my children?” Cassiday’s patients also express anger and fury at older generations for treating the earth so badly. In many cases of anxiety, we can ease our distress by rationally weighing the evidence for the thoughts that inspire it. (For example, when a friend doesn’t return a text, we may worry that she’s mad, but we can usually calm down by realizing that she’s probably just binge-watching The Good Place. Psychologist