Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Eco-anxiety Works


What Can Eco-Anxiety Do to You?

Therapists who treat eco-anxiety say their patients report a number of general anxiety symptoms, including loss of appetite, irritability, panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, unexplained weakness and actual physical pain. Some people say they cry uncontrollably at the thought of the polar ice caps melting or of yet another species facing extinction.

Some people feel grief, while others experience helplessness or depression. Among the strangest of the reported symptoms is a "buzzing" feeling, as though people's cells are alive and twitching [source: Columbia News Service].

­In its most extreme form, eco-anxiety might even spawn rage, psychologists say. Groups of so-called eco-terrorists have used destruction to bring about their aim of environmental change. They have, among other acts, set fire to a $50 million San Diego housing complex and taken baseball bats to Hummers to vent their eco-rage [source: MSNBC].

Most people with eco-anxiety don't take their concerns to such an extreme, but they may become consumed with making eco-friendly changes in their lives. For example, eco-moms worry over waste-free school lunches, low-energy lightbulbs, and environmentally safe dishwasher and laundry detergents. They compost their organic trash in the backyard, and send their kids to school with a reusable lunchbox filled with hormone-free milk, antibiotic-free chicken strips and locally grown, pesticide-free apples.