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How Eco-anxiety Works

How Is Eco-Anxiety Treated?
Some eco-therapists help patients by urging them to carry around reminders of nature like pebbles or bark.
Some eco-therapists help patients by urging them to carry around reminders of nature like pebbles or bark.
Jeffrey Coolidge/Iconica/­Getty Images

In recent years, an entire branch of psychology, named ecopsychology, has sprouted up. It's devoted entirely to the study of environmentally spawned angst. The term ecopsychology was popularized in the early 1990s by social critic Theodor Roszak and others. The idea behind it is that people's relationship with the Earth is crucial to their physical and emotional well-being. Any disruption in this relationship can lead to stress and anxiety. Ecopsychology investigates how an individual's upbringing and background contribute to his or her relationship with the environment. It also looks at the person's carbon footprint and how he or she is working to help the environment and offers suggestions on how to reduce eco-anxiety.

­Ecopsychologist Michael J. Cohen developed an idea called the natural systems thinking process (NTSP), which furthers the idea that our anxiety is rooted in a disconnect between our health and the health of the planet. Cohen says we ­need to reconnect with nature to heal our emotional discord [source: Cohen].

So what do you do if you are suffering from eco-anxiety? Some people see an eco-therapist. According to the International Community for Ecopsychology, there are almost 150 ecopsychology practitioners around the world [source: Ecopsychology]. More colleges and universities, like Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., and Prescott College in Tucson, Ariz., have started offering ecopsychology as a major, so the number of trained eco-therapists is likely to grow.

Eco-therapists charge up to $250 an hour to diagnose the cause of your worries and offer solutions [source: MSNBC]. Some eco-therapists advise their patients to get outside and feel closer to nature, while others recommend that patients bring nature closer to them by carrying around a rock or piece of tree bark.

­Sometimes the best way to feel less helpless about the environment is to do something about it. Eco-therapists will often recommend that their patients start an environmental group at their work, school or place of worship. Other ways to get involved are by installing low-energy lightbulbs throughout your home or by carrying reusable shopping bags with you to the grocery store. You can also make a donation to a fund that protects the environment, like the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society. Sometimes all it takes to relieve eco-anxiety is to escape from the purveyors of doom and gloom. Turn off the TV, shut down the Internet and accept that while you can't control everything, you can live responsibly.