Clinician's Digest

Clinician's Digest

The Rise of Eco-Anxiety

By Lauren Dockett

January/February 2019

Therapist Patricia Hasbach practices in a crunchy West Coast town that’s forever appearing on lists of Top 10 Places to Live. With its generous social services, thriving art scene, and easy access to forests, rivers, and mountains, Eugene, Oregon, is the kind of paradisiacal college town that, for many of its inhabitants, provides a verdant buffer to stress. But lately, Hasbach’s noticed some fraying of Eugene’s protective magic.

Among her clients and psychology students, she’s seeing an uptick in anxiety, depression, and anger that can’t be explained away with the predictable pressures of school, early trauma, or today’s oft-cited culprits of digital immersion, loneliness, and disconnection. Something more is happening. When given a nudge, a number of clients and students are admitting to an overwhelming concern about the news of today’s warming world, and with the fragility of life itself.

Take Sarah, a marketer in her early 30s who’d gotten married over the summer. Unlike some new brides who find their way to therapists, Sarah wasn’t questioning committing to her husband, Jack. She loved him and had long wanted them to settle down together. But soon after they’d wed, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire report, saying that without radical worldwide action between now and 2040, the planet will warm so quickly that ramped-up wildfires, killer droughts, more powerful storms, and greater flooding from rising seas will…

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