Climate have you feeling anxious, depressed? You're not alone

Climate change is a cause of depression and anxiety for some people.
Climate change is becoming a cause of depression and anxiety for some people.
Jim Best | University of Illinois via AP

The human toll on the planet and its resources can seem like an insurmountable problem to overcome.

Species dying off. Higher temperatures. More extreme weather. Entire towns being swallowed up by rising seas. Climate change is all doom and gloom, quite literally.

"I don't think there's a single person who doesn't have climate anxiety of some degree," said Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist know for her work on the psychological effects of climate change. Those who don't feel it, she says, are repressing the feeling.

There's not a ton of research on this subject yet. But a new study from the peer-reviewed journal Global Environmental Change surveyed 342 people and found a link between climate change concern and depression and anxiety.

The hardest hit: women and low-income people who are worried about the planet, Reuters reports.

The American Psychological Association published a 70-page review surveying research on the impacts, implications and guidance for helping climate change's effects on mental health. It listed the following mental health symptoms that can be related to climate change:

• Depression, stress and anxiety

• Strains on social relationships

• Complicated grief

• Substance abuse

• Post-traumatic stress disorder

• Loss of personal identity

• Helplessness and fatalism

Sometimes, Van Susteren said, patients concerned with the climate will exhibit what she calls "pre-traumatic stress" — a person exhibiting all the same symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, but before the traumatic event occurs.

Use the audio player above to hear Van Susteren talk with MPR News chief meteorologist Paul Huttner about how climate change affects mental health, and what people can do about it.

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