Alexandra Dobbs
Sophrologist and Hypnotherapist
Alexandra Dobbs
Sophrologist and Hypnotherapist

How to cope with eco-anxiety and solastalgy with Hypnosis and Sophrology

14 Apr 2022 Alexandra Dobbs

head with branches inside

When climate change impacts mental health

To date, there is no unique definition of eco-anxiety, particularly from a medical point of view. According to Alice Desbiolles, public health doctor and epidemiologist, eco-anxiety is defined as a form of sensitivity generated by a perception of environmental disorders and their consequences on human societies. It is the perception of a compromised future, of a world in peril.

In the same realm, there is also the term "solastalgia" coined by the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht. This neologism is made up with  the term "solace" which means "comfort". The word "algia" means "pain" in Latin. Solastalgia therefore refers to the pain of losing one's habitat, refuge, place of comfort. It is rather retrospective, akin to nostalgia and looking to the past, whereas eco-anxiety is more looking to the future and prospective.

What are the signs of eco-anxiety or solastalgia?

Eco-anxiety and solastalgia can result in psychosomatic or emotional disorders or existential questioning. They can lead to a feeling of helplessness, loss of control or loss of meaning, fear of the future, sadness, regret, guilt, anxiety disorders ranging from chronic anxiety to panic attacks, insomnia, ruminations, questioning about the child project.

Who is concerned by eco-anxiety and solastalgia?

Although it's too early to give a final answer to that question, a study in "The Journal of Climate Change and Health" highlighted that the people most vulnerable to eco-anxiety are defined primarily by their age or their particular connection to nature and not as people with initial exacerbated anxiety. It seems that the more a person is aware of climate issues and their environment, such as scientists, young people, or farmers who have a strong contact with the earth, the more likely they are to develop a form of eco-anxiety. According to another study carried out at Sciences Po Grenoble, the "eco-anxious" are a predominantly young, urban, female and educated population, and again with no particular initial anxiety disorder.

Are eco-anxiety and solastalgia a mental illness?

It is therefore important to emphasize that it is neither a syndrome nor an official psychiatric diagnosis and that eco-anxiety does not appear in the DSM-5, a major tool for classifying mental disorders. For most researchers, it is therefore important to specify that it is not a mental illness, but an anxiety which would in fact be a rational and healthy response to the seriousness of environmental problems. It would therefore be advisable not to "pathologize" eco-anxiety.

​​​​​​​How to cope with eco-anxiety and solastalgia?

There are solutions to, if not free yourself from eco-anxiety, at least reduce it.

Letting go, without giving up, seems essential. Learn to disconnect from anxiety-provoking information, without however renouncing a certain form of commitment in your daily life. Staying connected to nature, to yourself and to the present are also beneficial in order to remember the beauty of our environment and to keep hope; maintain the link with other humans in order to emphasize relational security; be careful not to "hyper-anticipate", nor "hyper-blame" yourself, that is to say, take responsibility for what you cannot act on as an individual. Eco-anxiety or solastalgia can be positive when it encourages you to reflect, to move, to act in order to be aligned with your values. This can lead to choosing a new lifestyle and developing a new philosophy of life with which you will feel more in tune with. Basically, when you feel eco-anxiety and listen to it, it gives you a superpower that allows you to take action.

When to ask for professional help?

This questioning of our relationship to the world, to our environment and to the future therefore is normal and healthy, provided that we do something about it and do not lock ourselves into a state of permanent anxiety that freezes us and prevents us from moving and acting.

A mental health professional should be consulted when the expression of eco-anxiety or solastalgia results in symptoms that significantly interfere with daily life, when emotions become too intrusive and overflow, when you feel overwhelmed, when the moral suffering engendered is too great. Professor Antoine Pelissolo and Doctor Célie Massini indicate that some eco-anxious people report panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, obsessive thoughts, eating disorders (anorexia, hyperphagia), negative emotions (fear, sadness, helplessness, despair, frustration, anger, paralysis).

Moreover, to respond to this anxiety, a branch of psychology has emerged: "eco-psychology" in France or "climate psychology" in the United States. Psychologists, psychotherapists, sophrologists, hypnotherapists, etc... tend to specialize nowadays in these issues.

How can Sophrology and Hypnosis help

Hypnosis and Sophrology can help you manage anxiety, fear and stress, reconnect to your values, get out of situations in which you feel locked up or blocked, find serenity, get back in motion and act...

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