Between fear and sadness, eco-anxiety, a new form of depression

Between fear and sadness, eco-anxiety, a new form of depression, Interview .- Psychiatrist at the hospital, Antoine Pelissolo follows young victims of eco-anxiety, a new form of depression.

Madame Figaro. – You identify in consultation symptoms of pre-traumatic stress. Who is affected, in what ways?

Prof. Antoine Pelissolo. – At the hospital, we see this complaint emerge among people who were already consulting for other reasons, sometimes a depression , and evoke in the face of the degradation of the planet a mixture of feelings or complex emotions, with sadness, fear, anger, until reaching the body itself. Not all eco-anxious people consult a psychiatrist, but we note that, if all generations are affected, young people are the priority.

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Yes, there is an accumulation of information and images of disasters, often perceived via social networks, which creates shocks, pressure and an awareness of our own finitude. For some, the feeling that the future is blocked predominates, to the point of ruling out any desire for a child. It is a new and quite radical questioning of the hope represented by descent and transmission.

What impacts do you note on health?

Studies show that prolonged spikes in heat or pollution can lead to deterioration of mental health, aggression . We also speak of “solastalgia”, this feeling of loss of a land in which we grew up, of its resources, of a bond of belonging. All this can cause generalized, deep and heavy fatigue.

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We must welcome them, listen to them, train doctors, who might sometimes be tempted to take this word lightly. Relaxation techniques like meditation are important. Proximity to nature has real effects on these patients, which go beyond a “it feels good…”: many studies show the beneficial effects of green spaces and trees on the psyche, in connection with a less consumption of antidepressants. Some need drug treatment. Most progress by engaging in climate-related actions with a collective dimension that breaks the feeling of helplessness. This subject will also shift to children, who have access to anxiety-inducing information. It will be necessary to accompany them, to find with them the security links which defuse this anxiety.

Head of the psychiatry department of the Henri-Mondor and Albert-Chenevrier hospitals (AP-HP, Créteil) , Antoine Pelissolo is also the author of The Emotions of climate change , co-written with Célie Massini, (Ed. Flammarion).