Eco-anxiety: A Scoping Review Towards a Clinical Conceptualisation and Therapeutic Approach
As the ecological and climate crisis has intensified, impact on mental health has become more evident. ‘Eco-anxiety’ is a term commonly used to describe these effects. Despite the increased recognition of eco-anxiety as a valid mental state, there is little empirical evidence detailing it as a clinical presentation, or describing the interventions considered most effective in addressing it. Utilising a scoping review methodology, this study collated recent knowledge of eco-anxiety and the therapeutic approaches suggested to mitigate its negative impact. Literature published between 2017-2020 addressing the conceptualisation of eco-anxiety, its symptoms and interventions were reviewed. 25 academic articles and 5 book chapters met inclusion criteria for the review. Descriptive content analysis was used to map current understanding of this emerging presentation. The findings from the scoping review suggest that maladaptive eco-anxiety presents even in people with no direct experiences of ecological crisis, it causes a crisis of hope regarding the future, a reduction in quality of life, and can lead to an inability to take positive action. It can be described as an existential crisis and could also be conceptualised within a trauma, stress or grief framework. Symptoms present as both cognitive-emotional and functional impairment and could be associated with diagnostic categories of anxiety, depression, trauma and stress. Therapeutic interventions consist of individual level skills training primarily for resilience and coping; group approaches; therapeutic approaches derived from the main schools of psychotherapy; diagnostic-specific approaches; and changes required at the mental health system level.