Should 'Eco-Anxiety' Be Classified as a Mental Illness?
As the climate crisis takes on more urgency, psychologists around the world are seeing an increase in the number of children sitting in their offices suffering from 'eco-anxiety,' which the American Psychological Association described as a "chronic fear of environmental doom," as EcoWatch reported.
The Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) told the Daily Telegraph that they have seen kids treated with psychiatric drugs for eco-anxiety, and it is campaigning for eco-anxiety to be diagnosed as a psychological phenomenon despite its absence from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the handbook for diagnosing mental illnesses.
However, there is a caveat. The CPA does not want it classified as a mental disorder, because unlike other anxieties, the cause of worry is rational, as the Daily Telegraph reported.
"A lot of parents are coming into therapy asking for help with the children and it has escalated a lot this summer," said Caroline Hickman, a teaching fellow at the University of Bath and a CPA executive, to the Daily Telegraph. "The symptoms are the same [as clinical anxiety], the feelings are the same, but the cause is different. The fear is of environmental doom - that we're all going to die."
Writing in The Conversation, Hickman highlighted the existential despair young people in the Maldives feel. She notes that the Maldives may disappear by 2100 due to sea level rise. She gives an example that one teenager said to her.
"We saw online that people in Iceland held a funeral for a glacier today, but who is going to do that for us? Don't they see that we will be underwater soon and our country will be gone? No one cares. How can you grieve for ice and ignore us?"
That sense of dread and doom is tricky for parents, who must validate children's feelings and discuss the importance of the climate crisis without upsetting them further.
"Listen to your children when they talk about climate change, you'll learn more about how we should take responsibility for the mess, say sorry, and start to act," Hickman wrote in The Conversation.
To that have a discussion with your kids, Hickman has a four-step strategy for parents, which she shared with the Daily Telegraph:
- Gradually introduce children to known facts.
- Ask kids how they feel.
- Acknowledge that the outcomes are uncertain.
- Create actionable and doable steps together, such as reducing waste and choosing foods with a smaller carbon footprint.
The climate crisis is particularly relevant for children, especially as the Global Climate Strike approaches this Friday. A new poll found that over 70 percent of American teenagers believe that the climate crisis is man-made and that it will cause harm to them and to their generation, according to the Washington Post.
Fortunately, many choose not to slip into despair and take action, instead.
"Fear," said Madeline Graham, a 16-year-old organizer of a student protest planned for this week, "is a commodity we don't have time for if we're going to win the fight."
The poll found that that around 1 in 4 teenagers have participated in a demonstration, attended a rally, or written to public officials to express their concern about a warming planet. That is a very high level of activism for a constituency under the legal voting age, according to the Washington Post.
Inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, an increasing number of teenagers are starting to skip school on Fridays to demonstrate for their future, which they argue is far more important than one day of school.
"People feel very guilty when a child says, 'You are stealing my future.' That has impact," Thunberg told the Washington Post. "We have definitely made people open their eyes."
- 5 Ways Communities Are Coping With Climate Anxiety - EcoWatch ›
- Climate Change Is Causing Us 'Eco-Anxiety' - EcoWatch ›
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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