How did you specialize in treating weather anxiety?
Because I observed it for years in children and adolescents in my office daily...
What was he watching?
They added climatic anxieties to the usual anxieties at their age, and later, there were many who began to mention it when dealing with them. But I confess that I am not entirely comfortable with that name.
Because it cannot be assimilated to other types of anxiety, such as the fear of flying or other fears to which we overreact...
What would you call it?
In reality, it is more about logical horror at the certain and evident risk that our ecosystem is in danger.
But there have been other global crises: that of the missiles in Cuba or nuclear terror...
This is different and, therefore, it causes a different fear, because those previous crises had a solution, there were agreements...
I don't know if the atomic war broke out where we could hide.
...Mentally speaking, it does not close all escape possibilities: perhaps distant islands; nuclear shelters... Instead, eco-anxiety exists, because there is no possible escape if life on the planet ends.
Elon Musk believes that we will escape in time – at least he does – to a planet B.
But in eco-anxiety we are talking about rational terror that life on Earth will end: there is no escape that a healthy mind can imagine.
Doesn't the hope that we can still slow down the warming serve to calm you down?
But before hope, the real danger is perceived: we feel it in our bodies every time temperatures soar to levels never seen before.
It also seemed to us in the 1980s that a nuclear holocaust was inevitable.
The truth is that, when faced with these types of arguments, I am faced with an ethical dilemma: if I reassure everyone by telling them that we still have time to avoid the worst... am I not favoring inaction?
What if he tells them the truth?
It is exactly how I solve the dilemma; but I am also afraid that this truth is not at all reassuring, because the truth is that we are not acting, either on a global scale or in my country, the United Kingdom, with the speed and efficiency necessary to stop climate change. And that's why children demonstrate here, like Greta Thunberg.
Is it an adolescent syndrome?
It is and it makes sense that the most affected are children and adolescents, because they are young, but not stupid; And they know that the clock, ticking, is nearing the end of our species.
Does weather anxiety syndrome have any precedent in history?
After World War I, the disillusionment syndrome of hundreds of veterans, with post-traumatic stress disorder and many disabled, aggravated by the evidence that their generals had lied to them, was accurately described.
And how are they similar?
In that we are giving young people a greenwash narrative, of ecological image washing for companies and manufacturers of products and energies, which degrade our ecosystem, and, again, young people are not stupid: they feel cheated.
How do you characterize the symptoms of this syndrome? What do you observe in them?
Not all those affected react in the same way, although they all cite the same climatic cause and their impotence before it as the primary reason for their discomfort.
What do you recommend?
Action. That they do something to feel that at least they act to save their future. I advise you to recycle; that they influence as they can to stop the waste of fossil energy; that they also convince their parents so that they act responsibly... Let them demonstrate.
What are the patients who suffer from this syndrome like, apart from being young?
I have met them in the Maldives, where they know their country is going to be swamped by rising waters; and in Egypt, where I also practiced. By making myself known in networks around the world, I was asked for help in the US, Canada, Alaska and Brazil, where there were numerous cases in adolescents.
Were there serious cases?
I have treated suicide attempts, hunger strikes in groups of adolescents...
The truth is that I have not seen any.
Few reach that extreme, but surely you have seen some manifestation.
Yes, I remember seeing one.
It is at least a matter of listening to them and agreeing with them, because they are right, and trying to act with them. The best thing that has ever happened to me is an email I received from a little patient thanking me because someone had finally listened to him.