Doomsday Got You Down? Here’s How To Manage Your Apocalyptic Dread

Jan 20, 2023
Lucas Hanft
Created by the editors of the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists at the dawn of the atomic era, the Doomsday Clock was initially a way to quantify how close we were to nuclear annihilation.

In that regard, it’s surprising that it’s maintained its cultural relevancy so long: common sense would dictate that the clock should have gone away around the same time as the Berlin Wall came down.  But the keepers of the Clock adopted an equal opportunity mentality when it comes to apocalyptic threats. Greenhouse gases might not be as sexy as splitting the atom, but the danger is real, and so the Doomsday Clock kept on ticking away. 

In fact recently the Bulletin announced we were closer to midnight — closer to the end of civilization — than ever.  It’s getting to the point where, for the first time in history, the most rational and level-headed among us are the ones screaming about the apocalypse. 

Cheery subject matter for a blog on a mental health website, we know.  But the subject is increasingly relevant to our patients — and therefore, to us.  How do you manage anxiety about doomsday — especially when that anxiety is at least somewhat justified?

Managing Your Fear

The scary truth when it comes to this kind of fundamental, primal fear: you’re never going to wholly eliminate it, so the best you can do is try to manage it. Unless someone suddenly develops a new way to clean the atmosphere and re-freeze the polar ice-caps, you’re always going to be afraid of environmental catastrophe — the same way you’re always going to be afraid of death.  It’s just a fact of life.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is more like a shaman than a psychotherapist.

 The same therapist would also tell you that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to existential crises.  For some people, it makes sense to try to meet the problem head on: If you’re worried about the world ending, then you should do something to stop that from happening.  Volunteer, protest, do your best to effect positive change. 

If that makes you feel better and gives you a sense of purpose, then by all means, have at it.  For others, though, the more you know — the more engaged you are — the more hopeless you feel.  Not only that, but it’s very easy to conflate the failures of the movement with what you perceive to be your failures as an individual.  This is especially true if you have a tendency toward depression.

For this kind of person, the healthiest option is to disconnect, rather than engage.  Truly, never in the history of mankind has ignorance been so blissful.

Creation: The Ultimate Rebuttal to Destruction.

 Part of struggling with apocalyptic anxiety is the fear of the unknown — fear of the uncontrollable.  That’s why we often encourage patients who are dealing with these problems to try to channel their energy into creative acts. Because when you write something down, you’re exerting a kind of control over it.

Journaling too can have tremendous therapeutic value.  In the process of writing your feelings down, often times you learn something about them — and by extension, about yourself.  You see how your myriad anxieties are all interlinked, how they aren’t just a random assemblage of neuroses, but a patterned constellation. 

How Therapy Can Help

Psychotherapy isn’t about taking apocalyptic anxieties away— rather, in the best-case scenario, the therapeutic process can help you understand and manage your fears, and help you to live a fulfilling and joyous life, even in the face of these kinds of existential terrors. 

At Rappore, we pride ourselves on helping people like you to navigate the complex and scary realities of the world we live in.  To learn more about how our therapists can help you, click here.  Or if you’re ready to get started, click here.