As heat rises so does our anxiety

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2012

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Climate change is making people mad.

More than a quarter of patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in a recent study in Australia were found to have obsessions which directly related to climate change. The majority were male.

The patients were found to be carrying out rituals, such as checking lights, stoves and taps were turned off, so they could reduce their global footprint.

And Australian psychiatrists have discovered the first case of climate change delusion.

Dr Joshua Wolf and Dr Robert Salo, of the Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne, treated a 17-year-old who was convinced that if he drank water, millions of people would die of thirst.

His case was reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

According to the government's climate change website, New Zealand is "likely to see an increase in temperature of over 1C by 2050 and of more than 2C (compared with 1990 levels) by the end of the century. There are likely to be fewer frost days in winter and more hot days in summer".

The study, which investigated whether climate change has impacted on the nature of obsessions or compulsions experienced by 50 people with OCD, found many were performing rituals such as checking for electricity, water and gas wastage, and making sure light switches, taps and stoves were off.

Two participants were convinced increased air temperatures would result in rapid evaporation of the water leading to their pets dying of thirst if they didn't check that the water bowls were full.

Another patient was continually checking skirting boards, pipes, roofs and wooden structures for problems they were convinced were caused by global warming.

Study authors Mairwen Jones, Bethany Wootton, Lisa Vaccaro and Ross Menzies said: "While these behaviours are not particularly unusual for people with this condition, it was the rationale they provided for carrying them out that was surprising.

"Instead of checking and rechecking so as to prevent fire or flood, the rituals were specifically performed so as to reduce their global footprint, or respond to climate change-induced negative events.

"While it is not particularly surprising that some people with OCD may have concerns related to climate change, what is surprising is the extent of these concerns."

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- Sunday Star Times

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