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How Vision Issues Can Greatly Impact Your Mental Health

How Your Vision Can Greatly Impact Your Mental Health

Table of Contents

Summary

Vision issues can negatively impact both physical well-being and mental health. In turn, many psychiatric conditions and medications can increase the odds of vision-related issues. More than 2 billion people in the world have either distance or near vision impairment. But worsening vision impairment and blindness are often treatable conditions.

Vision issues can negatively impact both physical well-being and mental health. In turn, many psychiatric conditions and medications can increase the odds of vision-related issues.

Blindness can be even more impactful, leading to severe depression, PTSD, and phobias. Treatments, including corrective lenses, medications, and eye surgeries, can improve vision issues and mental health concerns simultaneously. Cataract and LASIK surgeries can enhance your physical and mental state and overall quality of life. 

More than 2 billion people in the world have either distance or near vision impairment. But worsening vision impairment and blindness are often treatable conditions.

There are a number of resources to help you through mental health issues. You do not have to go it alone.

How Common Are Eye Issues?

How Common Are Eye Issues?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the following on common eye issues:

  • In the United States, approximately 12 million people over the age of 40 have vision impairment.
  • About 1 million people are blind.
  • Nearly 7 percent of children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with a vision or eye condition.
  • As of 2012, over 4 million Americans ages 40 and above had uncorrectable vision impairment. This number is expected to more than double by 2050, as chronic health conditions impacting vision are on the rise in the older adult population.
  • For adults, vision disabilities are one of the top 10 disabilities in the United States.

Eye issues are common. Many are treatable and even preventable with regular and routine care.

Vision Issues Can Have an Impact on Your Mental Health

Vision Issues Can Have an Impact on Your Mental Health

Struggling to see clearly can make everyday life harder. Reading, watching TV, recognizing faces, and daily life tasks can all be more difficult with vision issues. These difficulties can lead to depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal.

  • Depression: Vision loss can double your risk for struggling with depression. When it is hard to see and complete everyday life tasks as expected, it’s common to get frustrated, upset, disoriented, and sad.
  • Anxiety: Vision loss can increase the risk for anxiety, loneliness, and unintentional injuries. It can be easy to panic about not being able to do the things you are used to being able to do.
  • Stress is a known risk factor and contributing cause for vision issues, such as glaucoma and optic neuropathy, which can lead to vision loss. Stress can impact chemicals in the body that can create dysregulation in the vascular and sympathetic nervous system, which negatively impacts the eyes.
  • Social withdrawal: Vision issues can make it harder to get around. They limit your ability to get yourself places by driving. They can make you less likely to want to leave your house due to feelings of anxiety, depression, embarrassment, and inadequacy. In this way, vision loss and impairment can also lead to social isolation and withdrawal.
  • Medications: Vision issues can be caused or compounded by treatment for anxiety and depression disorders. Many of the prescribed medications can cause mydriasis (dilation of the pupil), blurred vision, difficulties with color perception, and a higher risk for diabetes, which can lead to vision issues and loss.
Blindness Can Make Issues Worse

Blindness Can Make Issues Worse

Blindness, or vision impairment, is listed as one of the top 10 disabilities for those ages 18 and older in the United States. It has a direct impact on daily life and quality of life. Vision impairment and blindness can make it hard to attend to daily life tasks, including cooking, cleaning, driving, reading, watching TV, taking medications, and even being able to know who is in the room with you.

Blindness can therefore lead to worsening mental health issues, including severe depression, phobias, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Ommetaphobia is an extreme fear of the eyes and is a common phobia. Fear of becoming blind is also common, and it is more common among people who are experiencing vision issues already. This can increase anxiety and stress levels, which can actually elevate the risk and progression of vision loss.

PTSD develops after a person experiences a particularly traumatizing event, typically one that was life-threatening either to the person directly or something they witnessed. Vision loss is not generally considered a traumatic event; however, it can be caused by trauma. Research finds that between 4 percent and 50 percent of people who are visually impaired also have PTSD.

Treatment for Eye Issues

Vision loss and impairment are largely preventable and treatable. The progression of eye disorders and conditions can be stalled and managed with proper and regular eye care. The best way to improve your eye health, and therefore your mental health, is to get regular eye exams and routine eye care from a trained professional.

Vision impairment is often related to medical health conditions, such as diabetes, and treating the condition can help to preserve your eyesight. Vision issues can be treated through:

  • Preventative and regular eye and medical health care.
  • Corrective lenses, such as eyeglasses or contacts.
  • Medications for medical and/or mental health conditions.
  • Surgeries like cataract and refractive error corrections.

References

Blindness and Vision Impairment. (February 2021). World Health Organization (WHO).

Fast Facts of Common Eye Disorders. (June 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Hidden Connection Between Vision Loss and Mental Health. (May 2014). Medical Xpress.

‘Blindness and Mental Health Can Come Hand in Hand.’ (March 2019). BBC News.

Visual Impairment and Mental Health: Unmet Needs and Treatment Options. (December 2020). Clinical Ophthalmology.

Mental Stress as a Consequence and Cause of Vision Loss: The Dawn of Psychosomatic Ophthalmology for Preventive and Personalized Medicine. (June 2018). EPMA Journal.

Vision Loss and Mental Health: The Hidden Connection. (2021). Social Work Today.

The Burden of Vision Loss. (June 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder In Individuals with Vision Impairment: a Systematic Search and Review. (January 2021). Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics.

Cataracts. (August 2019). National Eye Institute (NEI).

Surgery for Refractive Errors. (June 2019). National Eye Institute (NEI).

Mental Health by the Numbers. (March 2021). National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

NAMI Helpline. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

National Helpline. (May 2021). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

MentalHealth.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Help for Mental Illnesses. (August 2019). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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