Medically reviewed by Christine L. Larsen, MD
Research shows that the primary causes of vision loss in the United States are associated with advanced age. These conditions include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These diseases stem from high blood pressure or poor circulation in the tiny blood vessels inside the eye.
Not surprisingly, vision loss can lead to a great deal of mental stress. However, research also shows that not only is stress a result of vision loss, but stress may also worsen vision loss.
This article will explore the connection between vision loss and mental health, share insights from experts on how to manage the psychological impact of vision loss, and present expert advice on coping strategies for individuals experiencing vision loss.
Table of Contents
The Link Between Vision Loss and Mental Health
The impact of vision loss goes beyond physical health concerns. In fact, studies have shown that individuals with vision loss are at a higher risk for developing the following:
According to a 2022 study, 1 in 4 adults with vision loss report experiencing these mental health concerns. Additionally, the research revealed, younger individuals experiencing vision loss are at a significantly higher risk of developing severe anxiety or depressioncompared to those who are 65 years old or older.
Therefore, individuals with vision loss must be screened for depression and anxiety, as untreated mental health issues can further diminish their quality of life.
Studies have also indicated a bidirectional relationship between mental stress and vision loss symptoms. This means that mental stress is not only a result of vision loss; it can contribute to developing vision loss symptoms.
Stress-related vision problems may include:
Coping With Stress From Vision Loss
There are several strategies you can use to calm your nervous system and try to stem stress related to vision loss, including the following:
Research shows that diaphragmatic breathing can activate relaxation responses within the body, improving both physical and mental well-being.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a relaxation method that involves intentional, slow, and deep breaths. This technique requires inhaling gradually through the nostrils and exhaling through the mouth using the belly rather than the chest.
It's important to have a network of supportive friends and family that you can turn to during difficult times. Don't hesitate to confide in them about your worries and don't be afraid to ask for assistance when you need it. If you're feeling particularly stressed, it may also be helpful to seek the help of a therapist.
Moving more may help decrease your risk of acquiring the health issues that can further affect your eyes. Physical activity also can promote positive mental health.
Meditating has been shown to lead to small to moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of stress, such as anxiety, depression, and pain.
Aromatherapy with essential oils may reduce stress by stimulating the olfactory system and promoting relaxation. Commonly used essential oils for stress include lavender, frankincense, and chamomile.
Keep a Journal
Journaling provides an outlet for emotions and allows you to express your thoughts and feelings, which can help you process and cope with them. Writing in a journal can also help with rumination—times when you repeatedly get stuck thinking about the same negative thoughts. Writing can help explore thoughts and feelings in a safe and nonjudgmental way.
Taking steps to manage your stress may ultimately improve some stress-related vision symptoms.
Symptoms: What Is Stress?
Stress is a state of emotional and physical strain triggered by various events or thoughts that lead to frustration, anger, or nervousness. Stress is a common experience that everyone goes through.
Stress is categorized into these two main types:
Acute stress: Acute stress is a short-term stress response that quickly subsides. It is normal to experience acute stress occasionally.
Chronic stress: Chronic stress is prolonged stress, persisting for several weeks or months. If left unmanaged, chronic stress can lead to health complications.
Symptoms of stress include:
Adjusting to Vision Loss
Living with vision loss can be an incredibly challenging experience. It can affect every aspect of a person's life, from their ability to navigate their environment to their sense of independence and self-esteem.
Adjusting to a new way of life can be difficult and overwhelming, especially if the vision loss is sudden or unexpected. Activities that were once simple, like reading a book or taking a walk, can become daunting and frustrating. Even basic tasks like cooking, cleaning, and dressing oneself can become much more difficult without the ability to see well.
Some eye conditions can be treated to restore vision, but some cannot. Fortunately, there is a variety of aids and technologies available to help people who experience vision loss or blindness.
Important strategies to cope with vision loss include:
Educate yourself by seeking out a vision loss specialist.
Let your family and friends know about your condition so that they can provide support and make accommodations to ensure your safety and well-being at home and work.
Consider seeking counseling or joining a support group to help cope with the emotional and psychological challenges of vision loss.
Acknowledge and process your feelings of grief associated with vision loss.
It is also a good idea to look into low-vision rehabilitation programs. These programs can help assess your needs, offer advice on adapting to your environment, and provide guidance on accessing and using devices that can help you with everyday tasks like cooking, reading, and watching TV.
Coping with vision loss often requires significant patience, resilience, and support from loved ones. It may involve learning new skills and strategies to navigate the world and finding ways to maintain a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.
Despite these challenges, many people with vision loss live fulfilling lives and find ways to adapt and thrive, often with the help of assistive technology, community resources, and supportive networks. If you or a loved one is experiencing vision loss, talk to your healthcare provider for more resources to help you deal with your condition.