Have you ever been annoyed when the lights go out and you find yourself completely lost? You certainly have not enjoyed having blurry vision after an irritated eye. Although your eyes eventually adjust to the darkness and the irritation in your eye might eventually go away, think about permanently seeing nothing but the blankness of the dark and never adjusting to it, or perhaps having a blurry vision without glasses. All the above situations have a common observation in common: the importance of healthy eyesight. Being visually impaired not only affects everyday life but also creates a rift in the lives of its victims and that of others.
An estimated 285 million to 596 million people worldwide are visually compromised (between 2018 and 2020), including the 39 million population with complete loss of vision. Although there are corneal diseases, causing refractive faults, that can be treated through procedures or corrected using lenses, some diseases that affect the visual nervous system are widely considered irreparable.
There are numerous conditions that lead to different forms of visual impairment. Cataracts are the leading cause of challenges in visual ability; they are defined as the clouding of the eye’s lens, resulting in hazy vision, that can be developed over time and sped-up by aging, UV damages, smoking, and metabolic disturbances, etc. Refractive errors are the inability of the eye to sharply focus the light on the retina, thus causing blurry vision. There are two common conditions that befall under this category of visual challenge: long-sightedness, the inability to focus on near objects, and short-sightedness, the difficulty to see objects at distance. If left uncorrected, they can lead to blindness since they are the second leading cause of complete visual among the world population.
Stress and Loss of Vision
The dependence of bodily organs on each other in order to function in perfect harmony cannot be denied. When it comes to the brain, due to its interaction with every muscle and almost every organ either directly or indirectly, its vast control over the body is clear as the day. Mental stress causes the brain to function differently, causing different courses of chemical and hormonal reactions, that lead to varied conditions.
The idea that mental stress causes visual challenges is a very old one. Experts have linked different emotional and mental stresses directly affecting the visual prowess of an individual. Some examples include poor sleep routine like sleeping during the day and staying awake during the night, continuous crying, suppression of tears, excessive anger, and sorrow, etc. Although the studies do not hold mental distress as the sole perpetrator of visual impairment, they do suggest it as one of the many causes of the process.
Loss of Vision and Mental Health Among the Victims
There are a plethora of case studies that have held visual challenges responsible for specific mental health complications. Not only do studies show a wave of depressive symptoms among the visually impaired, but some have also linked it directly with depression. It can also be derived from the data that poor eyesight health and/or blindness put the victims at high risk of developing depression.
Anxiety Among the Visually Challenged
Although the rates of anxiety in the visually impaired population have not been investigated thoroughly, some evidence still suggests strongly towards the commonness of the trait among them. A recent study found that almost 37% of the individuals involved in the research experienced anxiety, nervousness, or stress despite none of the patients having severe eyesight problems. The results suggest that the concern of gradually losing your sight and having to face challenges unknown can greatly make the patient anxious, even though their conditions may not be getting worse.
Another study has found that anxiety among the elderly population that suffers from visual challenges is higher than that of aged people of the general population. In addition, they have also exceeded the anxiety levels that are estimated among elderly people with other health complications like diabetes and heart conditions. Anxiety may not be strongly bonded with visual poverty but there is a possibility of its development in the early stages even without any substantial loss of this sense.
Other Psychological Impacts
Visual loss can take a heavy toll on the mental stability of its victims; it can even push them towards suicide. The risk of suicide among people with poor eyesight has been found to increase with the increase in age and the severity of the condition. One of the studies suggests patients with the poorest of visual prowess were 2-3 times more likely to ideate suicide.
The impact of mental health on the loss of vision may not be as colossal as the other way around but seeking help and reaching out for preventive measures in the soonest opportunity may reduce the dangers twice as much.
- Demmin, D. L., & Silverstein, S. M. (2020). Visual Impairment and Mental Health: Unmet Needs and Treatment Options. Clinical Ophthalmology, Volume 14, 4229–4251. https://doi.org/10.2147/opth.s258783
- Sabel, B. A., Wang, J., Cárdenas-Morales, L., Faiq, M., & Heim, C. (2018). Mental stress as consequence and cause of vision loss: the dawn of psychosomatic ophthalmology for preventive and personalized medicine. EPMA Journal, 9(2), 133–160. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13167-018-0136-8