Mental Health Effects of Losing Your Eyesight

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Losing your vision doesn’t just affect your ability to see. As one of the five major senses, problems with your eyesight have ripple effects on other areas of your life and can pose new challenges. Loss of eyesight can be especially difficult for your mental well-being.

This article will explore the physical and mental health effects of vision loss, how to cope with the loss as well as how to avoid vision loss.

Is Vision Impairment Widespread?

The current statistics on those who have serious problems with their eyesight are staggering.

The World Health Organization says about 2.2 billion people across the globe have vision impairment. WHO also notes that, in about 50% of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or is still not being addressed.

Eyesight Is a Valued Sense

Sight isn’t just one of our senses that helps us figure out the world. For many, it’s regarded as the most valued sense. This was revealed in a study of adults in the United Kingdom. Researchers found that people would choose, on average, 4.6 years more of living in perfect health over living 10 years with total vision loss.

The number of those dealing with limited vision is predicted to increase, too, as the world's population ages.

Physical Health Effects of Vision Loss

The most common eye disorders leading to loss of vision or blindness are:

  • Cataracts
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Age-related macular degeneration

Vision loss doesn’t just affect your ability to see what's in front of you. For example, it can affect how you walk because you might become fearful about falling or running into a pole.

It affects your ability to read, watch TV, create meals, work and drive. If you participate in hobbies like tennis or golf, your compromised eyesight will likely affect your ability to play these games.

Based on recent research, impaired eyesight has a substantial effect on people’s activities of daily living, too. That includes everyday functions and routine activities like using the toilet, showering, dressing, and eating.

Mental Health Effects of Vision Loss

Vision is an important sensory modality. Mental health problems are an added burden for people already contending with the challenges of losing their vision. Despite the huge numbers of people dealing with serious eye problems like this, screening and treatment are nowhere near the levels they should be. 

As a result, people are having to deal with the byproducts of vision loss. This comes in the form of psychological challenges. So, losing your eyesight can add stress to your everyday life.

Loss of sight is associated with the following psychological and psychosocial problems.

Loss of Confidence

Without getting the screening, diagnosis, and treatments early enough, unfortunately, people are living with eyesight issues and age-related eye diseases that only get worse over time.

Gradually, someone might start to question if they should go out for a walk around the block. And, soon enough they become worried about driving during the day.

As a result, their confidence gets shaken and takes a hit. They might also feel embarrassment and shame. Rather than dealing with the shame, they avoid thinking about the problem or start to isolate themselves from others.

Loneliness

Vision impairment is often irreversible so it’s important to address how it can result in loneliness.

Losing your vision can adversely affect interpersonal interactions and social engagement. For instance, someone dealing with vision loss might isolate themselves, and attend fewer in-person meetings and get-togethers because of their frustrations and challenges in dealing with vision loss.

In a recent study,scientists examined how loneliness impacts people with vision impairment. When looking at those with sight impairment, loneliness was common. The rates of loneliness of those with vision impairment were consistently higher across various age groups compared to the general population. 

Depression

It’s understandable that people experiencing vision loss will get mildly or clinically depressed. One commentary in an issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Ophthalmology says there’s robust evidence of a link between vision loss and depression.

Researchers say, “Those with vision loss are 2 to 3 times more likely to be depressed than the general population.”

Depression is a far-from-uncommon risk for people who have lost their vision from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

One study, funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), brought together eye care and mental health professionals. Results of this study showed that a multi-disciplinary treatment program that included input from primary eye care, psychiatry, psychology, and rehabilitation specialists held promise.

One aspect of the integrated intervention was having people with vision loss focus and re-engage in activities they liked. This kind of behavior activation that helps people achieve goals reduced the risk of depression by 50% compared to the control treatment.

How to Cope With Vision Loss

People will react differently to vision loss, but it’s important to acknowledge and grieve the loss of your vision. Being aware of how you feel and the reality of the situation you are in is important.

Here are some ways that you can cope with vision loss:

  • Speak with a therapist: If you're finding it difficult to cope with your vision loss, speaking to a therapist who has experience in treating individuals with chronic health issues may be helpful. They'll be able to validate your experience and help you discover ways to manage any negative feelings you may have. Furthermore, therapists can offer a variety of approaches and work with medical professionals to best address your individual needs.
  • Consider using devices: If you have some sight, you can consider telescopic glasses and reading prisms. Devices can include other aids like large print publications, text-to-speech computer software programs, and Braille readers.
  • Take the time to grieve: Losing your eyesight can feel devastating, so it's important that you take the time to feel all of your emotions in a healthy way.

Can Vision Loss Be Prevented?

It’s estimated that over 80% of visual impairment is preventable or treatable.

How to Maintain Your Eye Health

Here are some ways to maintain eye health:

  • Limit screen time
  • Reduce eye strain by wearing contacts or glasses
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Schedule eye exams regularly

A Word From Verywell

Vision loss can be painful to deal with, so it's important to prioritize your mental health so you can learn how to cope with losing your eyesight. Speaking to a mental health counselor can help you navigate any complex emotions that you may be feeling.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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