Updated: May 19
(written by Tia mum of two)
I myself am a mum with sight impairment and also my 5-year-old daughter.
I had no idea the link between eyesight and mental health.
This blog will look at what sight impairment is and how poor sight affects our mental health.
An estimate of 2.2 billion people are visually imparted and often their sight impairment can affect their quality of life, which as you can imagine can affect their mental state.
Many people are unaware that a sight impairment may lead to mental health problems.
Then we will discuss a term called “Mental Health Eyes”. What this means and situations where mental health eyes may present. And finally, looking at if receiving treatment for mental health can impact our eyesight?
What is sight impairment?
Sight or visual impairment is often used to describe sight loss that can not be repaired with glasses or contact lenses Just like anything the seriousness of a sight impairment varies.
There are two main categories of visual impairment.
1. Being registered legally sighted, which means the level of sight impairment is moderate.
2. Registered blind, which means a severe sight impairment where activities that rely on eyesight become impossible.
Sight impairment can be caused by many different things and sometimes can be unpreventable.
Some things that may lead to sight impairment are:
Injury to the eyes
Inheriting conditions of blindness
Infections in the eyes
Age-related Macular degeneration
Amblyopia often also known as “lazy eye” is a condition where vision is reduced in one eye creating the eye to wander inwards or outwards. Amblyopia is often developed early on and is more common in children. This can be corrected if caught early and provided the correct treatment.
Can poor mental health affect eyesight?
Once finding out that poor eyesight may affect you mentally it makes you wonder, could poor mental health affect your eyesight? Does it work both ways?
Apart from particular mental illnesses such as psychosis, schizophrenia and many more that create visual hallucinations, the short answer is yes! Poor mental health can lead to poor eyesight over time.
Mental illnesses such as anxiety have been known you create visual symptoms. This can create tunnel vision and sometimes blurriness, which can all become more dominant if experiencing an anxiety attack.
Results of a study published by the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience (2).
show that after doing observations on two groups, those diagnosed with depression have a weaker vision performance than those who do not. Leading them to believe it has something to do with changes within the cerebral cortex.
The cerebral cortex is the outer surface of the brain. This part of the brain is associated with consciousness, thought, emotions, reasoning, language and memory.
Can eyesight affect mental health?
As you may imagine, if you have a drastic sudden change in your sight this may lead to frustrations. Losing your sight will lead to you having to make large new adaptations to your everyday life.
A loss of vision means it becomes easy for someone to feel lonely as their daily interaction may reduce. Poor eyesight can lead to someone feeling lonely, social isolation, feelings of anxiety, fear and depression. Often people with a loss of vision can feel as if they are a burden if they require further needs and additional support from others.
Feeling reliant daily on those around you can increase the risk of anxiety and depression. This can lead to people feeling as if they are incapable and lower their self-confidence. Psychological distress and heightened anxiety have been found to be the most common reactions to sight loss.
“Mental illness eyes”
There is a term known as mental illness eyes and I am sure this has you asking yourself - Are there specific eye colours or types that are more prone to mental illnesses? What exactly is meant by “Mental illness eyes?”
What is meant by “Mental illness eyes”?
First looking at what the term means, is eye movements that might be due to mental health. For example fluctuations of dopamine that occur within your brain can also have an impact on your retina. This can then affect visual processing as well as eye movement. Additionally, mentally illness where someone experiences manic episodes may also present in someone's eyes. Manic episodes can lead to eyes appearing much wider than usual.
So-called bio-polar eyes present:
“Sparkling eyes” or eyes that appear more liquidy
Eyes that change colour or become black
Widen or glazed eyes, depending on the type of maina
So, therefore, this shows the term “Mental illness eyes” is referring to movements or changes that occur in our eyes due to the impact mental health has upon our brains.
Does eye colour have any link to mental health?
In some mental illnesses where people can experience manic episodes, this can impact a change in colour and pigment in our eyesight. For example, as mentioned above, when suffering from bio polar and experiencing a manic episode eyes may darken or in some incidents can even change colours.
However, this then gets you wondering, does that mean certain eye colours could be connected to mental illnesses?
Recent studies show those with dark eye colours are more likely to suffer from seasonal depression, meaning the colours of our eyes may be linked to our mental state (source: independent.co.uk). Although this is a complex theory, studies show this is due to the amount of light that passes through your eye to your optic nerve. Meaning someone may be more prone to feeling depressed due to the amount of light your eye can process.
Therefore, this indicates that even the colour of our eyes can play a part in our mental state. Showing that the darker our eyes and the less light we are able to process leaves us at more risk of seasonal depression.
Can treatment for mental health affect our eyes?
Additionally to looking at how eyesight and mental health are connected we also come across how mental health and eyesight are connected. To look further into this we need to look at how treatment for mental health can affect our eyes. When struggling with poor mental health is it critical to receive the correct treatment needed as early on as possible. As the sooner we receive help the easier it will be to manage.
Looking at one of the many treatments we can receive for mental health is medication. Unfortunately, with mental health being such a complex study, almost every medication has many side effects that either occur immediately or over time. One of the side effects of many psychiatric medications is a visual impact over time. It is hard to tell specifically what that visual impact is and how serious it is as it will affect every patient differently.
Exactly how eyesight and mental health are connected still has so many unanswered questions as it is such a complex topic. However, what we can take from this is that people with sight impairment may struggle to adapt to new circumstances leading to them experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, on the other hand, those with anxiety and depression may not feel the confidence to reach out about their eyesight to receive the correct treatment.
If you feel you would like a better insight into the ongoing mental health problems, we do offer an online Mental Health First Aid course.
Provided by an instructor qualified under Mental Health First Aid England, allowing yourself to become a qualified Mental Health First Aider.
For further information Email: email@example.com