World Mental Health Day: Mental Health Wellness Crucial for a Holistic Eye Care

Authored by Mr. Gokul-Psychologist and Research Associate Sankara Eye Hospital, Bangalore

Medical research has demonstrated close links between eye health and mental health. World Mental Health Day (October 10) is an apt occasion to examine this relationship. People with vision related problems often develop mental health problems like anxiety, depression etc. owing to the stress of living with their condition. It is important to note that if you experience any vision related symptoms, it is necessary to take care of your mental health as well. Seeking help from your family doctor or a psychology expert can help you manage the impact of your condition and protect your mental well-being.

Your Eyes and Mental Health-What is the link

Diminution of vision from the natural visual ability can be devastating to your mental health, since it impacts a vital sense that plays a crucial part in your ability to form memories and interact with the world. You may have to rely on visual aids like spectacles to undertake everyday tasks like cooking, shopping, and getting around your home. Studies have shown that a quarter of adult patients with vision problems report experiencing anxiety or depression as they find it difficult to get accustomed to their new normal life. Younger people with vision loss were multiple times more likely to develop a mental health condition than people above 65 years or older.

How mental health disorders impact Eye Health

It is known that people with bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia are more likely to develop glaucoma later in life and patients with major depressive disorder have a greater risk for glaucoma and dry-eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration. Stress is a major factor in the development and progression of many eye conditions. Among adults, stress could be due to family pressure, marital discord, or work pressure. These conditions if persistent over a long time could impact eye health through stress. If a person is unable to ensure an outflow of this stress, then it is likely that the person will develop depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder, all of which create different eye conditions.

Do not neglect Children’s’ Mental Health

Children with eye-health issues are much more likely to suffer mental health problems (especially anxiety and depression) than children who do not have these difficulties. Some of the primary factors that cause mental health problems in these children include social difficulties and loneliness, reduced mobility and reduced ability to take part in age-appropriate leisure activities with peers, social exclusion, bullying and increased dependency on others, especially adult caregivers. Taking steps to normalize your child’s the condition, increase their independence and social opportunities can protect or improve their mental health. When possible, set up home and school environments with accommodations that make them easier to navigate with vision impairment.

Surprisingly, these days, stress is seen among kids as well, thanks to the digital world. Overexposure to screens is a significant concern for eye health. However, sudden changes to prevent children of these screen time can impact the parent- child relationship and child’s mental health, thus calling for comprehensive behavioral interventions with help of professionals to help reduce screen time among children with less pressure and stress on them.

Tips for Healthy Eyes and a Healthy Mind

Identifying Stress And Developing Coping Strategies

It is important to identify and recognize the stress condition. It is also necessary to formulate coping strategies that will help deal with stress. Resorting to unhealthy coping habits such as smoking or drinking provides momentary relief, however engaging regularly in healthy practices such as hobbies cooking or photography would alleviate the impact of stress in the long term.

Daily Exercise

Develop an exercise routine daily and adhere to the schedule as this will alleviate stress in the long run. Physical activity produces mood-boosting brain chemicals and reduces your risk of developing conditions that can cause vision problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Diet Regulation

Eat well: A balanced diet will provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your eyes healthy.

Seek Doctor’s Help & Counselling

Comprehensive eye exams can identify most vision problems, even in their early stages. If your doctor spots a problem, you can begin treatment immediately to slow the progression of the disease. Psychologist through counselling and other interventions will help you make the necessary lifestyle changes for your eye health and also overcome the psychological/emotional impact due to eye health issues.