Could Vision Misalignment Be Causing Your Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health issues in North America, affecting tens of millions of people each year. Did you know that certain visual problems can cause or contribute to anxiety? Especially after a traumatic head injury, a condition called binocular vision dysfunction may cause anxiety and panic attacks.
What Is Binocular Vision Dysfunction?
Binocular vision refers to the ability to see one clear and unified image, despite having two eyes. When you look at any object, each eye sends its own visual information to the brain, and the brain then unifies these images seamlessly to create the one clear image of the world around us.
With binocular vision dysfunction (BVD), the eyes are misaligned, so the brain struggles to create a single image with the visual information sent from the two eyes. To compensate for the misalignment, the eye muscles struggle in an attempt to realign the eyes. This often leads to significant strain on the eye muscles and causes a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Eye strain
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Double vision
- Light sensitivity
- Poor depth perception
- Difficulty reading
- Reduced attention span
Those with BVD may also find it difficult and stressful to navigate through large crowds or visually stimulating environments like busy streets and stores.
How BVD Can Lead To Anxiety
In severe cases of BVD, symptoms like dizziness may be so intense that a panic attack can be triggered just by walking outside. This is especially true for those who don’t know they have BVD — the unexplained dizziness and disorientation only exacerbate their anxiety.
People with BVD may have agoraphobia or dislike leaving their homes, even for simple errands. The overstimulating, visually-busy environment around them may cause sensory overload and lead to apprehension or panic. A simple trip to the grocery store can be a daunting task for a person with BVD-driven anxiety.
BVD can also lead to difficulties maintaining attention for long periods of time, especially when reading, using a computer or digital devices. This can affect work and school performance, leading to heightened anxiety.
Although anti-anxiety medications successfully treat some kinds of anxiety, they are likely to be ineffective if the problem is based in the visual system, like BVD. In fact, some anti-anxiety medications have ocular side effects and could actually worsen the functioning of the visual system, only adding to the problem instead of solving it.
We Can Treat Your BVD
At The Vision Therapy Centre at Dr. Hopkins & Associates Optometry, we diagnose and treat a wide range of visual problems. The first step is to schedule a functional visual evaluation, where we will assess a host of visual skills like eye teaming, tracking, and focusing.
If you have BVD, we may prescribe a customized pair of prism eyeglasses. Using realigning prismatic spectacle lenses may reduce or eliminate the visual system’s strain and fatigue.
The average person with BVD experiences a 30-50% decrease in symptoms almost immediately upon wearing the prism eyeglasses, but over time may experience up to 70-80% relief.
In some cases, we will prescribe a customized program of neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy to treat the problem at the source — the communication between the eyes and the brain. This specialized form of vision therapy trains the eyes and brain to work in unison, so the visual system functions seamlessly without strain or fatigue.
To learn more or schedule your functional visual evaluation, contact The Vision Therapy Centre at Dr. Hopkins & Associates Optometry today.
The Vision Therapy Centre at Dr. Hopkins & Associates Optometry serves patients from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Welland , St. Catharines, and throughout Ontario.