Depression is more common in people with vision problems, including visual impairment and dry eye disease.

Many people know that mental health problems can affect your physical health — but it may be surprising to learn that conditions like depression are sometimes linked with vision problems.

Living with irreversible visual impairments can impact your overall well-being, and it’s relatively common for those with vision loss to deal with depression, anxiety, or stress.

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. It often responds well to treatment, which can involve therapy, medication, or both.

According to a 2022 review on vision impairment in older adults, depression affects about one-third of those with vision impairment. This is around twice as high as people without visual impairment. This review looked at observational studies and doesn’t show whether one causes the other.

According to 2022 research, a condition called dry eye disease (DED) can lead to anxiety and depression, or make your symptoms worse. DED is when your eye can’t produce enough lubrication to have tears, which means your eye is less protected. It can cause eye pain, inflammation, and visual impairments.

The researchers found that anxiety and depression may arise from various factors related to DED, such as:

  • difficulties with getting a diagnosis or medical advice
  • a lack of attention from medical professionals
  • being unsatisfied with treatments
  • co-occurring conditions
  • low life satisfaction
  • changes in lifestyle or work patterns
  • reduced social interactions

Depression isn’t the only mental health condition that can arise from vision impairments. Research from 2015 indicates that anxiety is also linked with vision problems — including agoraphobia and social phobia.

Stress is also linked with vision problems. For example, a 2017 study of 70 people with significant stress found that 47.1% had deficits in visual contrast sensitivity, and another 42.85% showed decreased visual acuity. Approximately 35.7% had sensitivity to glare.

Anxiety, stress, and depression may be more common in these populations because of the challenges that come with impaired vision.

The best approach may be to receive treatment for both your depression and your vision problems. A 2020 literature review suggests five strategies:

1. Self-management interventions

Self-management involves monitoring the progression of your vision impairment and noting any consequences of the vision impairment you’re experiencing.

Research from 2002 indicates that people with age-related macular degeneration may experience lower levels of psychological distress and increased self-efficacy when using self-management strategies.

2. Problem-solving treatment

Problem-solving treatment (PST) is another way of managing depression-related vision impairment. PST involves:

  • defining problems
  • setting attainable goals
  • prioritizing and implementing solutions
  • evaluating outcomes

Research from 2000 reported that PST was as effective in treating major depression as antidepressants alone in general primary care settings.

3. Vision rehabilitation

Vision rehabilitation shows promise for those dealing with mental health-related vision problems. This involves:

  • vision services: using adaptive vision devices with instructions on their use
  • rehabilitation training: learning or relearning activities of daily living
  • orientation and mobility training: learning how to move around safely with vision impairments
  • counseling and support groups: helping you develop coping skills for managing a vision impairment and improving quality of life

4. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is common in mental health treatment, and research suggests it is often the gold standard treatment in psychotherapy. CBT helps you modify unhelpful patterns of thinking into more adaptive ways of thinking.

A case study that looked at the effects of CBT interventions on an older adult with retinal detachment and major depressive disorder found that eight sessions of CBT reduced her depressive symptoms.

Mental health challenges can occur alongside vision problems.

There are various treatment options available for both your mental health and vision impairments. Speaking with your eye doctor and a mental health professional can help you manage both conditions effectively.

Consider using Healthline’s FindCare tool to find both an eye doctor and therapist near you today. You can also check out Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource.