What is Binocular Vision Dysfunction and Can it be Linked to Anxiety?
Have you ever felt like your fine-tuning is off? The picture you see through your eyes is a little fuzzy, there's a shadow, or it looks superimposed? If you have, then you know just how anxiety-producing that can be.
I once mistook a smudge on my glasses for a blurry spot in my vision, sending me into a spiral of anxiety. Your eyes are the way you perceive the world, and blips in that perception can cause great suffering in the form of anxiety.
Your eyes continuously work with your brain to fine-tune the world that you see. Each eye has six muscles that work hard to keep your eyes functioning together. In other words, you would see double everything if your eye muscles didn't tell your brain to converge what you see into a single image. That's called binocular vision.1
It's a fascinating concept so let's look into a little further. We'll take a look at what happens when your binocular vision isn't functioning correctly, the anxiety associated with binocular vision dysfunction, and what treatments are available for it.
What is Binocular Vision Disorder?
People who suffer from binocular vision disorder or BVD have eyes that aren't working together. There is a misalignment in their vision. Their eye muscles send the brain two pictures that are in slightly different positions. The brain rejects them, forcing the eye muscles to try to correct the problem. The eye muscles correct the misalignment, but it's only temporary, and the whole cycle starts again.
Because of the alignment cycle happening over and over, your eye muscles begin to quiver, causing your brain to think that you're moving. In turn, your vestibular system in your inner ear is affected, causing lightheadedness, dizziness, and other vision symptoms. Additional symptoms of BVD include:
- Eye pain
- Neck pain
- Double vision
- Blurred vision
- Motion sickness
- Difficulty reading
- Poor depth perception
- The need to close one eye to focus
With the increase in technology that we use today, there are greater demands on our eyes. The world has become dependent on close up vision tasks such as reading, computer viewing, and desk work. With all this close-up vision work, your eyes get fatigued. Increased eye fatigue puts people at greater risk of developing vergence disorders like BVD.
Suppose you feel that you are suffering from BVD. In that case, you should consult a neuro-ophthalmologist or a neuro-visual specialist. They will be able to check the minute details of your vision to make a proper diagnosis.
Binocular Vision Disorder Anxiety
When your brain senses conflicting signals, it gives a sense that your environment is not safe. Even if you don't have a propensity for anxiety, that's not a good feeling. What makes BVD even more ominous is that many of the symptoms mimic visual disturbances and eye strain caused by general anxiety.
Some people experience BVD symptoms with distance vision causing them great anxiety when driving. As you can imagine, if your eyes are struggling to align the images of two cars into one when you are moving, your depth perception will be affected.
The fear of having an accident or losing control of a car is often a source of great panic for many people. If you happen to be claustrophobic, the thought of being trapped in your car is terrifying.
Other people experience BVD that affects their close-up vision, which can cause anxiety when looking at people close up. The inability to judge how close someone is to you can be very frightening. Your personal space is your comfort zone. Not knowing whether someone is invading that space could also create a feeling of panic.
BVD sufferers often withdraw from school, social functions, and even work due to severe anxiety and panic attacks.
Because people with anxiety often experience visual disturbances, and people with visual disorders often complain of anxiety, binocular vision dysfunction is difficult to diagnose. People who go to the doctor complaining of BVD symptoms are often diagnosed with generalized anxiety and given anxiety medication. Only to exacerbate the problem because anxiety medications are also known to cause visual disturbances too.
Research Study - Psychological Distress in Patients with Symptomatic Vitreous Floaters
In a study published in 2017, researchers surveyed two groups of people—one with floaters or flashes in their field of vision and one with no floaters or flashes. Measured in the study were patient levels of:
- Perceived stress state
- Trait anxiety
- Degree of floater associated discomfort
The study found there was a much greater incidence of anxiety and depression in the group that experienced flashes and floaters.
Further studies are needed to ascertain whether the anxiety was caused by the flashes and floaters, the perceived amount of associated discomfort, or the fact that having the floaters was a burden.
How is Binocular Vision Dysfunction Treated?
The first step toward proper treatment is getting an accurate diagnosis. Binocular vision dysfunction is difficult to diagnose. Fortunately, once diagnosed, it isn't difficult to treat. Standard treatment includes using aligning eyeglass lenses with micro prisms to relax the muscles of the eyes.
Once the eye muscles stop quivering, the brain and vestibular system are no longer getting mixed signals. The lightheadedness and dizziness should begin to subside, causing the anxiety to start to diminish as well.
A Final Word
Anxiety can be debilitating no matter what the cause. Unfortunately, due to the vast number of symptoms that accompany anxiety, it can become an umbrella diagnosis. It's essential to keep open communication with your doctor about any new symptoms that you experience.
Learning to manage your daily anxiety level helps distinguish whether new symptoms that you experience are generalized anxiety or something else.