Not Seeing Things: Mental Health with a Visual Impairment

Not Seeing Things

Vision loss impacts the way you experience and navigate the world. For many people, not only does it affect their ability to enjoy favorite hobbies, connect with loved ones and monitor their surroundings, but it can lead to a loss of confidence and independence. This often has a profound impact on their mental health. Fortunately, there are several ways individuals can learn to cope with vision loss and find a new normal that brings contentment and fulfillment.

Introduction: Addressing Mental Health Challenges Associated with Visual Impairment

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 7 million people in the United States have vision impairment, and 1 million people are blind. On top of that, an additional 93 million adults are at risk of severe vision loss, with numbers expected to climb over the coming decades as the overall population gets older and experiences an increase in age-related conditions that result in blindness.

Vision loss has far-reaching implications beyond simply being unable to see what’s in front of you. For many people, it can disrupt their routines, affecting their ability to prefer meals for themselves, complete errands and even shower and get dressed. It also limits their ability to participate in hobbies that bring them joy, such as taking a walk in nature, reading a book or watching a favorite movie or television show. Unsurprisingly, the feelings of lost independence, control and enjoyment can bring on serious mental health challenges.

Individuals experiencing vision loss can continue to enjoy a good quality of life and find fulfillment – rather than frustration – in everyday routines and challenges. Developing coping strategies, accessing support services and resources and in many cases, connecting with mental health care professionals who understand how vision loss affects mental health are instrumental in restoring confidence.

Understanding the Psychological Impact of Vision Loss

We often take our vision for granted, rarely thinking about what life would be like without this key sensory modality. Unfortunately, for the large number of people who have or are at risk of vision loss, screening, treatment tools and practical supports are limited.

For many people, mental health problems accompany vision loss, with the CDC reporting that about one in four people with this condition experience anxiety or depression. Younger people, who are less likely to have developed coping mechanisms or self-management skills, have almost five times the risk of developing severe anxiety or depression compared to seniors.

Numerous psychological issues arise from vision loss, increasing the individual’s likelihood of experiencing anxiety or depression.


The world is designed around sighted people, and without being able to make use of visual cues, it becomes difficult to navigate. For those with vision loss, accessibility issues can be a source of frustration or even danger. For example, many crosswalks don’t have auditory signals to let someone know when a street is safe to cross, and a lot of websites don’t have text-to-speech functions that would let people with vision impairment access vital information. Everyday inconveniences and annoyance quickly lead to frustration for many people, requiring them to significantly modify their routines and expectations of the services, information and places they have access to.

Loss of Confidence

Whether vision loss comes on slowly or suddenly, it can often be traumatic. Most people find fulfillment and satisfaction in being able to operate independently, without depending on help for tasks such as getting dressed, cooking a meal or cleaning their homes. It’s difficult to rely on and accept help from others, and adjusting to a world that has too few accommodations for those unable to see can impact an individual’s confidence in their ability to function.

Social Isolation

Individuals rely on their sight to navigate social situations. For example, we heavily rely on feedback from body language and facial expressions during conversations. We also count on our sight to make sure we don’t knock over a glass or drop food when enjoying a meal with friends and family.

A recent study highlights how loneliness impacts those with vision impairment, finding that those living with vision loss report social isolation and loneliness at a considerably higher rate than the general population. Individuals often attend fewer get-togethers and in-person meetings, resulting in isolation and contributing to depression.

Coping Strategies for Managing Mental Health with a Visual Impairment

While everyone reacts differently to losing their vision, it’s important not to suppress uncomfortable emotions and to take the time to properly grieve the loss. Being aware of how you’re feeling is the first step to finding coping strategies to help you manage your mental health.

Several coping strategies can help you protect or improve your mental health as you adjust to life without sight.

Talk to friends and family. Rather than isolating yourself from loved ones, it’s helpful to be upfront about how your vision loss is affecting you. You can also talk to friends and family about how they could help you, whether it’s placing regular orders for grocery deliveries, connecting you with a weekly housecleaner or helping you find a landscaping company to assist with maintaining your lawn.

Engage in hobbies and activities. While you may need to enjoy your hobbies in a different way, there are many things you can continue to participate in after vision loss. For example, with assistance, you can continue to enjoy your favorite trails at your local parks, paying attention to the sights and smells of nature. Audiobooks are widely available online and from local libraries, letting you continue to keep up with your favorite authors, and many television shows have video description services.

Maintain a daily routine. When we’re experiencing significant life changes and challenges, our routines can protect our mental health, giving us a sense of predictability and control. They can also help an individual become more confident in their ability to continue functioning independently as they realize how much they’re able to do by relying on their other senses.

Accessing Support Services and Resources for Psychological Well-Being

Thanks to increased advocacy for those experiencing vision loss, we have greater access to support services and resources than ever before. Connecting with these resources can help to normalize vision loss and support mental health.

Find a therapist. Talking to a mental health professional can help you process the emotions that accompany vision loss. A therapist can also help you recognize unhealthy patterns of isolation and develop healthy coping skills for handling frustration and loneliness.

Join a support group. In-person and virtual support groups can provide helpful insight into how others are navigating vision loss while addressing social isolation. It can also help to normalize vision loss and reduce the shame or embarrassment you may feel as your needs and abilities change.

Connect with nationwide supportive resources. Organizations such as the American Foundation for the Blind, American Printing House and CareerConnect have resources to support individuals living with vision loss, helping them find the tools they need to function effectively and independently.

Advocating For Holistic Support for Individuals with Visual Impairments to Promote Mental Wellness

Vision loss requires individuals to change nearly every part of their daily lives, from how they care for themselves and generate income to how they connect with others. These changes can affect their confidence and mental health, making it important for them to have access to holistic support that addresses not only their physiological condition but their psychological one as well.

Whether or not an individual is experiencing vision loss, they can become advocates in their communities by educating themselves on the causes of vision loss and the obstacles people with vision loss most often face. They can also get involved with local resources that provide support for those living with vision loss.

Like any big life change, vision loss is easier to navigate with the help of a professional who understands the impact a disability has on mental health. To learn more about the programs at Restore Mental Health, contact us today.