Blurry vision is one of those anxiety symptoms that may not make sense to you right now.
I have dealt with more than 100 different anxiety symptoms. Still, a few stand out as being especially scary, with dizziness and blurry vision being just two.
In this blog post, I’ll share more about my experience with anxiety and blurry vision, which I am sure you’ll relate to.
Then, I’ll delve into why anxiety can cause this symptom, the main reasons it may happen, and mention a few other anxiety eye symptoms you may experience. I’ll finish off with a few of the best tips you can use to manage your blurry vision symptoms.
Here is a handy table you can use to jump around the blog post quickly:
My experience with anxiety and blurry vision
During panic, which at one point in my life happened every single time I left my home, my vision would blur and, along with my other symptoms, would only intensify my fear.
It’s incredibly unsettling when your vision becomes blurry, hazy, or distorted. When it happens during a panic attack, your brain may immediately tell you that you are having a stroke or will pass out.
It wasn’t just during the panic that I dealt with blurry vision.
I suffered from GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) for years, which caused me to deal with symptoms 24/7. During panic, they would intensify to the point I thought I was genuinely about to die.
It’s terrifying enough when you experience vision issues during panic, but your brain may be logical about it and put two and two together, deciding that if it’s just happening during a panic attack, then the panic attack is the likely culprit.
However, when your vision is blurry all day, even when you feel like you are generally calm or are still anxious but not having a full-blown panic attack, your brain may start to scare you as it goes over what it could be.
I used to research my anxiety symptoms constantly. When I got a bit “better” at it, I would always include the word “anxiety” in my search so Google didn’t automatically take me to sites like WebMD that never had any great news for me.
I’d keep blinking to try and clear the blurriness, and this, along with dizziness and numbness/tingling in my face, would make me think I am having a stroke. I also worried about my vision and thought I may have some degenerative eye disease 🙄
It doesn’t help that I have very poor vision as it is… any minus-7-prescription folks here?
I have needed glasses since I was about 13 or 14, and now I wear contact lenses daily. Without them, everything is one big blur.
So when blurry vision became a regular gad symptom for me, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that anxiety was the cause. I thought I had a vision issue and even worried about losing sight.
I’d test each eye to see if one was becoming worse than the other and constantly try to read tiny writing from far away as yet another test.
I went through a period where I obsessed daily over my vision.
This is one symptom I still deal with at times, as anxiety is just one potential cause. Another for me is allergies, which cause my eyes to be dry, itchy, or watery, which can affect your vision.
How does anxiety cause blurred vision?
When we panic and activate our body’s stress response (fight or flight), the body can react frighteningly. Stress heightens our senses, and since the eyes are sensory organs, it makes sense that they can be affected too.
During fight or flight, stress hormones, namely adrenaline and cortisol, are released, and one of the effects of these hormones is that they can make your muscles tense up, including the muscles around your eyes. These muscles control the shape of your eye’s lens and help you focus on objects. But they have difficulty doing their job correctly when they’re all tense.
Anxiety may also cause pupil dilation, allowing your eyes to absorb more visual information. This can cause blurring, especially in areas of harsh fluorescent lighting, like those found at stores (Costco was the worst for me!).
Reduced oxygen reaching your eyes
Moreover, anxiety can also affect your breathing patterns. You might start taking shallow and rapid breaths, which can reduce the amount of oxygen reaching your eyes. Oxygen is crucial for maintaining optimal eye health and function. When the oxygen supply to your eyes is limited, it can impact your ability to work at your best, leading to blurry vision.
Reduced blood flow to the eyes
Additionally, anxiety can increase blood pressure and heart rate, which may affect blood flow to the eyes. Insufficient blood flow can disrupt the delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to the eyes, further contributing to vision problems.
So, in a nutshell, when you’re feeling anxious, the combination of tensed eye muscles, reduced oxygen supply, and altered blood flow can throw off your vision, making things appear blurry or unfocused. Remember, it’s a temporary effect, and as you relax and your anxiety subsides, your vision should return to normal.
To learn more about this, visit the Anxiety Centre, where they go in-depth about blurry vision symptoms.
Other contributing factors that may cause blurry vision
Did you know that most people (you may be one) are dealing with dehydration due to not drinking enough water or loading up on sugary drinks that draw water out of your cells?
Even slight dehydration can cause blurry vision, constipation, headaches, nausea, and a racing heart. Pay attention to drinking more filtered water throughout your day; herbal teas count too!
Allergies are a big contributing factor to vision issues for me.
During Spring, my eyes get watery and itchy, and this causes blurring, but sometimes they completely dry out instead.
This makes wearing contacts difficult, and when I attempt to stick them into irritated eyes, my vision feels worse than ever. If you wear contacts, consider wearing glasses when your allergies are playing up.
To manage allergies, I recommend drinking lots of herbal teas to thin out mucus and reduce inflammation. Spearmint with a dash of apple cider vinegar and some raw honey is one of my go-to drinks for allergies, sinus, or those scary flu-like anxiety symptoms.
Certain medications can cause side effects, blurry vision being a potential one, so if you are on any prescription medications, be sure to let your doctor know about any side effects you may be experiencing.
I always try to remind people to pay attention to where they are in their cycle when experiencing heightened anxiety symptoms.
I have always noticed increased symptoms and a general feeling of unease during ovulation and the lead-up to my period.
Blurry vision may be one symptom you experience, as well as a heap of others that I talk about in this podcast episode.
The foods you eat every day have more of an impact on your mental health and, therefore, the symptoms you experience daily than you may even know.
If you’re eating processed foods and taking in very little nourishment, this will increase inflammation in the body. When your body is inflamed, stress hormones rise, which then, in turn, contributes to anxiety and all its fun symptoms.
I go deep into how my diet affected me and everything I learned in my “Help! Why Am I So Anxious?!”
Lack of sleep
We all know that gritty, bleary-eyed feeling after just one night of no sleep, so if you’re struggling to get proper sleep regularly, then you bet it will affect your vision.
I know how hard it can be to get decent sleep when you live with anxiety, which is why I highly recommend these two things to help:
2: Golden milk (code TAMRYN to save)
6 More Anxiety eye symptoms you may experience
Of course, blurry vision isn’t the only anxiety symptom that may affect your eyes. Below are 6 more common symptoms you may have experienced too!
Spots in your vision
Honestly, I always freaked out whenever I saw floaters or spots in my vision. I’d always see this blue dot or squiggly lines, and it was hard to believe something wasn’t seriously wrong.
Fun fact: I STILL see this blue dot sometimes, but I have been for eye tests, and all is fine. I notice it comes up when I am tired or my eyes are strained from being on my screens for long periods.
Floaters are common, especially when looking directly at a light surface or bright light. Just a few months ago, I saw them constantly, and even though I have come so far in my journey, I did feel a bit worried; I think that’s completely normal.
Intense tightness and pain around the eyes
I’d always tense up my jaw and facial muscles, leading to a really uncomfortable tight feeling, even pain, around my eyes.
When you suffer from health anxiety, any weird sensation or pain has your brain immediately jumping to scary conclusions.
Make sure you consciously release your jaw and tight facial muscles throughout your day, and even give yourself a nice little facial massage. I love doing this at night with a facial oil (It’s prickly pear for me now) to relax before bed.
This had to be my scariest eye symptom, along with spots in my vision.
I’d get such intense twitching and worry that a vein would burst. I don’t even know what I thought. I just wanted it to STOP.
I still get eye twitching now when I am anxious, haven’t slept, or have too much sugar. It’s a common symptom, but I know it can be horrifying.
Trust me, the more focus you put on it, the more intense it will be.
If you experience body-wide muscle twitching, here’s a blog post that may provide reassurance for you.
This one was more uncomfortable than scary, but my thinking would spiral from there.
Dry eyes meant it was hard to wear my contact lenses, and then my brain would fill in the gaps of what it may be 🙄
Anxietycentre.com says the stress response “reduces tear production and blink rate, which can lead to dry eyes.”
I fainted for the first time when I was about 9 years old, after getting my ears pierced (yes, really). I experienced tunnel vision right before I passed out, so naturally, this one has always freaked me out due to my fainting fears.
Anxiety can cause tunnel vision, but that doesn’t mean you will pass out. When your brain thinks you are in danger, it narrows your line of vision to allow you to put all of your focus on the perceived threat.
My best advice is to BREATHE slowly in and out through your nose only until the panic subsides.
Anxiety can increase your sensitivity to light, and you may feel strange under fluorescent or bright sunlight.
If you suffer from DPDR (depersonalization, derealization), you may find your symptoms intensifying, and you may feel weirdly off-balance too.
Fluorescent lighting can also increase anxiety due to its flickering that has been shown to increase dizziness and migraines in many individuals.
Consider wearing a baseball cap in stores or glasses that block blue light (or both!)
How I manage blurry vision
Understanding that anxiety can contribute to this strange and scary symptom has brought me so much relief.
Sometimes all someone needs is that reassurance and an understanding of how anxiety can cause a symptom. This alone can bring relief that nothing else may be able to, and often it is all I need to stop obsessing.
Once you stop hyper-focusing on something, you may notice it naturally eases up.
Making sure I stay hydrated, have a proper morning and evening routine, eat foods that nourish my body, take breaks to focus on things I enjoy, take the right supplements, and do a daily yoga practice are some top ways I manage my anxiety on a day to day basis.
When your stress levels are under control, you are less likely to suffer from intense symptoms, including this.
Below is an Instagram post I shared recently which includes everything that helps me manage anxiety:
I hope this post has helped to bring you some comfort if you have been agonizing over this symptom, convinced that something serious is going on.
What’s next for you?
I’d love if you left me a comment to let me know how you liked this blog post, or, tell me which of these symptoms you can relate to the most!
And, to help you along your journey, I’d be honoured if you: