We all know that maintaining eye health is important, Indeed, potential vision loss is often one of the most feared aspects of ageing. It’s not difficult to understand why. The impacts of vision loss on daily functioning are obvious. What may not be so obvious, however, is how close the relationship is between your eyes and your mental health.
The Link Between Your Eyes and Your Brain
Physicians and researchers alike increasingly recognise the eye as an extension of the human brain. After all, the optic nerve that rests behind the eyeball forms a direct route into the deepest, oldest, and often the most instinctive and “emotional” parts of the brain.
The interconnectedness of the eyes and the brain lends credence to new and increasing evidence that the eyes can signal the presence not only of physical illness but the presence of mental illness as well.
For example, research suggests that optometrists may be able to detect signs of undiagnosed schizophrenia, presumably due to electrical anomalies characteristic of the illness that can be detected in the eyes’ pupillary reactivity.
The Effect of Vision Challenges on Mental Health
The eyes aren’t just capable of signalling the presence of mental illness, they may also increase the risk of it.
Specifically, studies have shown that people who experience low vision or vision loss are significantly more likely to experience mental illness, including clinical depression and anxiety, than the general population. This may be attributed to the impacts on daily functioning and the relative lack of social engagement that may accompany new vision loss.
Caring for the Eyes/Caring for the Mind
As we’ve seen, the connection between the eyes and the mind appears to be stronger and more direct than scientists and healthcare providers had previously imagined. For this reason, when you nurture your eye health, you’re also nurturing your mental health.
For example, one of the best ways to promote eye health is to eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients that have been shown to protect and nourish your eyes. The benefits of such a diet don’t end with your eyes, or even with your physical health in general.
Rather, when you eat a healthful diet, you are subconsciously signalling the value you place on your well-being. You are demonstrating that you are worthy of self-care, and that can be a powerful boost to your self-esteem and overall outlook.
When you take proactive measures to protect your eyes from too much time on your digital device, you’re also cultivating a lifestyle in which you maintain healthy personal boundaries and ensure a beneficial work/life balance. These are measures that are critical to mental health, particularly for those who are now working from home and may be at an elevated risk of burnout.
The eyes aren’t just the windows to the soul. They may well be the doorways to the mind. Indeed, the eyes are, in essence, an extension of the brain and central nervous system. It’s little wonder, then, that the eyes can be a powerful indicator of physical and mental illness.
It’s unsurprising that eye health and mental health are more closely linked than we might once have imagined. That means that when you take steps to nurture and nourish your eyes, you’re nurturing and nourishing your mental well-being as well.
About the Author
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specialising in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content.
When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her onTwitter.