A spool of thread and a threaded needle are laid out to look like a crying eye

Depression and Anxiety With Macular Degeneration

Last updated: June 2023

My initial diagnosis of early-stage dry macular degeneration did not cause great concern. I was not even very surprised since my mom and sister had wet macular degeneration. In spite of having advanced macular degeneration, both of them had done well with treatment.

For those that don’t have a family history of macular degeneration, surprise and shock are often the first reactions. Feelings of devastation may follow.

Coping with the loss of vision

It surprised me when my dry macular degeneration advanced quickly to the intermediate stage. Having both dry macular degeneration and chronic dry eye has caused a significant blurring of my vision.

As my vision has worsened, I have had to curtail some of my favorite hobbies such as crochet and sewing. Reading remains my favorite hobby of all. No longer able to read regular books, I depend on my iPad to download books from my local library.

Continuing to drive is challenging. While legal to drive in the daytime, I am increasingly anxious driving in unfamiliar areas. I live in a remote rural area so I worry about the future when I can no longer drive.

Depression and anxiety with vision loss

As I face declining vision and other health issues, I often feel depressed or anxious. My family care provider is caring and helpful in providing treatment to help me cope. I take a prescription medication that takes care of both depression and anxiety very well.

Not surprisingly, I am not alone in my struggle. Both anxiety and depression are high in patients with advanced macular degeneration. Depressive disorders have been found in 1/3 of those people with visual impairment. Rates of anxiety disorders are estimated as high as 30% for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 1 2

Overcoming the stigma

It is unfortunate that the stigma of having depression or anxiety sometimes prevents us from seeking help or speaking out. As an advocate for macular degeneration, I often read comments from members of our community that is struggling with the same problems I have. The following two quotes are comments made by community members.

“Kind of embarrassed to admit, but I have to take anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds to help cope with advanced AMD.”

“I’m on the verge of asking my doctor for anti-anxiety medicine. I get so anxious especially at church my balance because of my vision makes me feel other things are going on even though I know it’s my eyes.”

Raising awareness

My decision to write about my struggle with depression and anxiety is an effort to raise awareness. Facing vision loss is difficult and there should be no shame in seeking professional help.

Just as I have learned to advocate for my health in other areas, I feel the need to advocate for myself and others in the area of mental health.

There are several ways anyone can advocate and fight the stigma of mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Speaking out is my way to overcome stigma and raise awareness. I hope sharing my story with the macular degeneration community will help others know that they are not alone.

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