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A wet macular degeneration diagnosis can have a significant impact on mental health. Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to contribute to his or her community.1 After a wet macular degeneration diagnosis, experiencing a range of emotions that impact your mental health including fear and anger is common. In fact, more than one-third of wet macular degeneration patients report experiencing depression, and depression among those with visual impairment is underdiagnosed and undertreated.2,3  

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It’s important to reach out for help if you need it.

Senior man sitting on couch facing talking to female therapist taking notes
Stock photo. Posed by model.


Talk to others

Begin by speaking with your friends and family or a support group if you experience negative emotions or anxiety. Simply talking to your loved ones, and people who have experience with wet macular degeneration, may help alleviate these feelings.4 You can even discuss your mental health with your ophthalmologist, who can provide information and may be able to connect you with support groups or mental health counselors.3

Connect with a mental health professional

If the thoughts persist, be sure to reach out to a licensed psychologist or mental health counselor for counseling. Counseling is a talk therapy where you can share your feelings and concerns with a licensed therapist. For example, some people with vision loss experience a decreased interest in hobbies, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping or irritability5. Therapy has been shown to help with mild to moderate depression and can help you build skills and habits to cope in the future.6 To find a mental health professional, start by asking your doctor for a recommendation or check with your national health service. Options can vary based on where you live, but free therapy is usually available as well as private counseling that varies in cost. Of course, in emergency situations, seek immediate help and contact a support hotline.

Make mental health a priority

Just like you would talk to your doctor about changes in your vision, make sure to monitor and discuss any changes in your mood. Reach out to your loved ones and healthcare team for support. Depression can sometimes worsen wet macular degeneration symptoms3, making it even more critical to take care of your mental health. Although there may still be a stigma around mental health and treatment, it is not a sign of weakness – it’s part of taking care of yourself as you adapt to changing vision.



 

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References:

  1. Mental health: Strengthening Our Response. WHO website. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response. Accessed September 2020.
  2. Varano, Monica et al. The emotional and physical impact of wet age-related macular degeneration: findings from the wAMD Patient and Caregiver Survey. Clinical Ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 10 257-67. 3 Feb. 2016, doi:10.2147/OPTH.S92616
  3. Cimarolli VR, Casten RJ, Rovner BW, Heyl V, Sörensen S, Horowitz A. Anxiety and depression in patients with advanced macular degeneration: current perspectives. Clin Ophthalmol. 2015;10:55-63. 30 Dec 2015. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S80489
  4. Prevention of Blindness and Visual Impairment. WHO website. Available at: https://www.who.int/blindness/causes/priority/en/index7.html. Accessed August 2020.
  5. Wyse A. Depression in age-related macular degeneration. American Macular Degeneration Foundation.
  6. American Psychological Association. Overcoming depression: How psychologists help with depressive disorders. 1 October 2016. Available at: https://www.apa.org/topics/overcoming-depression. Accessed August 2020.
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