What is blindness related OCD?
Blindness themed OCD is under the subtype category of Health OCD. Someone who is struggling with OCD, fear of blindness has constant fears an illness will lead to them becoming blind or visually impaired. Those who struggle with this subtype are hyper focused on any illness they may contract or possibly could contract and how it is directly connected to loss of vision. Examples of minor illness that one can obsess over could be: the common cold, headaches, & allergies. Some of the more in depth illnesses someone can find themselves obsessed over the effects are: Covid, Eye infection, Dry Eye, & any skin related illness. For those of us who struggle with OCD, whether it is health OCD or any other subtype, our brains find the smallest things to latch onto and make them larger than they need to be.
Blindness OCD case example
I have a personal story relating to Blindness themed OCD myself. I have been diagnosed with being visually impaired since I was about two years old. Growing up with a visual impairment was a bit challenging dealing with other kids who did not understand what it meant to be visually impaired. I used to hear the comment “So what, you’re blind?,” all the time from other kids in school or other peers. As I got older it became easier to handle the constant bullying and name calling. I learned to brush it off my shoulders and be the bigger person in the situation. Then, in May, 2021, I started noticing changes in my vision such as flashes of light in my eye and blurry vision. Immediately I thought the worst, “I am going blind and going to lose my vision permanently.” At this time, I consistently spiraled into obsessive thoughts every time a flash occurred. From May, 2021 to March, 2022, I saw multiple doctors and sought reassurance from them asking if I was going to lose my vision permanently. At this time not one of my doctors could give me an answer, which in reality for someone who has OCD is just what they need: “UNCERTAINTY.” After multiple appointments for extensive testing, many nights laying in bed with racing thoughts about obsessing over going blind, I was able to push myself into a head space of thinking “Maybe I will lose vision, Maybe I will not, but I am not going to worry about this now.” This really helped me get out of the obsessive thought cycle and learn to enjoy life without the certainty of if I am going to lose vision or not. The times when my flashes became worse or my vision became blurry, I always thought the worst, but I can happily say today, the flashes have decreased and I am not letting my obsession bog me down daily. I am not able to recognize when I am obsessed over vision loss or when I have valid concerns regarding my vision. I have realized the valid concerns are very much far and in between.
Blindness OCD – Common obsessions
- Fears of getting sick or contracting an illness
- Fears of an illness having a symptom of vision loss
- Fears around having blurry vision
- Being hyper focused on any vision changes
- Consistently consulting a doctor regarding fears of blindness and seeking reassurance
- Checking for changes in vision
People with Blindness themed OCD may be triggered by situations that involve attending any type of doctor’s appointment when they have to discuss any medical conditions. Someone who also struggles with Blindness themed OCD may be triggered by the idea of going to the eye doctor for their yearly checkup or any minor issue one may experience with their eyes such as retina issues or flashes of light in their eyes.
Common triggers for people with blindness OCD include:
- Doctors appointments
- Vision loss
- Medical complications
- Having discussion about vision loss
How can I tell if it’s blindness OCD, and not anxiety?
|You can tell the difference between generalized anxiety and Blindness themed OCD when there are constant obsessions present for yourself. Someone with Blindness themed OCD struggles with constant obsession over losing vision or what would happen if they lost their sight. Those that struggle with Blindness themed OCD are unable to think of any other medical condition they may have when they experience illness, just vision loss.
When people with Blindness themed OCD experience intrusive thoughts, images, feelings, or urges that cause distress, they may include: Reassurance seeking from doctors, friends, or family in regards to questions about vision loss. Some who struggle with this subtype may also engage in extensive research on symptoms of blindness or signs one may lose vision. The research on line can consume you for a short period of time, or hours on end. When it comes to researching, no answer is ever good enough and one wants to keep the researching process going until they find the “just right” answer.
Another compulsion one may engage in is researching certain foods that increase vision in order to prevent vision loss. Another common compulsion for Blindness themed OCD is rumination. Ruminating about the “what if” in terms of if you went blind or had vision loss. Rumination can consume you for hours if not days on end in terms of being in your head and thinking of different situations where vision loss could have been prevented. A not so common compulsion, but one I have seen, is the idea of constantly wearing sunglasses or protective eye wear to protect one’s vision even when it is not necessary. In regards to wearing sunglasses, the idea of researching the best type of sunglasses for eye protection goes right along with this compulsion.
Compulsions performed mentally or physically by people with fear of going blind include:
- Checking with doctors
- Wearing protective wear
- Eating a diet that will decrease risk of blindness
- Reassurance seeking
How to treat fear of going blind
Blindness themed OCD can be debilitating for people who struggle with it, but it is highly treatable by doing exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy with guidance from a trained ERP Therapist. Meeting with an ERP therapist, you will learn the different tools to help you address the compulsions and obsession head on and get a hold on the obsession. Some exposures that are common in treating Blindness OCD may include: resisting / delaying the urge to engage in reassurance seeking by calling your doctor.
A specific example of an exposure for treating Blindness themed OCD would be: Delay the urge to call your doctor by 2 minutes, to seek reassurance in regards to any questions related to vision loss.
The idea of waiting two minutes allows you to sit with the uncertainty, which is something OCD dislikes, and allows you to acknowledge your having an OCD thought. Waiting two minutes or longer will allow you to sit with your anxiety and determine the urgency to contact the doctor for medical advice or if your OCD is getting the best of you. Talking about the sense of urgency, and looking at the thoughts you have needing an immediate answer are directly related to OCD while the non urgent thoughts may be more along the lines of rational thoughts.
Another way to address Blindness themed OCD using ERP is to work to differentiate a thought or feeling from a behavior. Thinking or feeling something does not make it true and also does not cause something to happen.
If you’re struggling with OCD, I encourage you to learn about NOCD’s accessible, evidence-based approach to treatment with the NOCD care team to learn how a licensed therapist can help. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP.
We look forward to working with you.