It may be your eyes:
Explaining the Link Between Agoraphobia & Visual Vertigo


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Explaining the Link Between Agoraphobia & Visual Vertigo

For some people, being in very large buildings with high ceilings can bring on a lot of anxiety. If you think about it, a large, open building such as a mall or grocery store has a lot of visual stimuli: glaring lights, shoppers hurrying to and fro, colorful product displays lined up on long shelves. For others, busy wallpaper or carpet patterns can trigger anxiety. This feeling of being anxious and overwhelmed in such environments is the result of something known as visual vertigo, which is a side effect of Vertical Heterophoria, or VH.

How VH Can Lead to Anxiety

VH is the result of a visual misalignment of the eyes. Symptoms of the condition can be triggered in areas where there are large amounts of visual stimuli – such as those previously discussed. When combined with movement, this increase in stimuli can further result in dizziness and nausea. The very nature of dizziness is unpredictable, and not knowing when it’s going to hit next can cause an increase in anxiety to the point that the person becomes afraid (or even panicked) to leave their house. The formal name for this anxiety condition is agoraphobia.

Finding the Link Between Visual Vertigo & Agoraphobia

Another place where VH patients often experience the symptoms of visual vertigo is in the car as they’re driving down the freeway. This is because of the constant movement and visual stimulation of vehicles whizzing by on either side of the car, which can cause the sensation of dizziness and anxiety to worsen. This creates a very dangerous situation, not only for the person driving the car, but also for the people in the surrounding cars.

This sensation can also be felt by VH patients when doing something as simple as crossing a busy street. It is these ongoing feelings of dizziness and anxiety that can cause a person to feel like they’ve lost all sense of control, at which point they can develop agoraphobia, becoming too anxious and scared to even step foot outside their door.

The Effects of Vertical Heterophoria

In people whose eyes are properly aligned, the images that the eyes take in are combined into one clear, focused image. If a binocular vision disorder such as Vertical Heterophoria is present, however, the eyes are no longer in alignment, which means the brain must compensate to see a clear, focused image by forcing the eyes back into the correct position. As a consequence, the muscles of the eyes become sore and overworked, resulting in eye strain and dizziness, headache, pain in the neck and shoulders, anxiety and poor balance and coordination.

Make an Appointment Today

At Vision Specialists of Michigan, we have the specialized equipment necessary to perform a thorough NeuroVisual Examination. This exam enables us to diagnose VH and other binocular vision disorders, after which we can prescribe aligning micro-prism lenses to treat these conditions. To determine if you may have VH, don’t hesitate to fill out our BVD questionnaire. You can also give us a call at (248) 258-9000 to find out more about our unique treatment methods.

Author:   Vision Specialists of Michigan

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