Living with Wet AMD: Mental Health Spotlight

Living with Wet AMD: Mental Health Spotlight
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With a wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) diagnosis, your first priority may be learning how to stop further progression that can worsen vision loss. Your doctor will likely want to start anti-VEGF injections to help minimize macular damage.

While wet AMD may physically impact your day-to-day life, some of the mental effects may arguably be just as concerning.

“The fear of a decline from macular degeneration can lead to daily worry or dread about everyday issues, which can transform and generalize into anxiety,” explains Dr Lindsay Israela board certified psychiatrist and chief medical officer at SuccessTMS.

However, taking action can help to alleviate the effects and empower you to feel more in control of your diagnosis.

Read on to learn more about the links between wet AMD and your mental health, as well as expert advice on important treatments that can help.

The World Health Organization estimates that 15 percent of adults over the age of 60 are experiencing a mental health disorder. Conditions that are directly related to aging, such as vision and hearing loss, are thought to contribute.

AMD is an eye condition that leads to blind spots in your central vision. Unlike the more common “dry” forms of the disorder, AMD wet often has a more severe vision loss and can be sudden. Such dramatic changes in your vision—sometimes occurring in a single day—can understandably take an emotional toll.

When treated right away, your ophthalmologist may be able to stop further macular damage and subsequent vision loss. However, any longstanding changes to your vision, such as blurriness or blind spots in your central vision, may be permanent.

Just as wet AMD is treatable, the condition is also manageable thanks to vision rehabilitation services and assistive devices that can help you see better.

But such tools don’t necessarily address the anxiety and depression some people with wet AMD go on to experience.

People with AMD “may feel a loss of independence, increased social isolation, less interpersonal engagement, and a sense of helplessness regarding their lack of control over the disease,” explains Holly SchiffPsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist for Jewish Family Services of Greenwich in Connecticut.

“There is also a lack of predictability when it comes to treatments for macular degeneration, which can increase one’s anxiety.”

The sudden changes from wet AMD, as well as changes in everyday activities such as work, reading, and driving, can all lead to mental strain. You might also experience anxiety over what the future may hold in store in terms of further wet AMD progression.

Seeking help for your mental health can help preserve further impacts on your physical health. At the same time, treating your wet AMD may improve your overall mental well-being.

In addition to your wet AMD treatments, consider the following ways you can support your mental health.

professional therapy

HAS psychotherapist or counselor can be a helpful resource when you’re trying to work through newfound emotional and mental challenges associated with wet AMD.

“Psychotherapy can provide individuals with a new perspective on their situation, which enables them to regain control, reduce physiological and psychological symptoms, and adopt effective strategies that will help them deal with stressful situations with more ease and confidence,” Schiff says. “You can also learn and adopt stress management techniques.”

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In particular, Schiff recommends cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a technique that “aims to identify and correct unhealthy and unrealistic thought patterns.” A licensed therapist who practices CBT can help modify “behaviors, thoughts and feelings and change them to be more realistic, helpful ones.”

To find a qualified mental health professional in your area, consider asking your primary doctor for a referral, or calling your local health department. You can also try the Healthline FindCare tool. It may also be helpful to ask for a therapist who specializes in wet AMD and older adults.

Medical treatments

In some cases, your primary doctor may recommend other treatments for depression and anxiety. According to Israel, some of the options include “antidepressants, anxiolytics, or non-medication interventions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation.”

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are common first-line treatments for older adults. When it comes to mental health medications, it’s important to know that you may need to try multiple types until you have found the right one for you.

Also, talk with your doctor about potential interactions with other medications you may be taking, such as blood thinners.

Social support

Staying socially active is another important step toward preserving your mental health that can also complement any therapies or medications you receive.

Social isolation is a known risk factor for mental disorders, particularly in older adults with chronic health conditions. Prolonged loneliness and isolation could increase the risk for worsening mental health, heart disease, and decreased immune function.

While staying in touch with family and friends is a first good step toward maintaining your social connections, you may also find it helpful to connect with others going through similar experiences.

“You can pick up some practical tips while reducing that sense of isolation and hearing others’ stories,” says Schiff.

Resources are available, like this list of local and online support groups from Macular Degeneration Support.

You may also consider joining a local support group for older adults focusing on anxiety or depression, rather than wet AMD only. Consider these groups from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Additionally, it’s important to find joy by either maintaining your old hobbies are creating new ones. You may find free programs in local libraries, religious institutions, and community service agencies.

Wet AMD affects your central vision, thus impacting daily activities that require you to see things straight ahead of you. It’s important to seek prompt treatment for this chronic eye disorder right away, but it’s also just as imperative that you check in with your mental health.

“One way to help mitigate the onset of depression or anxiety is to shift focus and realize that having different goals does not necessarily mean all is bad or lost,” says Israel. “Humans are resilient and can adapt to all kinds of situations, including vision loss.”

If you or a loved one has wet AMD and is experiencing anxiety or depression, seek advice from a mental health professional. You can also seek resources from your primary doctor, local health department, or secure online apps.

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