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Posted on 07-04-2016

Tunnel Vision: Responses to Visual Stress

Originally published 2/27/2014:

Healthy eyes.  20/20 acuity.

 Child-Looking-Through-Tube

Yet some folks (any age!) struggle to:

  • orient themselves
  • find what is right in front of them
  • relate the details to the context
  • relate the figure to the ground
  • see the forest for the trees 

Why is it that an eye which CAN see in the periphery (if tested with lights on a dim background) DOESN'T see with a large visual area in the real world? This is a functional form of Tunnel Vision! Tunnel vision is a common response to visual stress. Tunneling is a way in which a person who is overwhelmed, visually or otherwise, may filter out "unnecessary" information.  This helps a person to reduce how much is "on their plate," both figuratively and literally.  Tunneling helps a person limit their visual world to a manageable parcel.   The effects of a tunnel vision response do not limit themselves to challenges of objects "hidden in plain sight." Among the ripple effects of tunnel vision:

  • Feeling ungrounded/ unsettled
  • Needing to touch things (chairs, tables, walls) for the security of knowing where one is.
  • Tendency to fidget excessively/ be in constant motion, to know where the body is in space
  • Getting lost -- in the real world and when reading
  • Losing place-- skipping lines or words when reading
  • Difficulty putting big concepts together in reading comprehension (when reading to self)
  • Using a finger to try to keep on track when reading
  • Losing items/objects, misplacing things
  • Difficulty with team sports/ ball sports
  • Tendency to get excessively close to reading material
  • Sitting excessively close to television or handheld video game screen
  • Tendency to hunch over reading material
  • Tendency to curl hands inwards when writing (so that hand covers up the last line of print)
  • Tendency for motion sickness/ car sickness

This link is to one such child who was struggling with tunnel vision before getting help. Read Grace's story here:  

Vision therapy helps treat, correct neurological issues

vision therapy        

Sound familiar?  These and other signs of struggle may indicate a vision problem.  Read more here.

For an outstanding article on the topic, published in the January 2014 edition of Optometry and Visual Performance, please read: Tunneling-- A Pervasive Vision Disorder, by Jeffrey Getzell


7 comments on “Tunnel Vision: Responses to Visual Stress
  1. Jamshed Zahed says:

    Very nice

  2. Deb Murray says:

    Samantha,
    Great newsletter; layout, presentation and links. I am already looking forward to next month’s informative issue and seeing how your dynamic practice is growing!
    Best of luck and congratulations,
    Deb Murray, COVT

  3. lindasanetlindasanet says:

    great article!

  4. Eye Health says:

    Great post! Been reading a lot about different cases of eye stress. Thanks for sharing this!

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