The development of posttraumatic stress disorder in individuals with visual impairment: a systematic search and review

Alida J. van der Ham*, Hilde P.A. van der Aa, Audun Brunes, Trond Heir, Ralph de Vries, Ger H.M.B. van Rens, Ruth M.A. van Nispen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem with a negative impact on quality of life. Little is known about the relationship between PTSD and visual impairment. According to diagnostic criteria for PTSD, vision loss in itself is generally not considered as a traumatic event. PTSD in people with visual impairment is more likely to be the result of traumatic events, which are not directly related, or are only indirectly related to, visual impairment. The purpose of this systematic review was to describe and discuss the literature on the development of PTSD in people with visual impairment. Methods: A literature search in PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO and Web of Science was performed up to 15 November 2019 in collaboration with a medical information specialist. Additional search strategies included hand searches of references of retrieved papers and free-text hand searches in Google Scholar. Thematic content analysis of the extracted data was carried out in order to identify main themes and subthemes. Results: Findings from 13 articles are presented in a narrative manner along three main themes: (1) posttraumatic stress disorder; (2) traumatic events and (3) impact of traumatic events. People with visual impairments may be at higher risk of being exposed to certain potentially traumatic events. Limited/restricted access to situational information during events may contribute to the stressfulness of the experience. Furthermore, visual impairment may shape the impact of traumatic events. Conclusions: The current evidence suggests some unique experiences and challenges for people who are visually impaired. PTSD was prevalent in this population, and prevalence rates ranged from 4% to 50%. Future research may focus on gaining insight into the extent and burden of PTSD, and exploring help-seeking behaviour and treatment needs among those with visual impairment and PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-341
Number of pages11
JournalOphthalmic & physiological optics : the journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists)
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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