Photophobia Explained

Anyone who has suffered a strong headache, or perhaps a migraine, will be familiar with the unpleasant sensations that bright light can create. For some people, photophobia is a constant and debilitating consequence of their addiction.

What Is Photophobia?

Photophobia is a strong reaction of intolerance to light reaching the eyes. Despite its name, photophobia is not a morbid fear (“phobia”) but the experience of pronounced discomfort or pain in the eyes and/or head. This feeling can result in a behaviour similar to that caused by an actual phobia.

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What Causes Photophobia?

Photophobia can be caused by a number of physical factors, including damage to the eye, problems relating to the optic nerve and central nervous system, ocular albinism, and many others. It can also be caused by the consumption of certain substances of abuse, their after-effects (such as hangover, in the case of alcohol) and withdrawal.

Photophobia as an Addiction Symptom

The relationship between substance abuse and photophobia remains a field of ongoing research. The condition is known to sometimes develop as a symptom of protracted substance abuse, which had caused physical damage to the eyes and nervous system. This damage is sometimes going away after a period of abstinence, but can also become permanent.

Photophobia can occur as a comparatively short-lived effect of individual instances of substance abuse (rather than repeated engagement in it), as a result of a substance’s effect upon the nervous system. It can also be the result of a psychological phenomenon, especially during intoxication by hallucinogens such as LSD or “magic mushrooms”.

While such instances of photophobia may affect anyone using substances of abuse, not just addicts, it may also strike during and as a result of withdrawal from some addictive substances, in particular those which create a physical dependency on the part of the user. Some people going through withdrawal may feel a strong aversion to bright light, as it can create powerful and debilitating headaches as part of the withdrawal syndrome.

What Are the Symptoms of Photophobia?

Photophobia creates a strong negative reaction, and aversion, to light – especially bright light – in the affected individual. The person in question may feel the need to wear sunglasses even on a dull day or inside, may try to turn off all interior lights, may flinch if a light is shone towards them, and may develop severe headaches and/or nausea if they are unable to find a dark place or to close their eyes for a prolonged period.

How Is Photophobia Diagnosed?

Photophobia is usually very easy to diagnose, since the affected person will try to avoid bright light and will react negatively to a light shone in their eyes. However, photophobia is usually a symptom rather than a condition in its own right.

Is Photophobia Treated?

People suffering from photophobia as a result of substance abuse and/or addiction will need to be treated for this underlying cause rather than only for the photophobia itself. The treatment plan needs to take into account the manifestation of photophobia. Wearing sunglasses and staying in darkened rooms where possible may be recommended, while medication may be prescribed for any headaches or nausea which result from the photophobia.

Ready to Get Help for Your Addiction?

Defeating any addiction needs to start with a recognition by the person affected that they do in fact have an addiction and are in need of help. If you are struggling with addiction, any photophobia you may experience will be only one of the countless negative consequences of your addiction. The serious condition you are struggling with has the potential to ruin – and even end – your life. It is absolutely imperative that you take the first step towards overcoming it by admitting your addiction and reaching out for the assistance. This can get you back on the path to happiness.

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Throughout the UK there are high-quality facilities and organisations treating and healing addicts every day. If you’re ready to ask for help, you could join them: don’t waste any more time before speaking with your GP and/or an addiction specialist about the treatment options available to you.

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