Vision Challenges after Head Injuries

Vision as it relates to Fight/Flight/Freeze

I was giving a presentation recently in regards to yoga as therapeutic modality and one of the participants shared a story. She had been involved in an accident. She already had vision challenges but after the accident, the vision challenges had gotten worse. Her MD reported that once her flight/fight system had calmed down, her vision would improve. She discovered yoga and he was correct. Once she controlled her nervous system, it did improve.

Why would that happen? Let’s talk about this fight/flight/freeze mechanism for just a moment. This is a survival mechanism. Think of the last time you were driving down the highway (Floridians, think I4). You are very hyper vigilant and you are startled easily by a car in your periphery. Your heart races, breathing patterns change, but what happens with your eyes?

When the sympathetic nervous system activates, your pupils dilate. Think of the last time you went to the eye doctor and they dilated your pupils. You have to where sunglasses home, correct? In fight or flight, you don’t notice the fact that your eyes are dilated. It is survival time. In the clinic, this is my sign despite age or disability. Especially, if they are sensitive to lights. I also see limited control over the muscles of the eye. Their eyes look like ping pong balls. This makes it hard to see things clearly. Blood pools to the large muscle groups for flight giving limited control over fine motor (eyes, hands, and oral motor muscles). Back to the driving analogy, imagine walking around like that all day long. Could you learn a new skill in this state?

This is my framework for looking at the nervous system. When there is an insult to the brain or spinal cord, there is most likely concerns going up to higher brain function. So in the case of the young woman described above, she had an injury (she did not go into detail) that caused issues going up. Sensation, screening input, balance, and ability to stay organized.

Because of insurance, I know the diagnosis but for me I don’t treat the label. I treat the person and the tools for their nervous system. I have to thank that woman for sharing her story. If you want more information on what yoga and neurologically based occupational therapy can do for you or a loved one, please visit or email

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