Depression is a disease that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Overwhelming melancholy can have a debilitating effect on both a psychological and physical level. Researched extensively for a better understanding, as well as proper diagnosis and treatment for people who suffer from this disease, some studies have demonstrated a direct link between the anatomy of the eye and mood. That people who suffer from major depression may experience a decrease in their visual acuity and that their ability to distinguish the contrast between colours like black, white and grey diminishes.

The phrase “feeling blue” may have been coined to describe depression because visual perception is altered during major depression. It can make colours appear less vibrant, and the way the world is seen through their eyes may be slightly more blue or grey, even monochromatic. The main culprit would be impaired contrast sensitivity in the retina. This contrast sensitivity function is important. It can make driving at night safer as it can help us identify pedestrians walking across the road, for instance.

Through a series of tests, including using a pattern electroretinogram (PERG), a 2010 study at Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg in Germany, researchers tested the different subject’s abilities to perceive contrast, which was less than someone without depression. The PERG is a device used to measure the changes to the retina’s reaction as it is stimulated when looking at objects with contrasts, like vertical stripes in blacks and greys. The results are tracked much like an EKG tracing. The study also found that the more severe the depression, the less receptive the retina becomes, even if the person uses medication to treat the disease.

Depression is a serious disease, and it is crucial to speak to a health professional to get the help necessary to overcome it. Depression may make you feel alone, but there are many support systems in place throughout each province that can guide you towards brighter days.