“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Tunnel Vision Anxiety Symptoms


SYMPTOMSCAUSESTREATMENTFAQs


Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: November 1, 2020


tunnel vision anxiety symptoms

Tunnel Vision can be a sign of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and panic attacks. Tunnel vision can be accompanied by other anxiety symptoms, such as dizziness, racing heart, trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, palpitations, and tension.

Visit our “Anxiety Symptoms” article for common anxiety symptoms that can accompany narrowed and tunnel vision.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, and Hyperstimulation Test. The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including tunnel vision.

This article explains the relationship between tunnel vision and anxiety.

Common descriptions for tunnel vision anxiety symptoms:

  • Narrow vision: your vision seems narrow, like looking through a tube or tunnel.
  • Tunnel like vision.
  • Lost peripheral vision (the edges of your vision).
  • Peripheral vision has narrowed.
  • Blinders like vision.
  • Like looking through binoculars, a monocular, or telescope.
  • The “edges” of your vision are darkened.

Tunnel vision anxiety symptoms can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist 24/7 and day after day. For example, you have tunnel vision once in a while and not that often, have it off and on, or have tunnel vision all the time and every day.

Tunnel vision anxiety symptoms can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by itself.

It can precede, accompany, or follow a period of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no apparent reason.

Tunnel vision can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where it’s strong one moment and disappears the next.

Tunnel vision can change from day to day, moment to moment, or remain as a constant background to a struggle with anxiety disorder.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

The narrowed tunnel vision anxiety symptom can be more noticeable when fatigued and when sleep is regularly disrupted.



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What causes sudden tunnel vision?

Medical Advisory

Regarding anxiety and tunnel vision, here are four main ways tunnel vision can be caused by anxiety and stress:

1. Stress response

Anxiety activates the body’s emergency survival mechanism, also known as the stress response, or the fight or flight response.[1][2]

The stress response causes many body-wide changes that prepare the body for immediate emergency action – to either fight or flee.

Some of these changes include:

  • Tightens muscles so that the body is more resilient to harm.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, which includes certain parts of the brain.
  • Heightens most of the body’s senses.
  • Dilates pupils so that we can take in more visual information.
  • Reduces peripheral vision so that we can focus solely on the potential threat and not be distracted by visual information on the periphery.

To name a few.

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more detailed information about all of the changes caused by the body’s survival mechanism.

Notice that narrowing our peripheral vision is a normal response to being anxious.

As long as a stress response is active, we can experience narrowed vision (tunnel vision).

2. Stress

Stress also activates the stress response. If you’ve been under unrelieved stress lately, that stress can also cause tunnel vision.

3. Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur once in a while, the body recovers relatively quickly from the stress response changes.

However, when stress responses occur too frequently, such as when a person is overly anxious, the body can’t complete its recovery.

Incomplete recovery can cause a state of semi stress response readiness, which we call “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants. [3][4]

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many changes caused by hyperstimulation.

Hyperstimulation can cause the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated. Tunnel vision (narrowed vision) is a common symptom of hyperstimulation.

As long as the body is hyperstimulated, it can produce symptoms, including tunnel vision.

4. Other factors

Other factors associated with anxiety and stress can cause and contribute to tunnel vision, including:

Select the relevant link for more information.

When I was struggling with anxiety disorder, I experienced many visual symptoms, including tunnel like vision, which looked like I was looking out of a tunnel, that I had blinders on, or like I was looking through binoculars, a monocular, or a telescope with the darkened edges around the periphery.

Tunnel vision symptoms startled me when they first occurred. I initially thought I was having a stroke or other serious neurological medical emergency. Once I discovered how anxiety and stress cause tunnel vision like symptoms, I could contain my anxiousness about them.

In time, as I worked to overcome my anxiety issues and symptoms, my tunnel vision symptoms subsided. I haven’t had it since my recovery back in 1986.

While tunnel vision anxiety symptoms can be startling at first, they are harmless and needn’t cause concern. Anxiety-caused tunnel vision is temporary and will subside when you eliminate your anxiety and elevated stress.



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So, again, there is no cause for alarm or distress. Tunnel vision is harmless and will subside in time.

How to get rid of tunnel vision anxiety symptoms

When narrowed and tunnel vision are caused by other factors, such as medication, recreational drugs, stimulants, fatigue, lack of sleep, low blood sugar, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, or hormone changes, addressing the specific cause will bring an end to this symptom.

When narrowed and tunnel vision are caused by an active stress response, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside.

Keep in mind it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When narrowed and tunnel vision are caused by stress, any stress reduction activity could reduce and alleviate this symptom. However, it might take numerous stress reduction activities over days or weeks for this symptom to subside if it is caused by chronic stress.

However, as stress is reduced, this symptom should diminish and eventually subside in time.

Visit our article “60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress And Anxiety” for many natural ways to eliminate stress and anxiety symptoms.

When this symptom is caused by hyperstimulation (chronic stress), you’ll need to eliminate hyperstimulation before this symptom subsides.

The Recovery Support area describes the many ways you can eliminate hyperstimulation, as well as common barriers and considerations when working to eliminate hyperstimulation.

However, as the body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops sending symptoms, including narrowed and tunnel vision.

Therapy

If you are having difficulty with what can seem like unmanageable worry, I recommend connecting with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome problematic anxiety and its symptoms.[5][6]

All of our recommended therapists have personally experienced anxiety disorder and have overcome it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder combined with their Master’s Degree and above professional training makes them a good choice when overcoming anxiety and worry issues.

NOTE: This symptom can also be caused or aggravated by migraine headaches. Reducing anxiety and stress can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches, since migraine headaches are often triggered by stress, including anxiety-caused stress.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tunnel Vision

What does it mean when you have tunnel vision?

Tunnel vision can be a symptom of stress and anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic attacks. Anxiety and stress-caused tunnel vision subsides when anxiety and stress have been reduced.

Read this tunnel vision anxiety symptoms web page for more information about how anxiety and stress can cause narrowed and tunnel vision.

However, it can also be a symptom of a serious medical condition. In this case, seek immediate medical attention.

What causes sudden tunnel vision?

Stress can cause tunnel vision, and so can anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic attacks. Medical conditions can also cause sudden tunnel vision. In this case, talk with your doctor as soon as you can to be certain of the cause.

Read this tunnel vision anxiety symptoms web page for more information about how anxiety and stress can cause narrowed and tunnel vision.

Can tunnel vision be cured?

Yes, stress and anxiety-caused tunnel vision can be cured, and relatively easily. Reducing stress and anxiety can cause tunnel vision symptoms to subside. However, you should discuss this symptom with your doctor to ensure it’s not caused by a medical reason. Medical reasons need to be treated by your doctor.

What causes dizziness and tunnel vision?

Stress and anxiety are common causes of dizziness and tunnel vision. Since dizziness and narrowed vision are common symptoms of stress and anxiety, it’s not uncommon for them to co-occur. Reducing stress and anxiety can cause these symptoms to subside. For more information, visit our anxiety symptoms article.

Does anxiety cause tunnel vision?

Yes, anxiety can cause narrowed and tunnel vision. Anxiety activates the stress response, and the stress response causes a reduction in peripheral vision so that our attention is focused solely on the danger. Read this webpage for more information about why anxiety causes tunnel vision and what you can do.

Can you get tunnel vision from stress?

Yes, stress can cause narrowed and tunnel vision. Stress activates the fight or flight response, and the fight or flight response causes a reduction in peripheral vision. We explain the link between stress and tunnel vision in more detail on this webpage, including what you can do to get rid of tunnel vision.

What does tunnel vision look like?

Tunnel vision looks like you are looking through a tube, tunnel, binoculars, monocular, or telescope where the sides of your vision are blacked out like blinders. While the imagery in the center of your vision is visible, the sides of your vision have narrowed so that you can’t see anything by black.

Why do I get tunnel vision when I'm anxious?

Being anxious activates the stress response. The stress response causes many body-wide changes, including a reduction in peripheral vision so that our attention is focused solely on what’s making us anxious. Read this webpage for more information about why anxiety causes tunnel vision and what you can do.

Can stress and anxiety cause vision problems?

Yes, stress and anxiety can cause many vision problems, such as narrowed and tunnel vision like symptoms. Stress and anxiety affect the eyes in many ways, and especially if stress and anxiety are chronic. Visit our “Anxiety Symptoms” page for all of the vision symptoms caused by stress and anxiety.

Should I be afraid of tunnel vision?

No, there is no reason to be afraid of tunnel vision anxiety and stress symptoms. They are harmless and will subside on their own as you reduce your anxiety and stress. However, tunnel vision symptoms can also be a sign of a medical problem. In this case, they should be discussed with your doctor as soon as possible.



The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Tunnel Vision Anxiety Symptoms.


REFERENCES:

1. Folk, Jim. “The Stress Response.” Anxiety Attacks, Anxietycentre.com, 2020, www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety/stress-response.shtml.

2. "Understanding the Stress Response - Harvard Health." Harvard Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.

3. Elbers, Jorina, et al. "Wired for Threat: Clinical Features of Nervous System Dysregulation in 80 Children." Pediatric Neurology, Dec 2018, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0887899418302716

4. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4373764/.

5. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/.

6. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2654783.