My glasses make me feel unreal / are provoking feelings of derealization
October 11, 2016 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I've worn glasses for the last ten years, and ever since I've got them, I've experienced what I can only describe as minor feelings of derealization. Everything always seems.... a little strange with them on - it's as if the world is not quite there, and everything is slightly unreal. How can I stop this?

I've tried researching this online but can only come across accounts of people who suffer from non-stop derealization (plus and sans glasses) and posts that recommend you just get used to your new specs. Which I have been trying to do. For ten years.

These feelings of strangeness have been nicely enhanced by a recent bout of labyrinthitis from which I am still recovering, but I've felt like this on and off or as long as I've had glasses, and it's starting to bother me more and more. In the past, I've just tried to ignore the feeling as best as I can, but it's never gone away, and frankly, it's getting on my nerves!

I've spoken to a few friends who say similar things, but no-one seems to have a solution as to how to deal with it.

It's definitely worse when outside and moving around, and best when inside and sitting still, while looking through the centre of the lenses. I'm in no doubt that it's mostly related to the warping and colour aberrations that occur with any reasonably strong prescription, as well as a general tunnel like perception of viewing the world through two small bits of glass hanging in front of you, but I would really like to stop it.

The feeling very much goes away if I take them off or wear contacts, but the first option is not much of an option anymore, as the world descends into an uncoordinated blur, and while I do wear contacts, I find it difficult to read for long periods in them (yes, I have tried toric lenses) so that pretty much rules them out for the average work day, or any weekend not spent outside.

Also, as people are bound to ask this, I'm short sighted, and my prescription is -2.25 in the left eye, and -4.50 in the other with –0.50 of astigmatism. I've experienced this to varying degrees with every pair of glasses I've ever owned, and although my prescription is now stable, I've had the same feeling even when the prescription has been different. I've had it with thinned down lenses, thick plastic lenses, round glasses, small glasses, big glasses, you name it.

I suspect the answer to this question is going to be, suck up to the dreaded laser eye surgery or try to become better friends with contacts, but if you've had these feelings while wearing glasses and managed to get rid of them, what did you do?
posted by inner_frustration to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
this happens to me with glasses-wearing outdoors as well; driving in glasses is terrifying. it's hard for me to cope with the loss of peripheral vision with glasses vs contacts, it's too much conflicting input for me to cope with because my prescription is incredibly high. i deal with it by always looking at things with my full head-on vision instead of side-eyed when wearing glasses. it's unfortunate because i have neck issues which means if i need to look at something to my side i have to turn my entire body in that direction. crossing streets is kind of comical.

it's not a perfect solution but it's the best i've been able to find.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:16 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

also if you've ever had anything like the labyrinthitis before or any kind of balance weirdness it might pay to look into it further? i have meniere's and a couple of other ear problems that i assume are leading to my vision/balance problems but who even knows. it's really hard for me to shift my vision between two things when i'm in motion, like if i'm walking and txting at the same time and i need to look up at the intersection, glancing up from the phone to the traffic light and back again makes me feel a little off-balance, badly enough that i need to stand still for a second afterwards.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:19 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I found glasses to be the same, particularly outdoors as poffin boffin describes. My solution was first contacts and later surgery, but I know those aren't options in all cases.

Have you experimented with larger and smaller glasses? I found the effect you describe to be much worse with small/narrow lenses, which felt like looking through straws.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:56 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you ever worn glasses full-time? For me as a devoted contact lens wearer, I get this a lot when I've mostly been wearing my contacts. It goes away if I wear just glasses for a few days, although I hate wearing glasses so I only do it if I have to (conjunctivitis etc). I've always chalked it up to miniscule differences in the prescription (for me, I think I get a more precise correction of my mild astigmatism with glasses compared with contacts) as well as the distortion involved in the periphery.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:06 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chromatic Distortion! This happened to me for years, I thought I was nuts, but no. The super easy fix is to get the plain thick lenses rather than the super thin light ones.
posted by AliceBlue at 4:10 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've had a minor vision, but the thing was that I just had to wear the glasses 100% of the time to give my brain time to adapt. I think it could take up to a week.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 4:16 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

DISCLAIMER: I have no idea how anything works and I could be 100% wrong.

I had a problem really bad with a pair of glasses once that was really fucking around with my depth perception and I don't even know how to describe it but I felt like this is probably what it is like to be a swamp monster or something, so I switched back to my old prescription and was fine. The biggest difference between the two prescriptions was that the bad one corrected too much for my astigmatism, so I've always suspected that was the culprit.

I just got another prescription with a stronger astigmatism correction again, and am currently waiting to try it out. So I should know more in a few weeks.

So take this with a grain of salt, and I'll try really hard to remember to update you if this new prescription does the same thing. At this point, it's just a very vague hypothesis. But if that sounds like what you have, then I am currently testing it.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:17 PM on October 11, 2016

I had this problem and thought it was just me. When I tried to explain it, people looked at me like a (crazy) delicate flower.

I also have meniere's/vertigo - and glasses seemed to aggravate it.

I can't wear contacts, so don't know if that would help. But I would try that if you can.

I just had cataract surgery so don't need glasses anymore. The feeling has gone away and it's great.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 4:56 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had a lot of problems with my prescription which I described to my eye doctor as I can see with my glasses perfectly well, but it is like I'm looking through clear water.

Turns out I needed a very small prism to help my eyes work together better.
posted by aetg at 5:27 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have worn glasses/contacts since high school. Usually I buy my glasses from the optometrist, but this past year I decided to try a more budget option (Warby Parker). The difference in lens quality is surprising and very noticeable - my new glasses obviously distort the world around me to a disturbing degree. It's at the point where I often feel disoriented when I wear them, and it makes walking around the house feel like I'm in a carnival fun house with the degree that it warps straight lines.

I'm not entirely sure what the cause is. It could be that the Warby Parker lenses are inferior to what the local optometrist could create. Another theory I have is that the design of the glasses has something to do with it - I got a trendy set of heavy plastic glasses this time, so the lenses feel a bit thicker than what I had with my old wireframe glasses. My old glasses were also very small (the new ones are much larger on my face), so the areas on the lens which might exacerbate the distortion were much smaller than the new ones. My prescription hasn't changed in about a decade, so it has to be something about these glasses that is just a bit off.

So, you could try smaller lenses or different materials for the lenses. If you're buying discount glasses, maybe suck it up and pay the optometrist for a better pair.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:35 PM on October 11, 2016

I have this happen to me when I wear contacts instead of my cheap, single-focus lenses. ...I don't wear contacts much at all anymore.
posted by smirkette at 6:07 PM on October 11, 2016

There's something called "vision therapy," which I raise an eyebrow at -- but a person I know and respect, an international expert in a related field, recommends it for many of her clients. It might be worth talking to a vision therapist.

Vision therapy, previously.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:31 PM on October 11, 2016

For me the only way to get through this is to wear my glasses basically nonstop. Every time I get a new pair it's incredibly uncomfortable for a few weeks, then only episodically (during a migraine, etc.) If I spend a day reading a book without glasses on, the Alice in Wonderland visual distortion comes back for a day or two.

I assume this is because my brain has to do too much to cope with the extreme difference between my uncorrected and corrected vision - my prescription is much stronger than yours. But I also suspect that some people are simply more sensitive to these kinds of sensory challenges; having a condition like Meniere's would tend to support that as a factor.
posted by SMPA at 10:09 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers so far guys, glad it's not just me!

To quickly answer a few questions, yes I do wear them pretty much all the time, I probably only wear the contacts once or twice a week. Yes, I have had this with thinned down lenses and ordinary CR-39. Yes, it's worse with cheapo online glasses, but I still get it with high street glasses too. My current pair is a very expensive pair that I bought from a high end independent optician, and I partly spent so much to try and get rid of the feeling. I can tell the lenses are better quality than anything I've had before (less distortion etc.) but the feeling is still there.

Yes, I have had a prism once, and still got the feeling. Also contact lenses can't include a prism so not sure how that would help...

And finally, yes, the balance disorder has made it worse, but the feeling was there many years before I had any balance issues.
posted by inner_frustration at 12:13 AM on October 12, 2016

Honestly thought it was just me. Glasses make everything much less real/intense. It's like a sensory block. Interestingly when I started wearing them, my depression also seemed to 'start'. I don't know what the solution is because I have to wear glasses all the time. Laser treatment? Is that out of the question? I am probably going to opt for it. Thanks for asking this question.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:57 AM on October 12, 2016

I had this once - I remember it felt like being kind of drunk when you're sort of watching your body/arms do something. Like "look at those arms over there doing stuff." Perhaps this is not a universal feeling. My doctor said there was too much astigmatism correction in my glasses and reduced that and it helped.
posted by artychoke at 11:33 AM on October 12, 2016

Nthing that this could be a lens quality issue, particularly for astigmatism. I had this problem as well, for my whole life. Even though I need to wear glasses all the time (and can't insert contacts to save myself), like couldn't read a street sign without them, they've also always made me feel like I'm looking at the world through a view finder. I would make excuses to ditch my glasses in favor the blurry, real-seeming world.

What changed for me was getting my glasses at a place that has its own, optometrist operated lab. They use very high quality lenses and they are meticulous about positioning the corrective lens in the frame so your eyeball looks out it just so. They take a dozen measurements with your frames. I don't get that swimmy feeling with these glasses. To make things n=2, my husband has noticed the same improvement and he's gotten the same derealization from Warby Parker glasses as well. I really think it's about the position of the lens in the frame: the prism is smaller than you think! It could also have to do with the frame's position on your face. Do you read with your glasses on the end of your nose? Do you favor large glasses that slide around? Either could produce the results you're talking about. They have for me.
posted by sweltering at 6:35 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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