Objective: To characterise the psychiatric symptoms of visual snow syndrome (VSS), and determine their relationship to quality of life and severity of visual symptoms.
Methods: One hundred twenty-five patients with VSS completed a battery of questionnaires assessing depression/anxiety, dissociative experiences (depersonalisation), sleep quality, fatigue, and quality of life, as well as a structured clinical interview about their visual and sensory symptoms.
Results: VSS patients showed high rates of anxiety and depression, depersonalisation, fatigue, and poor sleep, which significantly impacted quality of life. Further, psychiatric symptoms, particularly depersonalisation, were related to increased severity of visual symptoms. The severity/frequency of psychiatric symptoms did not differ significantly due to the presence of migraine, patient sex, or timing of VSS onset (lifelong vs. later onset).
Conclusion: Psychiatric symptoms are highly prevalent in patients with VSS and are associated with increased visual symptom severity and reduced quality of life. Importantly, patients with lifelong VSS reported lower levels of distress and milder self-ratings of visual symptoms compared to patients with a later onset, while being equally likely to experience psychiatric symptoms. This suggests that the psychiatric symptoms of VSS are not solely due to distress caused by visual symptoms. While no consistently effective treatments are available for the visual symptomology of VSS, psychiatric symptoms offer an avenue of treatment that is likely to significantly improve patient quality of life and ability to cope with visual symptoms.