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Svjetlost is the leading ophthalmology Clinic in the Southeastern Europe, offering complete ophthalmic services.

​Fear makes our eyes bigger

​Fear makes our eyes bigger
Why do we open our eyes wide when in fear?
Does fear of looking of watching exist?
What’s the fear of eye contact called?
Why do we open our eyes wide when in fear?
Does fear of looking of watching exist?
What’s the fear of eye contact called?

Imagine the situation, you’re in a conversation to a person who suddenly stops talking, and then opens her eyes wide and looks behind you. What is your reaction? Certainly, you’ll turn yours had backward to see what made her have that terrified look.

Daniel Lee, a student at the University in Toronto, analyzed why we open our eyes so wide that “our eyebrows reach the roof” when in fear. Maybe this type of face and eyes expression betters our sight?
According to the study, Daniel Lee and Anam Anderson published, when we are frightened, our eyes open wider than normal, which widens our field of view. It’s a defense mechanism to better detect the things surrounding us, see potential dangers and protect ourselves. Pupils also widen so that our eyes could spot more light and information from the outer world.
Just as we concluded from our imaginary situation, and the study confirms, this reaction does not only allow us better surroundings assessment but also warns people around us. So, it’s also social communication.

What about the fear of direct eye contact?

Perhaps you were sometimes in a situation where you talked to people who hardly make eye contact or can’t establish it at all, who look away and when they do look at you, they prefer the lower part of your face and never look you directly in the eyes.
The first thing that comes to mind is these people are shy, and some would even think they are uncultured. This kind of behavior can signalize an emetophobia. Phobia is a fear of living or unliving objects. There is no rational explanation for it. People suffering from emetophobia are likely to have witnessed someone’s eye trauma, and sometimes it’s directed only to certain eye color.
When talking about eye fears, optophobia (fear of looking) is worth mentioning. People suffering from this phobia have a pathological fear of opening their eyes in crucial moments. It can be a good solution, for example, when watching a horror movie not to see what happens. But there are situations when shutting our eyes won’t solve our problem. This type of behavior happens with ostrich by sticking its head in the sand when in danger.

Ultimately, eyes are the mirror of the soul and, together with mimic musculature, show emotions clearly, without a word being said. The doctors are longer able to recognize the patients in fear, from the specific walk style, body posture, to the look of their eyes. 
In my long-time experience, I’ve noticed that fear of losing vision is one of the biggest fears people face. It’s not negative, on the contrary, it’s a good ally, leading people to the ophthalmology practice. We should treat our eyes, as well as our complete health, responsibly, and if we notice any suspicious changes, we should go to the doctor. The health is the most valuable possession, and eyesight is one of the biggest gifts given to us. We should keep them.
Mirko Ratković, MD
Specialist ophthalmologist at University Eye Hospital Svjetlost