Inability to Recognize Faces and It’s Social Impact

Inability to Recognize Faces and It’s Social Impact

Posted under Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info

The impact of vision loss associated with age related macular degeneration (AMD) or other retinal diseases go way beyond the need for magnification for reading or the loss of clarity to perform hobbies. It can greatly affect one’s social life and social interaction with friends, family, neighbors, strangers and co-workers. Due to the degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the macula, the center of one’s vision, a person with AMD often experiences a blurred, gray or even black spot right where a person’s face appears in one’s visual field. Which means one can often see a person’s hair and outer edges of their face but seeing a friend’s smile or how a grandchild’s eyes light up can be elusive.


How Central Vision Loss Impacts Social Situations

When one is unable to see faces it can lead to several uncomfortable social situations such as:


  1. Inability to Recognize Faces of People You Know

Unless a person speaks to you, you may not know who they are which means you can’t greet them by name. You may pass an acquaintance without knowing it leaving your friend feeling ignored.


  1. Inability to See Facial Expressions

Reading facial cues is an important part of conversations and social interactions. From

seeing the delight in a grandchild’s face when they open your gift to perhaps a disturbed

look from a friend after making a comment. It’s not just what people say that helps us

to understand and relate to them but how they react with their facial expressions.


  1. Feelings of Isolation

In social situations, such as a family gathering, a church service, or community event it becomes harder to initiate a greeting or conversation when one has difficulty picking out familiar faces. Often one finds that the most comfortable thing to do is to wait until someone greets them which can lead to a sense of not really being engaged, feeling lonely, or ignored.


Tips for Communicating with Others

Afraid that one may make a mistake in identifying a friend in social situations some people choose to become more passive and wait until the other person greets them before engaging in conversation.  However, there are many proactive steps one can take to stay in the social game. They are:


  1. Let others know that you have poor vision which means you can’t see faces or recognize who they are unless they speak to you first. Help them understand that you are not being rude, ignoring them or being unfriendly when they pass by or are sitting near you and you don’t greet them by name.


  1. Instruct your friends and family to initiate an interaction by introducing themselves with, “Hi Susan, this is Nicole, your niece.”


  1. Ask your spouse, family member or friend to share with you the names of those who are sitting at the table with you, standing in a group, or walking by you.


The Macular Disease Foundation of Australia has developed several resources for those with macular degeneration to help them improve their social interactions with others and to feel more engaged in group settings.


Resources for Helping with Facial Recognition and Your Social Life


Leslie Degner, RN, BSN