Can Anxiety Cause Vertigo? 6 Helpful Details

Of all the things a person with anxiety has to worry about, one question that comes up in their mind is, can anxiety cause vertigo? Studies have shown that vertigo and anxiety are indeed interrelated.

To understand the relationship between anxiety and vertigo, we need to be clear on what these two mean.

1. What Is Anxiety?

Brown wooden scrabbles tiles that spell "Anxiety" are aligned on white background.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood/ Pexels Copyrights 2020

Anxiety is an emotion described by the fear of what would happen next. Some of the symptoms of a general episode of anxiety are increased heart rate, restlessness, dizziness, hyperventilation1, and lack of concentration.

It is quite normal to feel anxious before appearing for a job interview or to worry about getting a task done before the deadline. Such crisp instances of anxiety do not harm you. Rather, in some cases, anxiety motivates us to achieve our intended goal.

But it can also escalate and become out of control, leading the way for anxiety disorder 2wherein the person afflicted with it lives in a state of constant fear and stress. Frequent episodes of vertigo and panic attacks, hypochondria3, social insecurity, and other mental health issues may constitute some of the long-lasting effects of this disorder.

2. What Is Vertigo?

A dizzy or blurred image of a person coming in snowy weather.
Photo by Its Adonis on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

Vertigo is a sensation when you feel that the environment around you is spinning. It is usually spontaneous. Even though many consider dizziness and vertigo as the same thing, vertigo is slightly different from dizziness. Vertigo is a type of dizziness occurring due to some defect in the vestibular system.

The vestibular system is a part of the inner ear containing certain fluids that are responsible for maintaining body balance. If the fluids are disproportionally spread, then our body loses the sense of balance. This is when an episode of vertigo occurs when the world around us starts to spin, even when it’s not.

Some of the causes of vertigo are labyrinthitis (inflammation of the nerves of the inner ear), motion sickness, Meniere’s disease4, head injuries, and anxiety-related problems.

Now, let us answer the question we are looking for answer Can anxiety cause vertigo?

This question can be answered in the following two ways-

3. Can Anxiety Cause Vertigo?

Can anxiety cause vertigo? Yes.

Anxiety does not only impact your emotions, but it also brings about physical changes, some of which are mentioned above. Anxiety induces stress hormones such as cortisol that may hamper the vestibular system leading to dizziness. Even hyperventilation (i.e., breathing very fast), caused by stress, also causes dizziness.

In the short term, it may come and go. You may tend to tilt from one side to another but end up falling. You might feel lightheaded, as well.

This type of vertigo is known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), and it is the most common one. It is not a life-threatening condition in most cases.

In the long term, living with frequent episodes of BPPV can be hard. Statistics have shown that people living with an anxiety disorder are more predisposed to vertigo than their counterparts by 2.17 times.

That is why such people avoid going outside or stop doing the things they like for fear that a subsequent episode of vertigo could ruin everything.

2. Vertigo Also Causes Anxiety

A black and white image of a man with a blurred face while moving.
Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash Copyrights 2018

Can anxiety cause vertigo? Not Always.

Imagine yourself walking in the park gaily while listening to your favorite music when all of a sudden the world around you spins badly, and you lose balance and fall on the ground. You don’t know what exactly happened and how it happened. You are in a state of confusion.

That’s what triggers anxiety in those after experiencing vertigo for the first time. They may live in constant fear as this dizziness can appear anytime, anywhere.

In the previous point, we discussed how people with an anxiety disorder are more susceptible to BPPV. But, some further studies have also shown that people having vertigo are also more susceptible to anxiety-related problems!

Thus, we can say that anxiety and vertigo create a vicious cycle from which getting out is tough, but not impossible.

To sum it up, there are two answers to the question of whether anxiety causes vertigo.

3. Meniere’s Disease

While discussing the pretext of establishing a relationship between vertigo and anxiety, Meniere’s disease plays an important role in the discourse. Meniere’s disease is characterized by vertigo, tinnitus (ringing of ears)5, and gradual deafness in some cases caused due to the disproportion of the flow of the fluids in the inner ear.

A young man with an ear problem keeps his hand on one ear on a red background.
Photo by Puzankov on Unlimphotos

There is a direct link between this disease and anxiety as the ones suffering from it may tend him/her restricted mobility. Thus, for working adults afflicted with this disease, it may be difficult to sustain with restricted mobility, and their level of anxiety increases.

There is no cure for this disease as of now. If you have Meniere’s disease or you want to know more, click here.

4. Some Remedies to Avoid Anxiety and Vertigo

As seen above, these two conditions are spontaneous and persistent in many cases. Some of the remedies for controlling anxiety and vertigo at the same time are listed below-

A display of neon light that says- "and breathe" in the green leaves background.
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash Copyrights 2018
  • Try to take deep breaths when you are feeling anxious. Drink some fluid, preferably water, if you feel dizzy or lightheaded. These are some ways you can handle short-term anxiety episodes.
  • People afflicted with long-term anxiety disorder can try to inculcate a hobby or change their lifestyle. Share your worries with your loved ones. Get some medical advice from experts.
  • Studies have concluded that a high-salt diet, smoking, and consumption of alcohol harm the vestibular system. Avoiding them could prevent vertigo, especially for those who have Meniere’s disease.
  • Therapy and further medical advice are recommended only when the symptoms of anxiety and vertigo are too grave to bear them.
  • You can consume substances like green tea and dark chocolate as they have been found beneficial in reducing stress to a great extent.
  • You can meditate to detox your mind from anxiety. Even a good night’s sleep can help as well.

5. To Conclude

Anxiety and vertigo are symptoms of each other. But, with the right precautions and required awareness, one can easily fight these menaces, which can hamper our lives and restrict our freedom.

Thus rests the answer to the question- Can anxiety cause vertigo?

Feel free to comment below and let us know if we have left out any points worth mentioning.

6. Frequently Asked Questions

6.1. What does anxiety vertigo feel like?

It feels like dizziness and lightheadedness. However, it is more than that. There might be an internal feeling of motion or spinning as if the surroundings are moving.

6.2. Does vertigo have warning signs?

The symptom of vertigo is that the person who is feeling it feels like they are moving or the room around them is moving when it is not. Therefore, lightheadedness can be a warning sign. Vertigo may also cause to feel nausea.

6.3. Is vertigo is Curable?

Yes! Vertigo is treatable with medications, exercises, following remedies, and avoiding a few things that can worsen the symptoms.

6.4. Is vertigo normal?

Yes, it is a very common health problem in adults. However, anxiety and vertigo create a vicious cycle that is tough to handle but not impossible.

5 Common Mental Disorders Due To Genetic Factors

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  1. Brashear, Richard E. “Hyperventilation syndrome.” Lung 161 (1983): 257-273. ↩︎
  2. Craske, Michelle G., et al. “What is an anxiety disorder?.” Focus 9.3 (2011): 369-388. ↩︎
  3. Belling, Catherine. A condition of doubt: The meanings of hypochondria. Oxford University Press, USA, 2012. ↩︎
  4. Sajjadi, Hamed, and Michael M. Paparella. “Meniere’s disease.” The Lancet 372.9636 (2008): 406-414. ↩︎
  5. Roberts, Larry E., et al. “Ringing ears: the neuroscience of tinnitus.” Journal of Neuroscience 30.45 (2010): 14972-14979. ↩︎

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Devasya Mitra

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