Anxiety is not just an emotion. It can cause a wide range of physical symptoms, including dizziness and lightheadedness.
In this article, we explain the link between anxiety and dizziness. We also cover other anxiety symptoms and the treatment options available.
The relationship between anxiety and dizziness is complex. Some people experience dizziness because of their anxiety, while others get dizzy and then feel anxious about it.
Anxiety can cause dizziness in several ways:
- Vasovagal syncope: This common cause of fainting happens when blood pressure suddenly drops, causing a person to feel dizzy and confused. While any form of anxiety can cause this symptom, people often report syncope when they have anxiety about medical procedures or a needle phobia.
- Subjective sensations: Anxiety may make a person feel emotionally unsteady, which may cause the subjective feeling of dizziness. A 2014 study found that having an anxious and introverted temperament is a risk factor for developing chronic subjective dizziness.
- Hyperventilation: Some people, especially those experiencing panic attacks or flashbacks, may hyperventilate when they feel anxious. This unnatural breathing deprives the brain of oxygen and can cause a person to feel dizzy or even faint.
Dizziness may also increase the risk of anxiety. When a person feels dizzy, they may worry about their health or fear fainting. These concerns can cause or intensify anxiety. A 2012 study found a strong correlation between chronic dizziness and both depression and anxiety.
The symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person, and a person’s anxiety may change with time. If a person has an anxiety disorder, the specific diagnosis may determine how their anxiety manifests. For example, people with panic disorder may experience intense panic attacks, while those with generalized anxiety may notice persistent, excessive anxiety.
Some common symptoms include:
- physiological changes, such as a rapid heart rate
- physical symptoms, such as nausea and muscle tension
- trouble concentrating
- a feeling of dread or doom
When a person always feels dizzy or frequently experiences bouts of dizziness, they have chronic dizziness. Acute dizziness is a brief episode of dizziness, which may occur during a panic attack or after standing up too quickly.
Anxiety may cause both chronic and acute dizziness.
Vertigo is a type of dizziness that can cause a person to feel as though they are moving or falling, even when they are standing still. This sensation can be a very alarming experience, increasing the risk of anxiety. People with various forms of dizziness, including vertigo, report extreme anxiety.
Anxiety can feel overwhelming, and a person may feel as though they have lost control of their body and mind. However, anxiety is treatable. While some people have to try several treatments before something works, most can get relief with the right support.
The most effective treatment options for anxiety include:
- Therapy: A doctor may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy helps a person better understand their thoughts and feelings.
- Medication: Doctors may recommend beta-blockers for anxiety. These drugs can also treat high blood pressure, a potential cause of some types of dizziness.
- Support: People with anxiety need support from loved ones and their community. Support groups may help a person identify useful lifestyle changes and treatment strategies.
- Lifestyle changes: People may find that certain lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise, help ease anxiety.
The most effective treatment for dizziness depends on its cause.
The vestibular system helps regulate balance and enables a person to be aware of their location in space. The brain and inner ear work together to give a person a sense of balance. Disorders that affect these organs may also cause dizziness.
In many cases, it is possible to treat dizziness with medication, physical therapy, or surgery.
A person should see a doctor if they:
- develop dizziness after taking a new medication
- experience severe and chronic dizziness
- experience other symptoms, such as vomiting
In most cases, anxiety-related dizziness is not a major cause for concern. However, it is possible to have anxiety and a serious underlying condition that causes dizziness. So people with chronic dizziness and anxiety should not dismiss their symptoms.
When anxiety is the primary cause of dizziness, the dizziness may come and go. Acute episodes usually get better on their own, though a person may continue to experience dizziness relating to their anxiety. Treating the anxiety often helps.
The right strategy for preventing dizziness depends on the underlying cause. Some strategies that may help include:
- Wearing compression stockings: People who faint from anxiety may be able to prevent their blood pressure dropping by wearing compression stockings.
- Gentle breathing: Controlled breathing may prevent hyperventilation and ease anxiety.
- Lying down: Lying down reduces the risk of fainting from dizziness.
- Anxiety awareness: For some people, simply being aware that anxiety is the reason for dizziness can prevent a panic attack. Avoiding triggers and seeking anxiety treatment can also help.
Dizziness can be a scary experience, which intensifies anxiety and causes a person to worry about their health. This worry can create a feedback loop, which could make dizziness symptoms even worse. A person should speak with a doctor if their dizziness occurs frequently or does not get better with medication.