Can Stress Cause Vertigo?

What is Stress?

Stress is essentially your body’s response when it senses danger. It is the body’s way of making you aware of the fact that you might be under threat. When your body is under stress, it quickly switches to “fight or flight” mode, which is the process where a combination of hormones and chemicals are released in the body to make the body ready for physical action. These hormones include norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. These cause an increased heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating and alertness. All of these combined allow you to respond to a challenging situation or any type of stress.

Avoiding stress is practically inevitable now in the 21st century where we are always rushing to meet deadlines and face challenges at workplaces, colleges etc. At times like this, stress reaches a threshold and we start experiencing the side effects which include sleeplessness, low energy, chest pain, body ache, rapid heartbeat among other things.

The 3 Different Stages In Stress

Your body tends to become violent and aggressive when it enters the fight mode. This reaction often helps in warding off predators, but then again when your body enters the fight mode devoid of any valid reason you are likely to act aggressive towards others. This may in turn harm your relationship with others.

No human being is alike. People tend to react differently in different situations. While some might choose to deal with the situation at hand, others might choose to deal with it by avoiding it. When your body chooses to handle a dangerous or threatening situation by ignoring it your body is said to have entered the flight mode.

A third mode induced by stress is freeze. In this mode the energy that the perceived threat or danger mobilizes gets frozen into the nervous system and we freeze. Shallow breathing is a form of freeze.

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is not a fear of heights. This is a misconception most people have. Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness. Although often associated with the uneasy feeling many get while looking down from a great height, vertigo refers to any temporary or ongoing feeling of dizziness that occurs due to a problem with the inner ear, brain or sensory nerve pathway. Vertigo is rotational dizziness.

What are the Symptoms of Vertigo?

Can Stress Cause Vertigo?

Can Stress Cause Vertigo?

Most people who experience vertigo also tend to experience unpleasant emotions such as fear, panic, anxiety, stress, frustration, embarrassment and anger. Stress can trigger and also worsen vertigo associated with anxiety. Vertigo is the feeling where one feels everything around her or him is spinning and it is a form of dizziness.

Vertigo is a symptom of vestibular system dysfunction. The vestibular system which is located in the inner ear helps you maintain balance. Any anomaly with the aforementioned system may cause you to feel off balance or dizzy. If on physical examination and your laboratory results come back normal despite you suffering from vertigo; then in all probability anxiety and stress is the cause of your vertigo.

Many of the symptoms of anxiety attacks are a result of hyperventilation and stress. When under stress or intense anxiety, your breathing becomes uneven and although you are eliminating lot of carbon dioxide in the process it makes us feel like you have a shortage of oxygen.

In a study it was found that patients with dizziness and panic attacks had higher rates of vertigo and agoraphobia than those with either dizziness or panic attacks. Vertigo, which is caused due to stress and anxiety, can have disastrous results as it is likely going to affect your relationships and the people around you; hence it is highly recommended that someone in a similar state consults a psychologist or psychiatrist.

So stress can trigger or even worsen your anxiety and this may in turn lead to vertigo. The treatment for such vertigo is to first have a patient education that vertigo can be an anxiety symptom, rather than a physical symptom of a vestibular disorder or other medical disorder. In such cases, a psychiatrist consultant is required to consider prescription medication to deal with the panic disorder and vertigo that is caused by stress. Also cognitive behavior therapy would be helpful to address the avoidant behaviors, the maladaptive thinking and coping style to deal with stress.

In What Manner Is Vertigo Related To Stress?

The following are the three common ways in which vertigo can be linked to one’s emotional state such as stress:

  • Your balance organs causes vertigo and balance difficulties, which triggers emotional problems like anxiety and depression.
  • Your balance organs cause dizziness and balance difficulties, which worsen an already existing emotional condition or stress.
  • You have an already existing emotional condition, which causes symptoms of vertigo and imbalance.

What Changes Take Place In The Body When Under Stress?

The body changes in the following manner when under stress:

  • Increased pulse rate and blood pressure.
  • Sleeplessness due to a heightened state of alertness.
  • Decreased immune activity.
  • Reduced activity of the digestive system.
  • Tight or tensed muscles.

It should be remembered that stress is not always bad. I am sure all of us have heard people saying that they “work better under stress,” which is true because stress at times efficiently help us to complete an impending assignment, or doing some work we have been delaying for a long time; although this is not the case for all. A lot of people have declared that when under stress they cannot do anything constructive. But then only short term stress can have a positive effect, long term stress often proves to be harmful for our health.

What are the Symptoms of Stress?

Vague, persistent sensations of dizziness, sweating, lightheadedness, nausea, increased heart rate and trembling are some symptoms of stress.

How To Deal With Vertigo Caused By Anxiety and Stress?

Firstly, it is important that you undergo the tests recommended by your doctor. It is important to find out whether your vertigo is caused by stress and anxiety or some other medical disorder. Determining the cause of the vertigo will aid you in dealing with it more effectively. Balance problems are pretty complex and consulting with several specialists may be required. It is important to learn how to cope with stress by adopting simple methods and you need to do things that take your mind off stress. This can be anything from picking up a favorite book or taking up a hobby. Going out for a walk also helps in making you feel better and help resolve vertigo caused by stress.

Talking: For a lot of people talking also helps a huge deal and relieving vertigo caused by stress. Talk to a friend or a family member, open up to them. Talking to people always helps and in many cases the listener might have a better solution to offer for the stress which is causing the vertigo. Spend quality time with your friends and family members. Being surrounded by loved ones helps a lot.

Music: Listen to soothing music. Music is often said to be therapy for the soul and is a great stress buster and helps you better manage stress and vertigo.

Spend Time With Your Pet: There are few who love you as much as your pet does. Playing with your pets is bound to make you feel better.

Writing: Write down things that bother you, what makes you anxious and frustrated.

Stay Active: Staying active and involved in something always helps you keep your mind off things that bother you. One of the most effective ways of doing that is exercising. Research has shown that exercise causes endorphins to be released into your body, which makes you feel healthier and happier. Try indulging in regular exercises like walking and running to be stress free and free from vertigo.

Deep Breathing: During vertigo episodes, it is important to sit down and take some deep, slow breathes in order to calm you down. This may help you relax and gradually get rid of the vertigo.

Counseling: A health psychologist may be able to help you to identify the emotional symptoms that may be related to your health issues including vertigo.


So, as you can see, stress is the root cause of all our health problems. Vertigo can easily occur as a result of stress and other emotional or psychological problems. To relieve Vertigo caused by stress, we should first deal with stress; which we have discussed in detail in the above article.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 30, 2018

Recent Posts

Related Posts