Dizziness due to Anxiety and Stress
Also known as psychogenic vertigo, it is a common symptom of anxiety.
It usually occurs in people who are going through stressful moments in their lives, experience chronic stress, have high levels of basal activation, or consume stimulants such as coffee, tobacco, or other substances.
When we experience physical symptoms that we are not used to, our first reaction may be to think that it is some kind of medical problem.
Following this trend, we will probably seek information from medical sources, either on the internet or by going to our general practitioner. This can cause us to worry about such symptoms for longer than necessary and waste time and energy trying to “fix” them.
The symptoms associated with dizziness due to anxiety can present as follows:
- Sensations of dizziness that seem to come out of nowhere
- Feeling stunned
- Feeling like everything is spinning
- Feeling like we are going to faint
- Feeling unbalanced
Although these symptoms can indicate some physical illness, in most cases, they may be due to anxiety. So if you are experiencing them, do not be alarmed and ask yourself:
- Are you going through a stressful moment in your life?
- Do you feel worried lately?
- Do you usually breathe quickly?
- Do you feel like you have moments of rest and relaxation?
Why do I get dizzy?
You may wonder, “How could my stress be related to these strange bodily sensations of dizziness?”
Well, the truth is that anxiety affects our body significantly in many ways.
- Alters our heart rate
- Accelerates our breathing
- Affects our digestive system
Of these changes that anxiety introduces into the way our bodily functions, 2 of them are involved in the feeling of dizziness:
Biologically, when we hyperventilate, we increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, at the same time, the amount of carbon dioxide decreases. This reduction causes the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain to contract, reducing the flow of oxygen to the brain in a process called Respiratory Alkalosis. This reduction in oxygen to the brain is not dangerous in itself, but it can produce the following symptoms (and some more):
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness of the fingers and/or lips
- Chest discomfort
This process is also found in Panic Attacks.
The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming us down and returning us to our rest state. The function of this nerve is to regulate heart rate, lungs, and digestion. When we suffer from anxiety, it is possible that this nerve is overstimulated, causing it to send too many signals to “slow down.” In response to these signals, our heart rate slows down, and our blood vessels dilate. When our heart rate abruptly decreases, blood flow to the brain is reduced, and we experience the symptoms described in the previous section, including dizziness.
These two mechanisms are strongly associated with continued anxiety or acute anxiety.
Anxiety and Stress
You may be thinking “how can this explain my dizziness I don’t feel anxious”.
The truth is that many times, we sustain high levels of anxiety for so so long that we think it is just the normal state of things. When we’re actually experiencing chronic stress.
We live in a demanding world.
In our jobs, a lot is usually demanded from us, it is not uncommon for companies to be understaffed, and have their workers carry a higher workload than is sustainable (or healthy) in the long term.
At a relational level, having the possibility of contacting anyone at any time through our devices, and this creates a myriad of problems, conflicts, and internal doubts.
At an internal level, most of us have not been educated in emotional intelligence, nor have we grown up in families with a secure attachment. This means that the way we regulate our emotions may be a bit weak, and if, we don’t know how to properly react to the sensations that anxiety, fear, or sadness bring, we’ll probably resort to behaviors that instead of solving our problems, perpetuate them, increasing and thus maintaining our stress.
These 3 factors are interrelated and feed back on each other. If I am stuck at work, and when I sit on the couch, I don’t stop worrying or I have palpitations, I will probably distract myself by doing other things, drinking, going out more, eating, etc. My problems will go unaddressed and have a continued negative impact on my life.
In addition to possible dizziness, we will know that we are suffering from stress if we experience the following symptoms:
- Changes in sexual desire
- Noticeable weight loss or gain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disturbances
- Substance use
- Poor memory
- Living disconnected
So what can we do? We will see it in the next section.
How to treat dizziness due to anxiety?
Since the origin of this dizziness is anxiety. The best way to mitigate this would be to learn how to manage and reduce anxiety and stress levels.
This involves acquiring resources and skills in stress management and its manifestations, such as:
- Following a healthy diet
- Giving ourselves time to disconnect and rest
- Delegating responsibilities
- Doing Yoga
- Talking to close people about our problems, among others.
- Acceptance of sensations and emotions
In addition, it is important to take a look at which situations in our lives are causing us stress and study how we can face them to solve them or move on.
These types of resources, tools, and solutions are the specialty of psychologists. Whether through a psychological therapy process focused on anxiety and its symptoms or through a therapeutic process of personal growth, we can acquire them and gradually reduce our general levels of anxiety and with it, its symptoms.