Can Stress Cause Dizziness or Vertigo?

  • By Dizzy & Vertigo Institute
  • May 31, 2021

Our fast-paced lives and general lack of coping mechanisms bring on a lot of unwanted stress. As if stress alone weren’t exhausting enough, it can also bring on other symptoms. For example, dizziness. Those who notice that their stress and dizziness go together like peas and carrots might be left wondering: can stress cause dizziness? Can stress cause vertigo?

In our clinic, The Dizzy & Vertigo Institute of Los Angeles, between 25-50% of our vestibular patients report frequent anxiety. So stress and anxiety are very common among dizzy patients. But which causes which?

Can Stress Cause Vertigo?

There is some evidence that prolonged stress and anxiety can actually lead to a specific vestibular disorder: BPPV (which is the most common cause of vertigo).

A 2016 study found that people with anxiety disorders were about two times more likely to develop benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) than people without anxiety disorders

Although it’s still too early to make the judgment about whether stress can lead to developing a vertigo-inducing condition, such as BPPV. There is a link between them.

But remember, vertigo is just one kind of dizziness. Therefore, the better question is: Can stress cause dizziness?

Can Stress Cause Dizziness?

In a way, yes. Stress causes our bodies to go into Fight or Flight mode. During these moments, our bodies release stress hormones including cortisol, which can negatively impact other signals in the brain from being transmitted.

The vestibular system is in a constant state of creating our balance and always communicating with different parts of the brain and body.

During heightened stress, these channels of communication in the brain might not operate perfectly, thus, confusing our vestibular system and leading to dizziness.

Scientifically speaking, it’s possible that stress can cause dizziness.

However, it’s more likely that stress is aggravating another condition you have. And that condition might include symptoms of dizziness or vertigo.

For example, one of the many symptoms of vestibular migraine is dizziness. And stress is one of the top 5 triggers of vestibular migraine episodes.

Therefore, stress can trigger a vestibular migraine attack, which brings dizziness with it.

In other words, stress doesn’t necessarily cause dizziness. But stress can trigger the symptoms of other conditions you have. And if those conditions have symptoms of dizziness, then stress might have a domino effect into a dizziness flare-up.

This should come as no surprise since prolonged stress, in general, has a negative impact on many of our bodily systems.

But what about the other way around?

Can Dizziness Cause Stress?

Of course! Being thrown into periodic dizziness fits is not relaxing by any means. Living in fear of a dizziness attack at work, functions with friends, or just on the day-to-day can bring about a lot of anxiety.

So, can stress cause dizziness? Not entirely conclusive.

But can dizziness cause stress? Absolutely.

Regardless, there’s a link between stress, anxiety, and dizziness. This is why treating dizziness properly, often includes treating a patient’s stress as well.

Treating Stress & Dizziness

First and foremost, when treating a patient for their dizziness, we always work first on determining the etiology (cause) of a patient’s dizziness. Diagnosing the root cause is so crucial, as this is where many problems stem from.

Once we understand the root cause, we can begin designing a multidisciplinary treatment plan.

At our clinic, we emphasize the need to treat all facets leading to one’s dizziness. Along with finding out what’s going wrong in a patient’s vestibular system, we also assist in a patient’s diet, their thinking, their lifestyle, and many other areas of life that could contribute to dizziness.

If all of these areas aren’t addressed, it’s far too easy to find yourself in a downward spiral of symptoms.

Frequent dizzy spells cause a lot of stress in your life. Prolonged stress and the fear of another dizzy attack leads you to make worse lifestyle choices such as eating worse and abstaining from your favorite activities. This in turn can lead to depression and hopelessness, which might make you feel like there’s no treatment out there that can help.

The downward spiral of symptoms is very common. It’s vicious. And you might feel as though you’re in this downward spiral now.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate stress entirely.

But there are coping mechanisms we can help improve through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We can help you learn how to deal with stressful environments where your dizziness tends to pop up.

For every ounce of stress, we need an ounce of rest and recovery. Prolonged stress weakens many of the systems in the body and the vestibular system is not immune to stress.

What Now?

If you’ve noticed that during times of stress in your life, you also get dizziness or vertigo, then we welcome you to seek treatment from the Dizzy & Vertigo Institute of Los Angeles.

We want to help find and treat the root cause of your dizziness, while also building your defenses against stress so that you aren’t living in fear of your next stressful dizziness moment.

You can reach our care coordinator by phone at (310) 954-2207 or you can schedule an appointment with us here.

We offer telehealth and in-person visits.

So no matter where you are in the United States, we’re equipped to help you get back to a dizzy-free life.

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