Types of Dizziness Symptoms

  • By Dizzy & Vertigo Institute
  • April 30, 2021

Not all types of dizziness are created equal. You might be thinking, “Well, what in the world is that supposed to mean? I know what dizziness is and that’s that.”

But there’s actually more to dizziness than you may think.

Vertigo is different from disequilibrium which is different from imbalance, unsteadiness, spatial disorientation, so on and so forth. There are many types of dizziness and knowing what type you have makes a world of difference in getting the proper dizziness treatment.

Types of Dizziness

Dizziness is an umbrella term. This means that it’s used to describe many different sensations we may have. When we “feel off”, we say that we’re dizzy, mostly because we don’t have the exact word to describe what’s going on.

Below are the various types of dizziness we can feel:

  • Vertigo (spinning)
  • Imbalance
  • Disequilibrium
  • Rocking
  • Swaying
  • Light-headedness
  • Walking on clouds
  • Visual disturbance
  • Fuzzy vision
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Wooziness
  • Feeling faint
  • Floating
  • Tendency to fall
  • Unsteadiness
  • Swimming sensation
  • Hypersensitivity to crowded or busy environments
  • Spatial disorientation

Does reading that list help you better understand the type of dizziness you’re feeling?

As you can see, there are many ways we can experience dizziness. Dizziness is like Baskin Robbins – except it’s the 31 flavors of dizziness.

Many of these types of dizziness are self-explanatory. Others not so much.


Vertigo is probably the most misused type of dizziness out of all of them. At some point, we came to describe general dizziness as vertigo. Maybe because it sounds severe, which helps us get our point across how bad our dizziness is. Or maybe because it’s just easier to say. Who knows?

Vertigo is not when your head feels like it’s in the clouds. It’s not when you stand up and get light-headed. Yet, we come across patients describing these symptoms as vertigo all the time.

Very simply, vertigo is a false spinning sensation. It’s a true rotational spin that we feel as if our brains were briefly placed on a merry-go-round.

Imbalance & Unsteadiness

Unsteadiness and imbalance are very similar feelings, but slightly different.

Imbalance is when you cannot figure out the relation between your own body and how you move it. There’s confusion between your motor function and your environment.

Unsteadiness, however, is more along the lines of lacking coordination. Maybe you feel like you have two left feet. Or you’re uncomfortable moving in your own shoes.

Disequilibrium & Spatial Disorientation

Disequilibrium is the sensation of impending fall or of the need to obtain external assistance for proper movement. It is sometimes described that the floor is titled or a feeling of floating.

Spatial disorientation is when you cannot get your bearings right in space. For example, you might misinterpret where a step is or not fully understand how near or far an object is from you.

Treating Dizziness

First and foremost, dizziness is more nuanced than just one term. And as you can see, the types of dizziness can start to sound similar and confusing. On your own, it’s hard to determine exactly what you’re feeling. But with the help of a vestibular specialist, we can pin down exactly what you’re feeling and how to treat it.

Know your symptoms! The more detail you can have in describing exactly what your dizziness feels like, the better chance you have at getting properly treated.

Your case history informs us of who the best specialist is to treat your dizziness… because a vestibular specialist may not always be the doctor you need. 

For instance, if your dizziness feels more like frequent lightheadedness, then you might have something as benign as low blood pressure or dehydration. Very treatable by any general physician.

That’s why we start all of our consultations with dizzy patients by working through a deep conversation around their symptoms. We’re listening for these different types of dizziness to know what we might need to test for.

If certain symptoms come up that are associated with inner ear dizziness, then we’ll put the patient through the battery of vestibular tests. In some cases, though, you might really need a neurologist or cardiovascular specialist.

If you or someone you know experiences what they describe as dizziness, then please reach out to our clinic – The Dizzy & Vertigo Institute.

You can call our office at (310) 954-2207 or you can schedule an appointment here.

Our balance specialists know exactly what questions to ask in order to get you on the right track.

We offer telehealth and in-person visits, so there’s something for everyone no matter where you are in the United States.

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