Can Anxiety Cause Vertigo

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Advices

Do you ever feel dizzy, unstable on your feet, or lightheaded despite having no medical condition that might be causing your vertigo?

Yes, this can be your anxiety.

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What Exactly is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a sensation that causes you to feel off balance. You might feel as if you or the world are spinning around despite everything being in reality. Your legs may feel weak and wobbly, and you may have trouble thinking clearly.

Vertigo can be caused by inner ear issues, Meniere’s disease, brain problems, head or neck injuries, migraines, or certain medications.

However, although this connection might not be immediately apparent, anxiety can occasionally cause vertigo and dizziness (a sense of lightheadedness, unsteadiness, and faintness).

How Anxiety Causes Vertigo: The Relationship Between the Mind and the Body

Anxiety is a complex condition that can catch you off guard, manifesting in unexpected ways. So, yes, anxiety can cause vertigo in several ways. Here are some of them.

Increased Sensitivity

An essential part of the stress response is making our senses and nervous system more sensitive to better defend ourselves against danger.

So, anxiety frequently causes you to be more sensitive to bodily sensations. Normal body sensations like your heartbeat or breathing might feel much more intense and confusing when you are under an anxiety attack.

You may experience sensory overload, too. Your hearing and skin might become more sensitive; things may taste stronger than usual or smell more penetrating.

Your emotions may also seem much more intense than usual. This intensity and your negative interpretation of these sensations can make you feel emotionally unsteady, causing the subjective feeling of dizziness.

Stress Hormones

When we feel anxious, our system activates the stress response. So, anxiety reactions start in the amygdala, a part of the limbic system in the brain that triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response. When we experience stress and anxiety, our bodies release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, preparing our bodies to deal with a threat.

These chemicals start various psychological and physiological reactions that may result in vertigo.

Stress hormones activate your autonomic nervous system and increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure and increased sensitivity to physical sensations may trigger vertigo.


When anxious, you might hyperventilate and start breathing shallowly and rapidly.

Hyperventilation disturbs the body’s average balance of gases, leading to a drop in carbon dioxide levels in the blood. The reduced level of carbon dioxide in the blood falls, affecting the function of brain cells and causing temporary dizziness, nausea, and prickling skin sensations. Anxiety may also cause low blood pressure or hypotension through hyperventilation, indirectly causing dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.

Muscle Tension

When you feel excessively worried or afraid, your muscles can tense up, especially those in your neck and shoulders. This muscle tension can make it harder for blood to get to the brain and inner ear, which could make you feel unbalanced and dizzy.

Vasovagal Syncope

Anxiety can sometimes trigger vasovagal syncope, a sudden blood pressure and heart rate drop. This could make you feel lightheaded and disoriented or even cause you to pass out.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks that sometimes accompany anxiety can significantly contribute to vertigo. Amidst a panic attack, your body goes into overdrive, filling you with adrenaline and other stress chemicals. This heightened level of arousal might give the impression that the earth is moving out from under you, which can be disorienting.

Panic episodes typically come out of nowhere and become very strong very quickly. This might result in a feedback loop where the vertigo makes you worry more, and then that worry makes the vertigo even worse.

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4 Self-Help Strategies for Managing Anxiety-Induced Vertigo


Here are some strategies to consider if you experience vertigo caused by anxiety:

1.     Breathing exercises

Deep, belly breathing can regulate the carbon dioxide levels in your blood, relieve the tension in your body, and help you feel calm and relaxed.

2.     Regular exercise

Physical activity may provide a distraction, boost the production of “feel good” hormones, reduce anxiety, and improve your overall sense of balance.

3.     Hydration

Dehydration may exacerbate dizziness, so drink plenty of water throughout the day. In addition, caffeine and alcohol can contribute to dehydration, triggering or worsening vertigo. 

4.     Rest

Getting enough sleep may ease anxiety and reduce feelings of unsteadiness and dizziness.

However, if your experience with anxiety-induced vertigo feels overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek support from healthcare professionals.

To support the work of the people working on, we may receive compensation if you sign up for online counseling through the links provided.

Looking for a therapist? Get matched with a therapist today.


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