Have you ever felt like the world is spinning around you? If so, that sensation is called vertigo and it can be caused by conditions such as viral infections or the formation of calcium carbonate crystals in your inner ear, the part of your body which controls your balance. However, stress and anxiety can also play a part in vertigo. Here is an overview of how this can happen.

Stress and Anxiety Affecting the Vestibular System

The vestibular system is found inside your inner ear. It is what controls your body’s stability (balance). When stress and anxiety affect you, they can cause a disturbance to that system, which in turn will create a sense of dizziness called vertigo. Physically, this happens when a large amount of stress hormones is released inside you, impacting the transmission of neural information travelling from the vestibular system to your brain.

One of the first effect of stress and anxiety is that it modifies the way you breathe. It usually increases its speed. That can also make you dizzy, and if uncontrolled, you can literally faint. This is why it is so important to learn breathing techniques, that will help you regain control of yourself, in moments of high stress and anxiety. These techniques are available online on sites like intermittent-breathing.com.

The Physical Effects of Stress and Anxiety on Vertigo

Stress hormones, including cortisol, disrupt ion channels found in the nerves. It also negatively affects the neurotransmission in your brain. But they are not alone in the impairment they create. Other chemicals, such as histamine and neurosteroids are also released, when you suffer from stress and anxiety, and they have the same effects as the cortisol.

A 2016 retrospective study, that looked back on a 9-year period. It followed two groups of 7,750 individuals each, with one suffering from anxiety disorders. The study showed that people suffering from anxiety disorders were 2.17 times more inclined to suffer from the most common type of vertigo, called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

What are the Common Signs of Vertigo?

A person suffering from vertigo will suddenly find himself unsteady. His head will feel lighter, and he may think that he is about to faint (which is indeed possible). Vertigo, if uncontrolled, will also cause headaches. The most severe ones will turn into migraines, that may lead to vomiting.

When someone is going through vertigo, he may have difficulties to hear well, but also to see where he is going, due to abnormal eye movements. This will in turn cause mobility issues, as the coordination of the body becomes poor.

If you suffer from vertigo, make sure to learn breathing techniques, to help you in moments of crisis, and tell your physician about it.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Can Vertigo be Caused by Stress and Anxiety?," in Medicalopedia, November 11, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9368/can-vertigo-be-caused-by-stress-and-anxiety/].