Can stress cause dizziness?

Stress is one of the most prevalent psychological problems in the world. The vast majority of people will experience episodes of high stress and anxiety at some point in their life which, to a greater or lesser extent, will affect their mental and physical health.

Indeed, stress and anxiety can cause physical alterations, although in many cases even those affected do not know how to view the relationship.. Their stress can manifest itself in all kinds of intestinal discomfort, pain, coronary problems …

All these problems are linked to a strong activity of our body so we come to a question which goes in the other direction, that is to say the “deactivation” Can stress cause dizziness? What about loss of consciousness? Let’s see below.

    Is it possible that high stress levels cause dizziness?

    Stress is an emotion that puts us under stress, both physically and emotionally. This state occurs when we perceive a threat that can endanger our physical and mental integrity. Our bodies prepare to face this potential danger, preparing to emit one of two responses: fight or flight. The problem is, if the stress persists for a long time and gradually turns into anxiety, it can go from an adaptive reaction to a dysfunctional problem.

    Stress, if not properly reduced or treated, can give us many physical problems.. Indeed, stress does not only tire us emotionally, causing us to feel worry, fear or even sadness and hopelessness. Stress can develop into intestinal discomfort, rapid heartbeat and breathing, spasms, sweating, and tremors.

    All of these symptoms have an easily visible relationship to stress. Due to the great stress that we put on our body when we are in a state of stress, our body reacts by going “on the attack”. However, surprising as it may seem, it is this same stress that can cause us to emit a response quite opposite to that of fight and flight, causing us to lose our capacity for reaction and even consciousness: Dizziness.

    By psychogenic dizziness or vertigo we mean a psychosomatic phenomenon that occurs very often, caused by subjecting the body to very high stress. When we are stressed, our body invests a lot of energy in various structures, especially the heart, lungs and muscles.So, over time and in case the stress has not been reduced, the person ends up depleting their energies and, as a result, dizziness and fainting.

    Although the relationship between body and mind has been known for a long time, doctors often do not consider anxiety as a possible cause for dizziness, focusing only on purely physiological aspects such as disease of the vestibular system. , drug use or brain damage. All of these causes should be the ones to look at first and treat if necessary. However, in the event that their cause is unknown, the possibility of a psychological problem behind them should be considered.

    At other times, it is possible that this dizziness is due to stress. However, far from going to a psychologist so that the patient learns ways to manage his problem is prescribed anxiolytics to reduce symptoms but not to end the real problem. This runs the risk of the patient abusing the drugs and, if it is necessary to stop the pharmacological treatment, these dizziness reappears very intensely.

      How do they happen?

      Unlike dizziness or neurological damage associated with the drug, stress-related dizziness can occur due to two factors: hyperventilation and vasovagal presyncope.


      Hyperventilation is one of the most obvious symptoms when we are stressed. this one it happens when we breathe quickly, which causes oxygen to rise in the blood. As a result, it can give a feeling of suffocation, combined with numbness in the limbs and possibly produce lightheadedness and vertigo.

      When we are in the middle of a stress attack, we can find ourselves very scared, which makes us breathe even faster. However, strange as it sounds, you don’t need to know that you are stressed out for hyperventilation to occur. It may happen that the person has a good time breathing quickly because, being almost always stressed, it has become a habit. Because he doesn’t realize it, he doesn’t try to calm down and the chances of getting dizzy increase.

      Vasovagal presyncope

      Presyncope is the feeling of attenuation of consciousness, without however losing it completely. this symptom not to be confused with faintness, in which there is a slight loss of consciousness.

      A situation which causes hyperstimulation of the vagus nerve can lead to reduced heart rate and dilation of blood vessels by stimulation of the parasympathetic system. By reducing the heart rate, which is less than 60 beats (normal is 60 to 100), less blood reaches the brain, which draws less oxygen to the brain and leads to partial or complete loss of consciousness.


      In itself, dizziness due to stress or psychogenic dizziness is not dangerous, although it can be experienced in a particularly distressing and even traumatic way. They can precede a panic attack and make the person believe they are dying. This is why it is so important for the person to see a psychologist to deal with the underlying anxiety.Learn techniques for dealing with it and strategies for gaining some control when the dizziness occurs.

      As we have seen previously, it must first be confirmed that this dizziness is not due to medical problems, especially brain damage, problems with the vestibular system or drug use. After it has been confirmed that no such problem occurs, it is best to undergo psychological therapy, explaining to the psychologist what a normal day in the patient’s life looks like. what things are worrying you and what to think about when you suffer from dizziness and panic attacks.

      You can also go to the psychiatrist if necessary and if the dizziness is still too frequent and intense. The pharmacological pathways to treat the anxiety behind the dizziness are SSRIs, sulpiride (an antipsychotic), low-potency neuroleptics, or certain short-acting benzodiazepines. Despite these pharmacological options, it should be understood that anxiety is not a problem that arises simply due to the deregulation of neurotransmitters such as cortisol and histamine, but because the patient has an extremely stressful life.

      For this reason, with and without the help of pharmacological treatment, the patient will go to psychotherapy where he will be psychoeducated, preferably with cognitive behavioral therapy and specialized treatments to treat anxiety disorders. The patient may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or even social phobia., Diagnoses whose symptoms include dizziness.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Balaban, CD and Thayer, JF (2001). Neurological basis of balance and anxiety links. J Anxiety disorder, 15 (1-2), p. 53-79.
      • Daughter, HL (2010). Relationship between anxiety disorders and inner ear disorders. Rev.Fac.Med. 58 (1): 60-70.
      • Furman, JM, Balaban CD and Jacob, RG (2001) Interphase between vestibular dysfunction and anxiety: more than just psychogenicity. Otol Neurotol., 22 (3): p. 426-7.
      • Morris, EL (2010). Dizziness due to anxiety. American Physiotherapy Association, Neurology Section.
      • Saman, Y. and. At. (2012) Interactions between stress and vestibular compensation: a review. Frontal neurol; 3: 116.

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