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Can Stress Cause Dizziness?

Your breathing becomes shallow. Your palms start to sweat. Your heart is racing.

All these are common and easily recognizable physical signs of stress and anxiety. But there's another symptom that can arise when we're feeling stressed, and it's not one that many people mention or worry about--dizziness.

Dizziness, or vertigo as it's also referred to, is a lightheaded, woozy sensation that can leave you feeling more than a little disorientated. It can be easy to brush away since it usually subsides after a minute or two.

But what are some reasons that it can occur? And can stress cause dizziness? Keep reading to learn all about the connection between dizziness and stress.

What Is Dizziness?

As a child, you likely experienced dizziness after running around in circles or spinning on the merry-go-round at the local playground. Nowadays, you might feel a little lightheaded or dizzy at times when you stand up too fast after sitting or crouching down.

Dizziness is a general term used to describe a range of sensations such as feeling unsteady, faint, weak, or woozy. The term vertigo is a specific kind of dizziness. Vertigo gives you a false sense that either you, the ground beneath your feet, or your surroundings are moving or spinning.

But dizziness is a symptom rather than a diagnosis. As such, the reasons that you can suddenly experience dizziness are wide and varied.

The Causes of Dizziness

In around 85 percent of cases, dizziness occurs due to an impairment in the vestibular system. Your vestibular system is the organ in your inner ear responsible for controlling your balance. It comprises three semi-circular canals filled with fluid and tiny hairs.

When you turn your head, the hairs detect the movement of the fluid. They then send a signal to the brain for visual confirmation. But sometimes these signals don't match, which causes the sensation of dizziness.

Imagine that you're holding a full glass of water and you suddenly stand up or start twirling around. You'd be likely to spill some of the liquid. In the same way, sudden movements can upset the delicate balance of your vestibular system. And if only for a short time, this can lead to various kinds of malfunctions.

Infections, certain medications, and traumatic brain injuries can also cause disruptions to the vestibular system. Likewise, an impairment or imbalance in the vestibular system can also be one of the effects of stress.

Understanding Stress and Its Effects

Stress is any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological tension. It acts as your body's response to anything that you need to pay attention to or act on.

Everyone experiences stress to some degree. But it's your body's response to stress that makes the biggest difference to your continuing well-being and health.

Stress as a Motivator

While we think of stress as something bad, a certain amount of it is necessary to motivate and inspire us. Without stress, human beings wouldn't have survived as a species. And we definitely wouldn't have any ambition or desire to do anything difficult or risky.

But we often reframe positive stress as excitement or determination. And any nerves we feel when acting on this positive stress are considered a sign of an event's significance in our lives. Or a driving force in our resolution to achieve it.

This kind of positive, motivational stress is often event-specific and fleeting. For example, you might feel nervous about giving a musical performance or going on a date. But once the moment has passed, the stress dissipates and your functions return to normal.

Chronic Stress

Life is all about balance and too much of anything is never a good thing. And this is especially true with stress.

When a stressful situation extends or the amount of stress becomes excessive, the physical and psychological effects it causes can have an adverse effect on your health. As a result, chronic stress can play a part in many health problems, from depression and anxiety to heart problems and asthma.

Although we see stress as something that happens in the brain, its effects can ripple through the body to cause all kinds of physical reactions and conditions. And dizziness can be one of them.

Can Stress Cause Dizziness?

When you experience chronic stress, elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol flood your nervous system. These hormones may then disrupt the ion channels in your nerves. And all this has a negative impact on the transmission of information from your vestibular system to your brain.

As well as stress hormones, your body releases other chemicals such as histamine and neurosteroids when you’re stressed. These can also have an impact on the signals between your vestibular system and your brain.

Based on this information, we could conclude that stress causes dizziness. But we mustn't rule out another possibility--that stress aggravates other related conditions which include dizziness as one of their symptoms.

For example, dizziness is one of the many symptoms of vestibular migraine. And stress is one of the leading triggers of a vestibular migraine episode. This means that stress can trigger a migraine, which can then lead to dizziness as one of the symptoms.

That said, there's evidence that shows how prolonged stress may lead to Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BBPV is a specific vestibular disorder and the most common cause of vertigo. So if you were wondering, "can stress cause vertigo?", the answer may be yes.

The study in question found that people with stress and anxiety disorders were around twice as likely to develop BPPV than people without these disorders. While this may not be a causal relationship, this research does show a clear link between dizziness and stress.

What to Do About Feeling Dizzy When Stressed

If you're especially sensitive to stress--even the more positive, motivational kind--you might be more likely to get dizzy in moments of tension or pressure. And if dizziness or sensations of vertigo are a common occurrence, it could be time to take these dizzy spells more seriously. Here are some actions that could help:

Record Your Symptoms

One way to establish how your body reacts to stress or what the causes of your dizziness might be is to record your symptoms. This can take the form of a simple journal where you note down each dizzy spell.

Details might include what caused you to become stressed and/or dizzy, how long the dizzy spell lasted, and some of the specific symptoms that you felt at the time. You can then show this to your healthcare provider to discuss together.

Take Time for Self-Care

Your lifestyle can have a big impact on your stress levels as well as how you handle stress when it comes along. Making a conscious effort to prioritize self-care can help with both of these. Self-care can look different for every individual but some effective options include meditation, regular exercise, and maintaining good sleep habits.

Try Counseling

One of the most effective approaches for dealing with chronic stress is therapy. Talking to a mental health counselor can help you work through any issues that may be worsening your stress. Your counselor will also help you establish ways to manage stress and any symptoms it may lead to, including dizziness.

Alternatively, these helpful resources may help point you in the right direction if you're not sure where to go for the help you need.

Seek Medical Help

Prescription medications for stress and anxiety can be effective tools for managing stress. If stress is at the root of the dizziness you're experiencing, reducing your stress levels should reduce your dizzy spells too. If your dizziness persists, though, you may want to seek specialized medical help for dizziness and vertigo.

Your Guide to the Link Between Dizziness and Stress

If you've ever wondered, "can stress cause dizziness?", this informative guide should have answered all your questions and more.

Often, we can underestimate the impact that stress can have on the body. Stress can act as a positive driving force that compels us to succeed and achieve things despite feeling nervous or uncomfortable.

But too much stress can have many negative effects on the body. And, as some research suggests, dizziness can be one of the many physical effects of stress. Rather than a direct cause-and-effect relationship between dizziness and stress, it may be more helpful to recognize the domino effect that stress can have on your health in general.

Regardless of the connection between the two, whether you're struggling with stress, dizziness, or both, you need to seek help. For more information on mental health issues, our work, and more, contact us here at Legionary Mental Health today.

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