Stress can have a dramatic impact on our physical health, triggering all sorts of symptoms and making many medical conditions worse. One issue that is often attributed to stress is vertigo, but is it really true that being stressed could cause this symptom?
What is Vertigo?
The term vertigo refers to the sensation that you or your surroundings are spinning or tilting, even though everything is actually stationary. It can make you feel sick, dizzy and unbalanced. The symptoms may only last for a few seconds but can last for days at a time.
Vertigo is a symptom that can happen for many different reasons. Sometimes it can be linked to an underlying condition such as a heart arrhythmia or blood pressure problems. It can also be caused by conditions affecting the balance structures in the inner ear, including infections and Meniere’s disease. However, there isn’t always a physical cause for vertigo. Sometimes it seems to be linked to our emotions instead.
How Can Emotions Trigger Vertigo?
The physical causes of vertigo can trigger this symptom by interfering with the balance organs in the inner ear or by affecting the blood supply to your brain, which can make you feel lightheaded and dizzy. Emotional triggers can cause vertigo in a slightly different way.
You may have heard of the flight or fight response, which is triggered by stressful, worrying or frightening situations. It happens because our adrenaline levels go up in response to these types of situations. Adrenaline activates the autonomic nervous system, which prepares our bodies to run away or fight back if we need to. It speeds up our heartbeat and breathing, dilates our eyes and makes us more alert. It can also cause unpleasant side effects such as unsteadiness, dizziness and vertigo.
You can experience these effects if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. These emotions can trigger the symptoms of an underlying issue such as an inner ear condition, but they can also cause vertigo by themselves.
What Can You Do?
If you’ve been experiencing vertigo frequently, it’s very severe, or it doesn’t go away then you should see an ENT specialist. The doctor will check for any underlying causes and recommend treatment if necessary.
You can also take steps to reduce and manage your stress. This should help whether the vertigo is entirely stress-induced or if there is an underlying condition that is being triggered by stress.
- Try to eliminate sources of stress if you can, for example by taking more time off to relax or asking your family to help out more at home
- Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep as tiredness can take a big toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing
- Eat well and exercise regularly as good health can improve your mood as well as your physical wellbeing
- Relieve stress by talking about it, enjoying a warm bath, doing an activity you find fun, or using relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation
- See your GP if you’re feeling very stressed, anxious or depressed