The level of anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, but anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States. In order for people to have the most complete recovery from vertigo and anxiety, their level of stress and symptoms of anxiety must be addressed.
Most people have some level of nervousness, confusion and worry about their symptoms of vertigo or dizziness, while other people have clinical anxiety disorders diagnosed by a physician, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that are caused by their vertigo, associated with their vertigo onset or began at a completely separate time.
I have seen a number of things that work successfully for different people to reduce their level of stress and worry, such as steady breathing into the belly through the nose.
Mouth breathing into the upper chest signals to the nervous system to get activated, while nose breathing into the lower belly signals the nervous system to calm down.
Journaling to monitor thoughts has helped some of my patients, as well as professional mental health therapy with a psychologist or social worker.
Prayer and meditation on scripture have also worked for a number of my patients who have a spiritual or religious belief system.
Ways to Treat Vertigo and Anxiety
I have met many patients who felt the use of essential oils in a mist diffuser calmed their nervous system, such as lavender or peppermint oil. Other patients learned they were allergic to essential oils and diffusing oils worsened their vertigo and anxiety symptoms.
Some people choose dietary changes such as reducing their caffeine and stimulant intake to help their nervous system calm down. Proper sleep and exercise are also helpful to stabilize the mental and emotional state.
But in some cases, the symptoms require pharmacological intervention to take the edge off and support the recovery.
My patients have experienced relief from symptoms of anxiety with both natural herbal supplements recommended by an herbalist, and prescription medication recommended by a medical doctor. Keep in mind that herbal supplements are not regulated by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA), so caution should always be taken when purchasing herbal supplements.
Some medications that I’ve seen people successfully use for vertigo and anxiety include Valium or Xanax in the short term, and anti-anxiety medications such as Lexapro for more long term use.
Keep in mind that some anti-anxiety medications are addictive, so it’s important to work with a physician to make sure you’re taking the right amount at the right time and that you come off it the right way when you’re ready.
Other anti-anxiety medications need to be tapered up and taper down with the supervision of a physician, so it’s important that you find a psychiatrist or primary care doctor who is well-versed in these types of medications.
They do affect mood and your cognition, so they have been linked with falls in older adults. Anti-anxiety medications are also linked with hip fractures in people over 65, so physician supervision is extremely important for older adults with anxiety disorders.
The success of all these strategies varies with each individual patient and their unique circumstances.
Anxiety medications may be needed for some people in order to tolerate vestibular physical therapy (VRT) treatment for vertigo. Medications can be used to prevent panic attacks during vertigo treatments.
For people who are already on medications for anxiety, it is not a good idea to try to come off of regular anti-anxiety medication during a vertigo episode. I had one patient who unintentionally let her anxiety medication run out while she was in the middle of a vertigo attack. She had a very tough time with the vertigo recovery until she got her anxiety medications refilled.
One thing I know for sure is that failing to address the symptoms of anxiety usually leads to worse outcomes in the recovery from dizziness and vertigo.
For more strategies on alleviating stress and anxiety, especially related to PTSD, click here.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.