Many people with vertigo that I meet feel confused, worried or scared about their vertigo symptoms and ask me if there is a relationship between vertigo and anxiety.

In some cases, it is not clear which came first: the symptoms of vertigo or anxiety.

It almost seems like it is the world’s worst BOGO freebie deal!

For any of those of you who love a good sale, you know that the buy one get one free (BOGO) is a favorite way to get freebies. That sale basically means if we purchase one item, we get a second item for free.

That is what I see in the case of severe vertigo and dizziness.

Patients I meet with severe vertigo and dizziness almost always experience some level of anxiety symptoms. In the case of severe, chronic vertigo and dizziness, feelings of anxiety can result from the vertigo, due to repetitive worrisome thoughts related to the vertigo such as:

  • What is the cause of this?
  • Do I have some kind of brain tumor?
  • When is it going to hit me again?
  • Will I be like this for the rest of my life?
  • How much is this going to cost me?
  • How can I work or drive?
  • Who will pick up my kids?
  • Will my spouse be supportive?
  • Why can’t my doctor figure out what is wrong?
  • Why isn’t anything showing up on any of the tests I had?
  • Will I feel like this forever?

In some cases, the actual vertigo itself neurologically impacts the autonomic nervous system and causes a heightened state of “fight or flight response.” This is called a sympathetic response and feels a lot like anxiety symptoms because it involves a hyper-alert nervous system.

In other cases, people with true anxiety disorders experience symptoms of vertigo or dizziness during panic attacks from holding their breath or hyper-ventilating. Regular steady breathing is very important to prevent dizziness or vertigo during times of heightened anxiety and panic attacks.

In patients with pre-existing anxiety disorders, the symptoms of dizziness and vertigo can make their symptoms of anxiety much worse, sometimes escalating to anxiety-related depression.

The level of anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, but most people I have met with dizziness or vertigo have some level of stress, confusion and worry related to their condition.

Anxiety can actually interrupt the sensory integration process in the central nervous system that is a key to recovering from vertigo and dizziness.

In the next blog, I will share with you some strategies that I have observed my patients use to deal with these uncomfortable feelings. It is important to address symptoms of both the vertigo and anxiety for optimal outcomes.


This blog is provided for informational and educational 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.

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