Does Stress Cause Vertigo? Uncover the Link

Feeling like the room spins when it’s not can be scary. This feeling is called vertigo. It makes people feel like they might fall. Some says stress can set off this spinning feeling, especially in those with anxiety.

Many adults deal with bouts of vertigo or dizziness yearly, but stress isn’t always the cause. It does, however, act like a switch, turning on these dizzy spells.

Vertigo comes from a problem in the body’s way of keeping balance. It all starts in the ears. Stress messes with this balance system, making the world seem like it’s spinning around you.

When this happens, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This makes your heart race and your breathing pick up. Too much cortisol confuses the messages in your ears. The brain then thinks you’re moving when you’re not. So, you feel like everything is spinning or you’re about to fall.

Dealing with vertigo can be hard and really lower your quality of life. Anxiety and stress can make you feel dizzy too. And worrying about when the next dizzy spell may come only adds to your stress. But, there are ways to fight back against stress-related vertigo.

Learning about why vertigo happens and how to handle stress can make a big difference. It can help people find ways to feel better and more in control.

Key Takeaways

  • Stress does not directly cause vertigo, but it can trigger symptoms.
  • High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can disrupt the signals from the inner ear to the brain, leading to vertigo.
  • Anxiety and the physical symptoms of stress, such as muscle tension and headaches, can also contribute to vertigo episodes.
  • Relaxation techniques, lifestyle modifications, and seeking support can help manage stress-related vertigo.
  • If vertigo is accompanied by severe symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention.

Understanding Vertigo

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a type of dizziness. It makes you feel like you or the world is spinning. It’s not a medical condition by itself. Instead, it’s a symptom of many things.

These causes can be viral infections or even tiny crystals in your inner ear. Problems with balance inside your ear are usually to blame. But sometimes, issues in the brain can also cause vertigo. Certain head movements, migraines, ear infections, or a nerve inflammation can trigger it.

Prevalence of Vertigo

About 5 percent of grown-ups in America get vertigo. Many feel it when they are stressed. Vertigo makes you feel like your world is spinning or dropping, even though nothing is moving.

This can make people feel very dizzy. Some might only feel a bit unsteady. Others could get so dizzy that they feel sick.

The Connection Between Stress and Vertigo

Stress can start vertigo or make it worse for some people. Stress causes your body to release certain hormones. These can mess with the inner ear that helps you with balance and knowing where you are.

When stress makes your body release too much cortisol, it can stop your brain from getting the right signals about balance. This can lead to feeling dizzy or like the world is spinning around you. It’s all connected.

How Stress Impacts the Vestibular System

These hormones mess with the way your nerves work and how messages travel in your mind. Stress also makes your body create histamine and neurosteroids. These can also mess up the messages between your ear and brain.

Feeling stressed can make your muscles tight in areas like your neck and shoulders. This can cause headaches and other pains. It may also lessen blood flow to your brain. This could make you feel even more dizzy.

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The Role of Hormones and Neurotransmitters

Stress makes your body pump out more cortisol. This makes your heart and breathing go faster. Too much cortisol can stop your ear from telling your brain where you are. And that’s when vertigo can start.

So, finding ways to handle your stress is important. It can help avoid feeling dizzy and off balance.

does stress cause vertigo

Stress can start vertigo or make it worse for some. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones. These can mess with the inner ear, impacting balance and orientation. High stress can make it hard for your brain to get ear signals right. This disturbance can lead to a feeling of vertigo.

Stress really affects both your mind and body. Handling stress poorly can lower your life’s joy. It can make you forgetful, nauseous, and give you stomach pains. Sometimes, it may also lead to vertigo.

Identifying Vertigo Triggers

Vertigo can have many causes, but often it’s due to inner ear balance problems. Head movements and some illnesses like migraines can start it. So can issues in the brain or inner ear infections.

Common Vertigo Triggers

About 5 percent of U.S. adults get vertigo. In most of those cases, the trouble starts in the vestibular system. Vertigo’s common triggers include:

  • Migraines
  • Inner ear infections
  • Vestibular neuritis (viral inflammation of the vestibular nerve)
  • Menière’s disease (fluid buildup in the inner ear)
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), the most common cause of vertigo, which happens when tiny crystals mess up signals to the brain
  • Vestibular migraine episodes
  • Cholesteatoma (noncancerous ear skin growth)

Stress and Anxiety as Triggers

Stress and anxiety can make vertigo worse. Your body makes certain chemicals when you’re stressed. These can change how your inner ear works. Anxiety symptoms, like tight muscles, can also bring on vertigo. For some, the trigger might be getting anxious from being in big crowds or traffic.

People with anxiety disorders have more risk of BPPV. About 5% of stressed or anxious U.S. adults get vertigo.

Managing Stress to Reduce Vertigo Episodes

To stop stress-induced vertigo, lower stress in your daily life. Use relaxation techniques like calming music and funny activities. Meditation and gentle workouts can also reduce stress and vertigo symptoms.

Relaxation Techniques

Trying relaxation methods for vertigo is helpful. Practice deep breathing, yoga, and staying mindful. Talking to a friend or family member about what’s bothering you can also ease stress.

Lifestyle Modifications

Changing your habits can be good for vertigo. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Keep yourself hydrated and rest when feeling off. If stress is a big issue, therapists might offer helpful advice or sessions.

Seeking Support

Knowing how to deal with manage stress-related vertigo is important. Support from family, calming activities, and a healthy life help. They lessen stress’s harm on your balance and may stop future vertigo.

Coping During a Vertigo Attack

If you have a vertigo attack, be careful. Try to be in a quiet, dark room and lie still. This can make the spinning and feeling sick go away.

Safety Measures

During a vertigo attack, falling is a big risk. It’s safer to sit or lie down until it gets better. Don’t move your head too quickly. This can make the vertigo worse.

Head Movement Precautions

Quick head movements can cause a vertigo attack. So, if you feel dizzy, be slow and gentle. Avoid turning your head fast or looking up suddenly. This helps you feel less dizzy.

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Vestibular Rehabilitation Exercises

Your doctor might suggest special exercises to help with vertigo. These activities teach your brain to deal better with movement. They include moving your eyes, your head, and keeping your gaze steady. Doing these can make you more stable and lessen how often you get vertigo attacks.

Vertigo attacks can be quick or last a long time. But, with care and the right advice, you can handle them better. This way, you might prevent accidents and stay safer.

When to Seek Medical Attention

It’s smart to go see a doctor if you have bad, unknown, or always coming back dizziness. You should also go if you feel dizzy and then faint, have seizures, or find breathing hard. Or, if your chest hurts with the dizziness. Doctors use a test called Dix-Hallpike to check for vertigo. They move you in a way that might bring on your dizziness. Then, they watch your eyes for certain movements to know if it’s vertigo.

Doctors might tell you to take certain medicines to feel better. They might also say to stay away from things that make the dizziness worse. If the dizziness keeps happening or lasts a long time, talk to a doctor. This could be a sign of another problem. Sometimes, stress can make vertigo worse. In these cases, talking to a counselor might help.

The Mind-Body Connection in Vertigo

Just like stress, anxiety can cause vertigo sometimes, but it’s not very common. Since anxiety and stress have similar symptoms, they can both lead to vertigo. Symptoms like tight muscles or headaches can make you feel dizzy.

Too much anxiety makes your body react a lot, which can make you feel lightheaded or shake. This can lead to vertigo if it gets really intense. Sometimes too much stress makes it feel like your body and mind stop working. This surge and sudden fall of cortisol can cause intense vertigo too.

The Impact of Anxiety on Vertigo

Anxiety often goes hand in hand with vertigo, making stress a big trigger. In a 2016 study, those with anxiety were over 2 times more likely to get BPPV. This shows how closely linked anxiety and vertigo can be.

Psychotherapy as a Treatment Option

If anxiety is causing your vertigo, talking to a therapist might help. They can teach you ways to cope with both your fears and the physical symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to help with dizziness.

Other Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo has many causes, not just stress and anxiety. It mainly happens when your inner ear has trouble keeping your balance right. But, problems in the brain can also make you feel dizzy. Things like sudden head turns, migraines, ear infections, or nerve inflammation can trigger it.

Sometimes, a virus can infect the nerves in your ear, causing vertigo. This makes it hard for your ear to send the right signals to your brain. Another infection, labyrinthitis, affects how your ears and brain communicate. Meniere’s disease, on the other hand, happens when fluid builds up in your ear, leading to dizzy spells, hearing loss, or ear ringing.

BPPV is the top cause of vertigo. It happens when tiny crystals interfere with how your ear sends messages to your brain. Vestibular migraine is when vertigo hits during a migraine, but experts don’t know why exactly this happens.

Vertigo can also start after a head, neck, or brain injury. Symptoms like dizziness, feeling faint, upset stomach, and throwing up might follow. Sometimes, seeing a chiropractor could help by aligning your spine better.

Remember, stress and worry can make vertigo worse. But it’s good to also know about these other reasons. If your dizzy spells won’t stop, get checked by a doctor. They can figure out what’s at the root of your vertigo and help you manage it.

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The link between stress and vertigo is strong. Stress can start vertigo problems or make them worse for some people. When you’re stressed, your body makes hormones like cortisol. These can mess with the part of your ear that helps you balance and know where you are.

This can mess up the way your brain gets info from your ears. It makes you feel like the room is spinning, which is vertigo. Anxiety can make this worse by causing tense muscles and changing how blood moves around. So, finding ways to manage stress and anxiety is really important.

There are lots of ways to do this. You can try relaxation techniques, change your lifestyle, and talk to mental health experts. They can all help you deal with stress-related vertigo better.

Vertigo might not always come from stress, though. So, it’s smart to see a doctor if you have dizzy spells that keep coming back or if they come with other worrisome signs. With the right help, you can fight stress-related vertigo and feel better.


What is vertigo?

Vertigo makes you feel like everything is spinning. It happens when you’re not moving. This feeling can make you need to sit or hold onto something.

Can stress cause vertigo?

Stress can’t cause vertigo by itself. But it can make vertigo worse. When you’re stressed, your brain might get mixed signals from the inner ear. This makes you feel like you’re spinning.

How common is vertigo?

About 15–20% of adults get vertigo or dizziness each year.

What are the effects of stress on the vestibular system?

High levels of stress hormones can mess with how your brain gets info from your vestibular system. This can cause you to feel like you’re spinning.

How can stress and anxiety trigger vertigo?

Stress and anxiety can make the part of your brain that handles balance work incorrectly. This can lead to feeling dizzy or like the room is spinning. Stress can also cause muscle tension and headaches. This, in turn, might lead to vertigo.

What are some common vertigo triggers?

Vertigo can start from sudden head movements, migraines, or ear infections. Vestibular neuronitis is another cause. This is when the vestibular nerve gets inflamed.

How can I manage stress-related vertigo?

You can try calm activities like listening to soft music and meditation. Light exercise is also good. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. Drink plenty of water. This can help you feel better and reduce vertigo.

What should I do during a vertigo attack?

When vertigo hits, lie down in a quiet, dark room. Avoid sudden head movements. Some special exercises can also help lessen the dizzy feeling.

When should I see a doctor for vertigo?

Visit a doctor if your vertigo is severe, keeps coming back, or if you have other serious symptoms. These could be fainting, seizures, or trouble breathing.

Can anxiety also cause vertigo?

Yes, anxiety can mess with your balance system and cause vertigo. This happens alongside physical signs like tight muscles and blood flow changes. Getting help through therapy can be a good way to treat this.

What other medical conditions can cause vertigo?

Several ear and brain conditions can lead to vertigo. These include inner ear problems, Meniere’s disease, and some brain issues.