Anxiety and dizziness – why does it happen?

What's the relationship between anxiety and dizziness? We explore the connection and how you can reduce dizziness as a result of anxiety.

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Dizziness, light-headedness and a feeling that you might faint, all are commonly associated with feelings of anxiety. Anxiety and dizziness might happen to you for one of the following reasons:

  • Dizziness can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder
  • Dizziness as a symptom of physical health issues can trigger, cause or exacerbate anxiety disorders
  • Anxiety and dizziness can occur at the same time, but for different reasons

Within this blog, we look closely at the different relationships that can exist between anxiety and dizziness, why it might be happening and what you can do about it if you're experiencing it.

Note: If you're experiencing anxiety and dizziness, your dizziness could be a symptom of a physical health condition, so it's always recommended that you seek medical advice to determine its cause.

Dizziness can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder

Many types of anxiety can cause you to experience dizziness for the following reasons:

  • Your breathing changes – when you feel anxious, you typically start to take in quick, deep breaths. This reduces the levels of carbon dioxide in your blood, which can cause dizziness as well as light-headedness, nausea and tingling in your hands and/or feet
  • Your fight or flight instinct kicks in – your fight or flight instinct is often triggered when you feel anxious, as your body prepares for the dangers that you believe are ahead of you. This can lead to a rush of adrenaline, leaving you feeling dizzy and/or lightheaded

For some people, their anxiety and dizziness can intensify to the point that they experience panic attacks. Anxiety, dizziness and light-headedness symptoms may differ in intensity; on some days, the feeling may be especially intense, and on others it may feel much more bearable.

You may have found that your anxiety and dizziness increase when you’re in scenarios that you fear, such as in crowds or on public transport. Dizziness, when related to anxiety, will typically be accompanied by a sense of light-headedness or a feeling that you might faint. To know that your dizziness is being caused by your anxiety, other symptoms of anxiety will be present, like fearfulness, racing thoughts, an increased heart rate and an inability to concentrate.

Dizziness can trigger, cause or exacerbate anxiety disorders

If you experience dizziness regularly, or do so because of a health condition such as low blood pressure, anaemia or a vestibular disorder such as paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis (also known as balance disorders), you may have started to feel anxious for one of the following reasons:

  • You're worried about falling or hurting yourself because of your health condition
  • You're anxious about drawing attention to yourself by falling or fainting
  • You're concerned about your health and what's happening to your body

If you haven’t received medical support for your dizziness, it's highly recommended that you do so. With the right treatment from your doctor, you can start to better manage your dizziness, reduce your symptoms and stop it from having such a big impact on your life.

Remember that you can seek medical support for your mental health as well as your physical health. Treatment for anxiety is both highly effective and widely available. Speak to the healthcare provider treating your dizziness about your anxiety too, so that they can determine the best way forward.

You may also want to seek advice and treatment from a mental health specialist, such as Priory, so that you can start to put steps in place to manage your anxiety and improve how you feel overall.

Anxiety and dizziness can be experienced at the same time for completely different reasons

A person can experience both anxiety and dizziness at the same time, without them being related in any way.

If you experience both and are uncertain of the reasons behind them, it's important to reach out to your healthcare provider. They'll be able to look at your symptoms, support you with any necessary diagnoses and refer you for any specialist treatment that's needed. This may include accessing both physical and mental health support.

How do I stop dizziness from anxiety?

Anxiety and feeling faint, dizzy and lightheaded is not a pleasant experience. Often, the appearance of these symptoms can bring you into a cycle of anxious feelings causing dizziness, which in turn deepens your anxiety. There are lots of things you can do to calm anxiety and lessen your symptoms fast. Try these quick tips and see what helps reduce your feelings of dizziness:

anxiety and dizziness tips

  • Adopt some relaxation techniques - breathing exercises, visualisations and muscle relaxation are all useful ways of calming yourself down in the moment when you feel a rush of anxiety. If you're able to focus beyond the feelings of dizziness and light-headedness, relaxation techniques can be great for bringing your breathing under control and relieving tension in your body   
  • Avoid stimulants - coffee and alcohol can contribute to feeling dehydrated, which can make feelings of dizziness and light-headedness worse. Drinking water regularly can help to stave off things like headaches and make you feel better if you think you might faint
  • Distract yourself - refocusing away from whatever is making you feel anxious can help to relieve symptoms quickly. Something as small as moving into a different room can refocus your mind away from what's causing you anxiety and, in turn, reduce your dizziness
  • Listen to some music - certain types of music are known to reduce anxiety, helping to slow your heart rate and distract your mind. If you feel dizzy or faint, take a seat and put some calming music on
  • Take a moment - there's likely to be a central cause for your anxiety - a situation or scenario that you're in the middle of when your dizziness comes on. More than anything, you need to take a moment, removing yourself from the situation that's making you feel anxious. Help yourself to calm down and give your feelings of dizziness the chance to diminish

Over the long-term, adopting some coping strategies to deal with anxiety will help to reduce your anxious feelings and improve your overall wellbeing. 

Anxiety disorder treatment at Priory

Here at Priory, we provide world class treatment for mental health conditions, helping people to manage their anxiety better and put them on a path to a better quality of life. Today, effective treatments such as therapy and medications help many people make a lasting recovery.

We have a specialist team of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists who are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating people with anxiety disorders. As a leading provider in care for mental health conditions, we can work with you to produce a tailored treatment programme, which can take place on a residential, day care or outpatient basis.

We offer expert treatment within our network of leading mental health hospitals and wellbeing centres across the UK. Use the information below to get in touch with our expert team and find out how we can help you regain control of your life.

Page clinically reviewed by Dr Ian Nnatu (MB BS, PG DIP (CBT), MSc, FRCPsych, MRCPsych) Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London

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