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Home Psychology Can Stress Cause Vertigo? Connecting the Dots

Can Stress Cause Vertigo? Connecting the Dots

can stress cause vertigo

Vertigo is a symptom of numerous conditions that affect the structures of the inner ear. People who are experiencing vertigo describe the sensation as dizziness. It feels like the world around you is moving when you are standing still. 

Vertigo can be a symptom of conditions such as Meniere’s disease, inner ear infections, and head injuries. However, an anxiety disorder can also cause vertigo, as can stress.

Vertigo symptoms related to stress often appear when you are feeling under pressure. Stress-induced vertigo is caused by the dysfunction of the vestibular system, resulting in dizziness, nausea, and feeling unbalanced. 

In this article, we explore the relationship between anxiety, stress, and vertigo, and we give tips on how to prevent and overcome it.

Can Stress Cause Vertigo? Understanding the Role of Stress in the Condition

Yes, stress can cause vertigo. However, vertigo is a symptom of an underlying problem; it is not a diagnosis. 

Many people report a dizzy sensation when they are feeling stressed. It’s caused by a dysfunction in the vestibular system as a result of your stress hormones. When you are faced with an adverse life event, your stress hormone levels rise.  

Studies have shown that elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline can interrupt the functioning of the vestibular system causing vertigo symptoms. Therefore, mental health is an important consideration for those who experience chronic dizziness. 

Can stress cause dizziness?

Stress can trigger dizzy spells. One of the most common vertigo symptoms, dizziness, can be the result of stressful situations when your autonomic nervous system prepares your body to deal with a perceived threat. 

Similar to increased heart rate and a blood pressure spike, shallow breathing or hyperventilation is a common stress response that causes too much carbon dioxide to build up in your blood, making you feel light-headed. 

Although the inner ear may be involved, emotional triggers, stress, anxiety, and the associated dizziness is usually the result of other physiological reactions caused by your body’s response to the stressful situation.

What Is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a symptom of an inner ear disorder or the dysfunction of the vestibular system. There are two types of vertigo: central vertigo and peripheral vertigo, each having different causes.

Central vertigo is a problem with the brain, affecting the brain stem or the cerebellum. It is commonly caused by certain drugs such as aspirin, vascular disease, stroke, or multiple sclerosis. 

Peripheral vertigo is the result of an issue with the inner ear or the vestibular nerve, the nerve that connects the structures of the inner ear with the vestibular regions of the brain. It is caused by conditions such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or Meniere’s disease, medicines such as antibiotics, viral infections, or inflammation of the vestibular nerve. 

What Are the Symptoms of Vertigo?

Vertigo symptoms depend on the underlying causes and which part of the vestibular system is affected. 

Central vertigo is likely to present with swallowing difficulty, eye issues such as double vision and abnormal eye movements, facial paralysis, weakness in the arms and legs, and speech problems. 

Vertigo symptoms, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, include a dizzy sensation, nausea, vomiting, headaches, sweating, ringing in the ears, and feeling unbalanced.

What Can Provoke Vertigo?

Vertigo has numerous underlying physical causes, including Meniere’s disease, certain medications, or a viral infection. However, vertigo symptoms are frequently linked to your mental health and can be triggered by external factors that result in stress and anxiety.

Many people with generalized anxiety disorder or other anxiety disorders experience vertigo. Anxiety involves worries that can become overwhelming, resulting in panic attacks which can encourage vertigo-like symptoms. 

Stress-induced vertigo is similar to dizziness caused by anxiety. Emotional triggers and dealing with adverse life events activate the sympathetic nervous system, causing a cascade of physiological responses to help your body face the perceived threat.

Your fight-or-flight response includes shallow, rapid breathing to increase your oxygen intake. However, such hyperventilation results in the build-up of too much carbon dioxide in your blood, and you may experience vertigo-like symptoms.

Vertigo spells can be provoked by migraine headaches, diabetes, shingles in or near the ear, and low blood pressure. Head injuries and certain medications, including antibiotics, blood pressure medication, and anti-inflammatories, are also associated with experiencing vertigo.

How to Prevent Vertigo Brought on by Stress?

Stress-induced vertigo can be prevented by treating the underlying pathophysiology, taking anxiety medication for those who have an anxiety disorder, and finding mental health support

Research shows that vertigo symptoms associated with Meniere’s disease decreased significantly when patients were given selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). 

Not only are SSRIs useful for treating symptoms associated with the inner ear condition, but they are also used to manage anxiety disorders. They have been shown to be successful in treating vertigo in such patients. 

Although stress does not directly cause vertigo, managing stress with in-person or online therapy, medication, podcasts about healthy lifestyle habits, breathing techniques, and self-care lifestyle changes may help resolve stress and anxiety symptoms. 

A Word From a Nutritionist

Nutrition is crucial for the optimal functioning of the vestibular system. The structures within the ear responsible for hearing and balance are filled with fluid. The correct balance of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, controls fluid levels. 

A high intake of sodium can disrupt the fluid balance and cause dizziness and other vertigo symptoms, especially in people with inner ear conditions. Therefore, it is recommended that you limit the amount of sodium you consume to no more than 2,400mg or 1 teaspoon of salt per day.

Sugar also has an impact on fluid balance in the body; however, low blood sugar levels can make you feel dizzy and light-headed. Therefore, watching your sugar intake can reduce the frequency of vertigo spells.

Dehydration can also cause vertigo, as the fluid balance in your ear can be affected by the drop in overall body fluid. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that you drink enough water every day. You must also limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, which promote water loss from the body.


Vertigo is a symptom of numerous health problems, including conditions of the inner ear, viral infections, head injuries, and diabetes that cause dysfunction in the vestibular system. Stress and anxiety can also trigger vertigo-like symptoms.

Therefore, managing stress and treating anxiety with anxiety medication can help you overcome and prevent chronic dizziness associated with vertigo. Diet and exercise, along with other self-care lifestyle changes, must be considered if you are regularly experiencing a dizzy sensation.

Mental health is equally as significant in the management of vertigo. Finding mental health support to help you reduce stress and anxiety may improve your dizziness and other vertigo symptoms.

Written by
Edibel Quintero, MD

Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel's goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.

can stress cause vertigo

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