Does anxiety cause dizziness is a question that comes up again and again. The traditional answer that most doctors will tell you is “yes”. Conventional and traditional medical thought says that anxiety causes dizziness and indeed there are many people who have been suffering with dizziness for years that have nothing physically wrong with them, they are just anxious.
But is this conventional opinion actually true? Lets look at anxiety and its relationship with dizziness more closely. The vestibular system that control balance from the inner-ear is highly complicated and not as well-understood as other parts of the human anatomy. Dizziness never killed anyone so medical research is thin on the ground here.
When something doesn’t have a clear physical cause, doctors like to tell you its psychological. But what they find it hard to accept is that there may be a physical cause that they don’t understand.
Looking at a symptom and saying “it’s anxiety” and packing them off to Cognitive Behavioural Therapist is much easier than saying “I don’t know”.
Why would anxiety make you dizzy? What would the function of it be? Anxiety is there to protect us, it is the fight or flight response. We hyperventilate to get more oxygen to the lungs, our heart beats faster to keep the blood pumping to our muscles, the adrenalin makes us ready for action. All of these things make it easier for us to fight the beasts that used to prey on us, or run from them. But dizziness doesn’t help us, it hinders us and there is no reason for it to be there. The fight or flight response has evolved over millenia and it is unlikely that dizziness is a part of it.
So does anxiety cause dizziness? Perhaps some of the fight or flight response and the physiological changes it brings can cause you to feel a bit of balance while you are anxious, but the idea that anxiety is a major cause of chronic dizziness is not one I believe.
I suspect that the link between anxiety and dizziness has been so often talked about that many doctors assume it’s true when the evidence simply does not exist.
Some of these over the counter medications will have an anti-anxiety effect, but just because they are freely available it doesn’t mean that it is safe or advisable to use them regularly.
Some people find that pain relievers like co-codamol, which contains the opiate codeine, relieves anxiety. You should be cautious about taking co-codamol regularly as it could be habit forming (although the opiate dose is quite low).
Also, with anti-anxiety drugs it can be tempting to take more and more as the effect becomes weaker the longer you take it. Overdosing on co-codamol can be fatal or cause serious and permanent organ damage.
The same can be said of over-the-counter sleep aids which often contain antihistamines which may have a small anti-anxiety effect. The fact is that they tend to stop working if you use them too often and any effect you get from them is likely to be quite small. They are probably safer than an opiate-containing analgesic.
There is one drug that is, occasionally, prescribed for anxiety but is also available in a slightly different form over the counter in many countries. Prochlorperazine is normally prescribed for vertigo and nausea and vomiting however at a higher dose it can be used for anxiety (although rarely is!).
Prochlorperazine is available over the counter under the name Buccastem. It is sold in a low dose, just 3mg, in a quickly absorbed under-the-tongue pill.
The problem is that if a doctor were to prescribe Prochlorperazine for anxiety the dose would be much higher. That means that you would have to take more than twice as much as the label recommends, something which I do not recommend and have certainly never tried myself.
All in all, you might get some anti-anxiety effect from an over the counter pill but it’s probably best to speak to your doctor about something more suitable or try a natural approach or read Anxiety Disorders Herbal Remedies.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy anything from an online pharmacy – the prices are ridiculous and the quality is dubious.
General Anxiety Disorder can include panic attacks. In truth, the various labels given to anxiety in its various guises are not very useful. For some reason psychologists and doctors like to divide anxiety in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder. The fact is, you feel what you feel and experience what you experience, and many people with anxiety also get panic attacks.
It is not surprising that anxiety and panic go hand in hand, they tend to have the same causes with a panic attack just being an extreme extension of anxiety. Ultimately anxiety and panic attacks tend to come down to low serotonin, low GABA, hyperventilation, vestibular dysfunction and trauma. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder tend to have some of those and may even, if they are very unlucky, have both.
If you have anxiety disorder and are suffering from panic attacks it is a good idea to look at your breathing, Many people find they are suffering from Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome.
It is also worth looking at all physical causes of anxiety, Killing Anxiety From The Roots has a lot of information on that.
You might also want to have a look at how much tryptophan you get in your diet as this can effect how much serotonin your body can produce. You could also think about the Amino Acid supplements that can raise your GABA level, which is essentially trying to do naturally what Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax to artificially. Which is basically to stop anxiety and panic attacks by raising GABA.
There are some great self-help books for dealing with Anxiety. And reading books is a great way to work through anxiety. You can work at your own pace and work in privacy. Books cover a lot of the ground that professionals charge a lot for, and books are peer-reviewed and written by experts. Some “professionals” that charge high rates are little more than novices with big egos in reality.
Given the price of goof therapy and advice, books look like a cheap way to get help with anxiety. In short, self help is the best kind of help you can get.
I have put together a list of some of the best self-help anxiety books available. You should be able to find them in most book shops. I have provided links to Amazon in both the USA and UK. If you buy through Amazon a small percentage comes to Anxiety2Calm.com. It does not effect your price.
1. Killing Anxiety From The Roots is an ebook that looks at the physical causes of anxiety and at how solving the underlying physical problems solves the problem from the root.
2. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook is essential reading for anyone with anxiety issues. It covers CBT and treatments.
USA: The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook
UK: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
3. Dinah Bradley’s fantastic book on Hyperventilation Syndrome is very relevant to anxiety disorders.
USA: Hyperventilation Syndrome: Breathing Pattern Disorder
UK: Hyperventilation Syndrome: Breathing Pattern Disorder
4. This book on Mindfulness Meditation is a great help. Mindfulness is one of the best anti-anxiety techniques. One of the best:
USA: Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness & Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, & Panic
UK: Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, and Panic
Insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorder – it is also one which is easy to treat. There are several different kinds of insomnia:
- Having trouble falling asleep
- Falling asleep but waking up frequently or too early
- Sleeping a reasonable length of time but waking un-rested.
Each of those types of insomnia are a major inconvenience to life and they can all both cause and be exacerbated by anxiety. That’s right, insomnia can cause anxiety.
The exact function of sleep is not fully understood, but when we sleep our nervous system recovers from the day and prepares us to be capable of dealing with more stress. If that vital sleep is disrupted or is not of sufficient quality then we tend to find ourselves more on edge and irritable. For a day or two it doesn’t matter, but over time this can descend into anxiety disorder.
Equally, anxiety causes insomnia because for peaceful, restful sleep we need both physical and mental relaxation. And with anxiety physical and mental relaxation can be hard to find.
There are many weird and wacky insomnia remedies out there, but I recommend the following:
- Drink a herbal tea to relieve anxiety. Chamomile or lemon balm are probably best.
- Go to bed early and get up early. Sleeping during the hours of darkness is the natural way, and waking early sets up your sleep cycle for better sleep quality.
- Practise relaxation techniques for the mind and the physical body.
- Avoid all caffeine including chocolate.
- Eat a complex carbohydrate to increase your serotonin levels.
- Consider using tryptophan or 5-HTP.
If you experiment with these tips you should be able to make great progress with your sleeping.
What are the best herbal remedies for anxiety disorders? There are various options available. Let’s have a look at some of the most effective ones.
One of the most widely used is Valerian. It is thought to work on the GABA receptors just like Benzodiazepine drugs like Valium. It is more subtle than Valium but is rated by many people for anxiety disorder. Usually it needs to be taken regularly for a week or so before the effects become apparent, but it can also be used on an as needed basis, although it is probably not as effective that way.
Passiflora is also popular and tends to be helpful for anxiety disorder. Like Valerian it should be taken regularly to become fully effective.
My personal experience with Valerian and Passiflora (but Valerian most of all) is that it works rather well and gives a pleasantly relaxed sensation. I didn’t notice any benefit for insomnia, but for general anxiety I am sure it helped.
Other herbs commonly used for anxiety I am less impressed with, Chamomile is a nice drink but does little for anxiety in my experience. In fact I found it as relaxing as drinking warm water (actually, that’s not as silly as it sounds, a cup of warm water is a very relaxing drink and surprisingly enjoyable!).
If your Anxiety Disorder effects your sleeping then Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) might well be helpful. You can buy it as a tea and drink it before bed.
Although it’s not a herb, you might also be interested in L-Theanine which you can buy in caplets or by consuming green tea or green tea extract. It has actually been shown in studies that Theanine can promote relaxation. It is also a natural and well-tolerated product which is available in health food stores.
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Let’s look at the range of medication available for anxiety symptoms. But before we do that, we should remind ourselves that taking medication for anxiety just treats the symptoms temporarily and does not effect the cause or provide any kind of long term solution (unless of course you take the medication long term).
Plenty of people do find the current anti-anxiety medication effective. Doctors normally turn to SSRI’s to fight anxiety. The have both pros and cons. In their favour they tend to work reasonably well with most patients managing to cope with their symptoms much better.
On the downside the side-effect profile is rather bad. Many people suffer from an increase in symptoms in the first instance and also nightmares, sweating, mood swings and lethargy or fatigue. And long-term there is the issue of weight gain, which can also be a big problem.
Also read this post on Anxiety Medication Over The Counter.
There are also benzodiazepine tranquillizers such as Xanax and Valium. These are very effective short-term remedies but they may leave you too “stoned” to function properly. Worse still, if you take them long then addiction and habit formation is a big problem. Read this post on rebound anxiety for more.
There are other drugs like Buspirone which promised much and takes the centre ground between SSRI’s and benzodiazepine tranquillisers. In reality it is not much better than the others but might be worth a try if you really want long-term medication but can’t take the SSRI’s.
It is much better to find other ways to tackle anxiety though, as ultimately medication doesn’t achieve lasting change alone.
I wanted to create a list of the common anxiety myths that I am asked about again and again.
There is too much bad information out there, often given out by people who don’t know much or who have a vested interest in pushing their own theory or therapy.
Please add your own myths or questions using the comments section below!
1. Anxiety is caused by childhood trauma.
This theory is loved by psychologists but there is no evidence whatsoever that it is true. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can cause anxiety, amongst many other symptoms, but it has a specific cause, like a war or a car crash.
2. Anxiety is incurable
Lots of anxiety sufferers believe that they are incurable however that is not the case. Lots of people get over anxiety every day and lead normal lives. What people forget is that anxiety is a natural emotion, so when you get over it you don’t never feel anxious again. You just feel anxious when it is more appropriate and to a more manageable degree.
3. Drugs cure anxiety
The normal anti-anxiety drugs such as SSRI’s and Benzodiazepines (and indeed the illegal ones) do not cure anxiety. They treat the symptoms but not the problem and many people (arguably a large majority) in the end feel that the side-effects are not worth the benefits. They are nearly all habit forming and if you can do without them that is a bonus.
4. Anxiety is caused by negative thinking
CBT revolves around the idea that anxiety and panic starts with a negative thought. They say that sometimes it is so fast you miss it. I say you miss it because often it doesn’t happen. The CBT theory is unproven and many people think that negative thinking is the result of anxiety and not the cause. CBT can be great for anxiety, but it doesn’t identify the cause. Identifying the cause is not always essential to getting over anxiety, as sometimes the cause disappeared long ago and only the habit is left.
5. Hypnotic regression can cure anxiety
Regression based therapies such as hypnoanalysis are a waste of time and money. They are expensive and they don’t work. And in my experience the “therapists” are nasty characters who are out for a quick buck and don’t care that they really hurt people in the process. Please don’t get sucked in by the hype and marketing!
If you can think of any more myths please add them below in the comments section 🙂