Panic attacks are one of the most severe forms of anxiety. They are intense events with dozens of symptoms all going on at once, combined with a fear that something terrible is happening to you. One of the symptoms that causes that fear is dizziness.
This article will explore panic attack dizziness, and provide you with a helpful way of controlling it.
Dizziness = Panic Attacks?
Dizziness can be a symptom and a trigger of panic attacks and panic disorder. For those that want to learn more about how to cure those attacks, take my free 7 minute anxiety test now.
Dizziness As A Trigger
Dizziness can be a frightening symptom, especially because it is associated with dangerous conditions and can make you feel like you're going to faint. Make sure you take my anxiety test to see what your anxiety says about you.
Dizziness is actually a fairly common trigger of panic attacks. A person is walking along, starts to feel dizzy, and that dizziness then triggers a cascade of symptoms that ultimately become a full blown panic attack.
Dizziness As A Symptom
Of course, dizziness is more commonly known as a symptom of anxiety. Often as a panic attack gets worse, the person starts to feel dizzy, and may feel as though they are in the process of passing out. It is often combined with lightheadedness, and possibly even a little bit of nausea, which both combine to make dizziness scarier. Often those that experience dizziness start to become even more anxious after the symptom hits, making the panic attack significantly worse.
What Causes Panic Attack Dizziness
Anxiety attacks are complex, and symptoms can be caused by a host of different bodily changes. However, the most common cause of dizziness is hyperventilation. During anxiety attacks, you tend to breath faster and less efficiently, taking in more oxygen than you need and breathing out too much carbon dioxide. Your body adjusts to this by constricting your blood vessels.
When your blood vessels are constricted, it cuts off blood flow to your brain. As scary as that sounds, it's not dangerous, but it can cause you to feel dizzy, and in some cases that dizziness can be extreme.
Dizziness and Anxiety
Hyperventilation is not the only cause of dizziness either. Some people experience dizziness during times of intense stress. Others find that adrenaline causes them to feel dizzy. Others are not dizzy at all, but start to feel like the world is spinning when they feel lightheaded. All of these are caused by anxiety and panic.
How to Stop Dizziness
Stopping your panic attacks takes a comprehensive treatment plan that can help you control your anxiety attacks altogether. But you can actually combat dizziness specifically, and reduce the effects of this sensation as both a trigger and a symptom of panic.
Your mind is incredibly adaptable, in ways that are almost automatic. When something doesn't cause an expected reaction, your mind learns to adjust. For example, let's say you're afraid of spiders. If you were in a room with a spider for several days and nothing happened, your mind would stop feeling fear at the sight of a spider. At first it would experience a lot of fear, but after a while it will get used to the spider and no longer create that fear. This is called "Desensitization."
You can use this to your advantage. If dizziness sparks anxiety, then controlling dizziness on your own can get you used to it. Try the following:
With someone around you for comfort and support, spin around in a chair until you feel dizzy. Wait until you calm down. If you feel anxiety, that's okay. Try to overcome it and wait until the symptom fades. Continue this process on and off until dizziness causes no anxiety and you get used to the sensation. If you feel sick, take a break, but consider coming back to it as soon as you feel better.
Try spinning around in multiple ways and becoming dizzy in multiple ways. Stand up and spin in a circle. Have your friend spin you around. Spin around blindfolded. Try different experiences so that you can adjust to all of them.
Try this alone in your home. Sometimes you'll find it's a little harder when you're alone. That's okay. You're just getting used to being dizzy.
Next, and finally, take it outside. Do it in unusual environments. Have a friend with you in case you feel sick, but note that even if you have a panic attack, you should try to keep going. The more you get dizzy in interesting places, the more you'll get used to what the experience is like.
This type of desensitization isn't perfect, and it certainly will not cure your panic attacks altogether, but it helps you get used to physical sensations that spark anxiety and fear. Over time, if you combine this with other treatment ideas, you'll be able to be better in control of your panic.
I've helped many people overcome panic attack dizziness with my free 7 minute anxiety test. Take the test now to find out more about panic and what you can do to stop it.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.