Why Vertigo Can Be a Sign for Mental Illness

Have you ever felt lightheaded? Did your surroundings seem like they were spinning? If your answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then you’ve most likely experienced vertigo. This type of dizziness is more so a symptom of an underlying ailment, rather than a condition in itself, and it can have many origins.

HomeRemedyShop describes the root of vertigo as being in the ear’s vestibular labyrinth region. Various things can happen here to trigger the condition, and they vary from infections to calcium crystal buildups. However, the cause behind this symptom isn’t always physical. Here is what you need to know about its correlation to mental illness.

Vertigo as a Symptom

As previously mentioned, when you’re going through a dizzy spell of this nature, you will feel like the world around you is spinning, tilting, or shifting out of control. This manifestation is classified as an illusion or hallucination of movement. And because reality distortions are frequently the object of psychiatric study, vertigo can be placed within this larger context.

When the source of the discomfort is a mental one, it is known as psychogenic vertigo, and it manifests in three main ways. These are phobic postural vertigo, agoraphobia, and panic disorder. Out of all of them, the former is the most widely encountered. In fact, out of 1370 patients identified in Munich, 15% suffered from this specific type.

However, limiting the manifestation of vertigo would be an understatement. Poor mental health can trigger all types of dizziness, including loss of balance and fainting sensations.  What is more, patients usually have a hard time identifying and describing their condition accurately, which is why doctors came up with a special denomination for this type of sensation.

According to ScienceDaily, the term chronic subjective dizziness, or CSD, was coined to aid in the assessment of the correlation between lightheadedness and mental illness. In order to obtain a CSD diagnosis, a patient usually has to experience heavy or lightheadedness and imbalance for most days over a period of three months.

Furthermore, many have reported that the discomfort generally worsens when being exposed to complex stimuli for too long, such as spending time in crowded spaces. For this reason, one-third of CSD patients experienced a co-existing anxiety disorder and no adjacent vestibular problems or other illnesses that might have caused the dizziness.

In situations such as this, the underlying mental health problem needs to be addressed. This can sometimes be a problem, as many physicians in other fields feel uncomfortable suggesting to their patients that they might have a disorder of the mind. Due to the stigma and taboo that still surrounds the topic, many fail to receive proper treatment.

Nevertheless, by simply asking about stress levels and overall quality of life, the discussion can easily be started. By being directed towards the proper medical professional, patients will receive adequate treatment for both their vertigo and mental illness, which is a win on all sides. But what happens when the dizziness causes the distress, and not the other way around?

Vertigo as a Cause

Without any shred of doubt, struggling with vertigo drastically lowers one’s quality of life. For example, one of the most common causes of the symptom is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV for short. It consists of a buildup of calcium crystals in the inner ear, which obstructs the canals and creates an overall feeling of imbalance.

A 2009 study conducted on female patients has uncovered that the condition can trigger anxiety, insomnia, depression, and social dysfunction in varying percentages. As a consequence, this particular patient group is extremely vulnerable to poor mental health due to the toll vertigo takes on the life of those who are part of it.

The researchers who conducted the study suggest that more attention needs to be paid to this topic. Without proper care, the situation of those who suffer from BPPV and the adjacent disorders of the mind will worsen over time. It’s time to dispel the stigma and taboos surrounding mental illness so that those in need can get the help they require.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret that vertigo is generally caused by some sort of problem or impairment in the inner ear. However, there is a less discussed facet of the issue that we need to start paying attention to, namely the correlation between it and mental health. This type of dizziness can sometimes be a symptom of a larger disorder of the mind.

Yet, in other cases, it is what caused the condition in the first place. Regardless of the situation, the stigma and taboos surrounding mental health prevent patients from getting the treatment they need. To relieve them of their struggle, it is essential to educate ourselves on the topic. Only by doing so will our society progress in the right direction.


Image courtesy of Pixabay