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General Medical Questions
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Question : Can stress make you literally dizzy? I have found that when I am particularly anxious or angry, I get dizzy and lightheaded. Should this be a cause for concern? I am prone to anxiety attacks as well.
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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June 26, 2012
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A:

Yes, episodes of stress can make you feel lightheaded. There are several ways your body and mind might react to stress to cause the dizzy sensation.

During an anxiety or panic attack, a person’s heart rate can speed up and the chest pounding can be very uncomfortable. When this happens, it’s common for people to become quite scared. This can cause them to sweat and feel like they might pass out.

Another possible reaction is quite different. During a highly-emotional circumstance, some people experience a much slower heart rate combined with a fall in blood pressure. If this happens and the person remains upright, he or she will often faint. This type of fainting spell is called vasovagal or vasodepressor syncope.

Anxiety and stress can make you feel less in touch with your surroundings. That’s the case even with no changes in heart or blood pressure. This experience may be perceived as a dizzy or lightheaded feeling. Anxiety or stress can unmask an underlying heart condition or disorder of the nervous system showing itself as dizziness or lightheadedness. But this is much less common.

I advise anyone who has lost consciousness (blacked out) to let their doctor know right away. Even if you have not lost consciousness, you should contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

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