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T.The mood and anxiety disorders are confusing in many ways. What causes it is only one of the mysteries. Speaking of which, how about we discuss the role of vestibular disorders in anxiety and depression? I think you will find this interesting and helpful …

“Anxiety, fear, and panic are probably the most common emotional reactions people experience when diagnosed with vestibular disorder.”

Check out our friend above. Looks like she’s having a hard time. She is actually dizzy and has problems with her balance – common symptoms of vestibular disorders. And we can add anxiety and depression to what she is experiencing.

Let’s get our chat rolling by learning about the vestibular system …

What is the Vestibular System?

The main components of the vestibular system are located in the inner ear in a system of interconnected compartments known as the vestibular labyrinth.

The vestibular labyrinth consists of the semicircular canals and the otolith organs – the utricle and the saccule. It also contains vestibular sensation receptors that send vestibular information through the vestibulocochlear nerve to the cerebellum of the brain and to the vestibular nuclei in the brain stem. From there, the information is passed on to a number of destinations, including the eye muscles and the cerebral cortex.

vestibular disorders and anxiety

The vestibular system is located in the inner ear

So here we have a highly developed sensory system that provides our brain with information about movement, head position and spatial orientation. It is also about motor functions that enable us to maintain balance, stabilize the head and body during movement, and maintain posture.

The vestibular system is therefore essential for normal movement and balance.

Vestibular disorders and symptoms

According to the Vestibular Disorder Association (VeDA), the most common vestibular disorders are benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), vestibular migraine, labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis, Ménière’s disease, age-related dizziness and imbalance, and concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Certainly, each of them can be linked to anxiety and depression. However, identifying vestibular symptoms may better suit our purposes. According to VeDA, these are the most common …

  • dizziness
  • Imbalance
  • dizziness
  • Brain fog
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing loss
  • Visual impairment
  • nausea
  • Cognitive changes
  • Psychological changes
  • Motion sickness

Ouch! And unfortunately these are only the most common symptoms.

Vestibular Disorders, Anxiety, and Depression

I can’t think of a better way to apply what we’ve learned so far to anxiety and depression than sharing two powerful sections from a fantastic article. Dr. Rachel Bilgrei’s Body-Mind Connection appears on the Emotional Effects of Vestibular Disorders page on the VeDA website. You can rest assured that I included a link at the end …

Anxiety – The most common complaint
Anxiety, fear, and panic are probably the most common emotional reactions people have when diagnosed with vestibular disorder. Anxiety often manifests itself in response to feeling ungrounded and insecure when standing on your feet. Fear of falling due to imbalance, dizziness, or lightheadedness is commonly reported. Panic attacks are also commonly reported. A panic attack is a sudden wave of intense fear or discomfort that climaxes within minutes and during that time [symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, nausea, feeling dizzy] occur. “(DSM-V, 2013) It is no wonder that given the predominance of physiological symptoms, a panic attack is often confused with a disease such as a heart attack.

In the context of vestibular disease, a panic attack only serves to aggravate physical symptoms and create fears of loss of control. In response to anxiety, fear, and panic, people with vestibular conditions experience increased social isolation, withdrawing from social interaction, and avoiding activities that normally bring them joy and satisfaction. It is important to note that very often it is fear and restlessness, not actual physical symptoms, that are affecting functioning.

Sadness & depression
A vestibular disorder often leads to a change in lifestyle. Changes in your level of activity (at home and at work), independence, skills, stamina, and relationships are seen as losses. Loss, grief, and grief are just some of the feelings and experiences that create these changes. Social isolation can lead to loneliness. Feeling misunderstood by family members, friends, and even doctors promotes feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Often guilt is expressed in response to being unable to perform your normal duties and responsibilities. In addition, sleep and appetite disorders as well as lethargy can occur. These are the many forms and forms that sadness and depression can take in response to a vestibular condition.

Now you know why mental changes are considered a common symptom of vestibular disorders. Sure makes sense. And Dr. Bilgrei sums it up perfectly, don’t you think?

One final consideration: We discussed anxiety and depression in the context of an emotional / mental response to vestibular disorders. But what if, with all the neurological and brain happening, vestibular disorders somehow produce biologically induced anxiety and depression? Just something to think about.

That will do it

Yes, the mood and anxiety disorders are confusing in many ways – because they are only one.

The association between vestibular disorders, anxiety, and depression is strong. If you have symptoms, don’t ignore them. Let yourself be assessed, connect the dots and reach for emotional / mental and physical help.

There is simply no need to suffer in silence and alone.

Make sure to read The Mind / Body Connection on the VeDA website. And while you’re there, sniff around. There is a lot of valuable information out there.

Two relevant inspire4u articles worth reading are: Tinnitus: What You Need to Know About the Psychological Connection, and an oldie-but-goodie, Panic With Agoraphobia: The Spatial Orientation Factor

Many thanks to neuroscienticallychallenged.com for the resource material.

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