New Clues to Chronic Dizziness
Psychiatric, Neurological Problems May Cause Unexplained Dizziness, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 20, 2007 – Unexplained chronic dizziness has long puzzled doctors, but
a new study sheds light on the possible causes of the condition.
Both neurological problems, such as migraines, and psychiatric problems,
such as anxiety, may play roles, and it's often not an "either/or"
situation, says Jeffrey Staab, MD, a researcher for the study and the attending
psychiatrist at The Balance Center at University of Pennsylvania in
"In some cases, it is definitely neurologic or psychiatric," Staab
says. "But more often than not, when someone has chronic dizziness, you
have both a neurologic and psychiatric contribution that worsen each other in a
Staab focused on a type of chronic dizziness not related to vertigo -- the
feeling of whirling usually linked with inner ear problems. Among these
forms of dizziness, he says, is one type that is particularly mysterious.
He focused on this type, which has been called "psychogenic
dizziness" and is associated with anxiety. He prefers to call it chronic
Patients who have it feel dizzy, off-kilter, imbalanced, and are very
sensitive to motion stimuli, such as crowded environments or heavy traffic,
Staab tells WebMD.
"The best way to understand this form is to shake your head back and
forth 20 times," he says. When you are done, that is the feeling these
people feel, he notes.
When these patients enter an environment filled with visual stimuli, such as
having to drive in the rain or navigate through a busy grocery store, the
dizziness gets worse. "Too much sensation is coming in to the brain,"
Staab says of the condition, which can be disabling.
"About 3% to 5% of American adults have recurrent bouts of
dizziness," Staab says. About 1% have persistent dizziness.