Vestibular System and Your Emotions

Many patients with vestibular dysfunction and dizziness also report feeling more emotional and that it interferes with daily life. As a physical therapist, I have had dizzy patients from all walks of life admit that they feel emotionally overwhelmed, often experiencing the urge to cry. Many patients attribute these emotions to the fact that being dizziness is making them feel more anxious and out of control, consequently increasing the likelihood for emotional episodes. However, this is an insufficient explanation and down-plays the real problem that is occurring inside the patient’s brain.
The vestibular system is responsible for keeping our head and body balanced so that we can remain upright as we move through our world. This seemingly simple task requires the vestibular system to communicate with a wide variety of brain structures. Many of these structures are also involved in emotion and our bodies ‘fight-or-flight’ response. When we are dizzy, this is communicated with these areas of the brain and causes symptoms such as increased emotions, feeling like your heart is racing, anxiety, and memory problems.
Knowing that there is a real, physiological connection between our vestibular system and the areas of our brain that controls emotions can be very powerful for patients. These connections are the cause of increased emotional responses in patients with vestibular dysfunction and dizziness. Luckily, this is not a dead-end! Through vestibular rehabilitation, the type of therapy performed at Balance Chicago, we can not only improve dizziness but also reduce the emotional symptoms associated with it.