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How common are psychological causes of vertigo attacks?

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Quick Answer

Half of all people with vertigo have psychological disorders. However, there is no way to tell whether a patient has dizziness caused by a psychiatric condition, dizziness accompanied by a psychiatric condition, or dizziness caused by an undiagnosable disorder of the brain or inner ear, says Timothy C. Hain, M.D., of Chicago Dizziness and Hearing.

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How common are psychological causes of vertigo attacks?
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Full Answer

Vertigo is an illusion of motion. The three most common causes of vertigo are cold viruses, head trauma and an inner ear disorder called Meniere's disease, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Psychological factors do play an important role in Meniere's disease, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. However, it is still unknown whether psychological problems cause Meniere's disease or if Meniere's disease causes psychological manifestations such as anxiety and depression.

It is impossible to tell for sure whether a patient has nonlocalized vertigo or whether the patient has vertigo caused by or accompanied by psychological problems, states Dr. Hain. In nonlocalized vertigo, there is a reasonable probability that a patient has a structural problem of the brain or ear.

Psychological syndromes that cause vertigo include panic syndrome, depression and somatization syndrome, explains Dr. Hain. Somatization syndrome, however, requires a total of four to six unexplained symptoms such as nausea, headache and fatigue. He also suggests that some patients claiming to be suffering from vertigo are actually malingers looking for financial compensation. Psychological syndromes that can be caused by vertigo include anxiety, depression, slowed reactions and problems with multitasking.

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