What’s this thing called “Vertigo” anyway?

vertigo caught in motion

me during a vertigo attack – photo by w. holcombe

There are different definitions for the word “vertigo” (noun – ver·ti·go \ˈvər-ti-ˌgō\)

Webster’s Dictionary defines vertigo as:
a feeling of dizziness caused especially by being in a very high place

1a : a sensation of motion in which the individual or the individual’s surroundings seem to whirl dizzily
1b : a dizzy confused state of mind

On American Family Physician’s site I found a great article, Dizziness: A Diagnostic Approach.  It describes all kinds of Dizziness, the different causes and treatments.

In it they describe vertigo as : (A) False sense of motion, possibly spinning sensation.

I could go on and give you different definitions, many would be a bit different from others, but the main thing they have in common, one feels as if they are in motion.

Vertigo is not just dizziness, it is a type of dizziness, just as lightheadedness, and disequilibrium are but it is more than what most people consider dizziness.

Vertigo is the sense of motion.  Most often it includes seeing a spinning sensation, it also include other feelings of motion including, a sense of falling, rising or being jerked in one direction.  These are not encountered as often as rotational vertigo. (Understanding Vertigo and What to do if you have it. – The Washington Post – 2014)

I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you, as best I can, how vertigo feels to me.

I have rotational vertigo (seeing my surrounding spin around), and motion vertigo (I often feel like I’m moving when I’m not.  I will feel like I’m suddenly free-falling, or being jerked around.)

The best way I know to describe rotational vertigo is to give you an example most people understand.  Remember when you were a kid and you used to spin around and around until you fell down seeing the world spin around you, (if you don’t remember this, or have a loved one with vertigo, I encourage you to do it now to have a sample of what we see).  Now that you have that image, imagine seeing that but it doesn’t stop.  When you just spin around the spinning sensation stops in a few seconds, for me it can last a few minutes to a few days.  The average is about 4 hours.  When I have this type of vertigo attack I often get very sick.  Imagine motion sickness times 1000.  I will throw up for hours, it can get so violent that I will lose control of every bodily function.  It is horrific.

I used to have other motion vertigo every once in a while, now it comes much more often.  I often feel like I’m in motion when I’m not.  I’ll feel like I’m on a boat, I’ll even feel like I’m walking around while I’m sitting still.  In the past year I’ve started having vertigo that makes me feel like I’m being thrown around the room (the first time this happened I thought I was dying, after an Ambulance ride and spending over 9 hours in the Emergency Room I was told this is a different form of vertigo.  (freaky)  I’ve also started having feelings as if I’m free-falling, I can only imagine it’s how one would feel if they stepped into an open elevator shaft.  This is one of the most frightening things in I’ve encountered.

Rotational Vertigo is not always at the same speed.  Sometimes I see my surroundings spinning by in just a blur, during these attacks I always get sick.  This will include hours of vomiting and sometimes I will lose all control of my bodily functions.  It’s horrific.  Other times my surrounds will spin by at a much slower rate.  After having rotational vertigo for so long many of my attacks are not as horrific.  I don’t panic now.  I will stay as calm as possible and just watch the world spin by, mostly I’m really bored.  This is the time when my mindfulness practice really comes in handy.

I’ve learned if I focus on something about 12 – 18 inches from me I often don’t see things go by quite as fast.  If the spinning isn’t too fast I will watch TV reading the captions.  For some reason if I concentrate on the captions the vertigo slows down.  This does not happen if I try to read anything else, that just makes me sicker.

I used to throw up no matter what.  I may have mentioned this before, maybe not, but I’ve had 2 doctors tell me that if medicinal marijuana were legal they’s prescribe it for me.  So I’ve tried it to see how it helps.  I can honestly say that I believe it has stopped me from going to the ER many times for dehydration.  It stops me from throwing up.  That is amazing to me.  I very rarely throw up now.   It can also calm down an attack if I use it fast enough.  (if you’d like to know more about how I use this to help, feel free to ask, I will say that I never feel high, I use very little, just enough to help me.)

Now, do you understand more about what Vertigo is and what my vertigo feels like?

If you suffer from vertigo, do you have similar experiences or is your experience different?

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8 thoughts on “What’s this thing called “Vertigo” anyway?

    • Thank you. It’s challenging, some days more than others. My reprieve ended yesterday. Not bad but vertigo, while riding in a car….ick. you never know from one moment to the next.

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  1. I too find this a challenge. I often find mine happening towards the end of the day when I am heading home or just gotten home. I don’t know if it’s the anxiety of being alone, but I enjoy having my own place and the privacy. It’s a difficult illness that many do not understand. I recently lost my job because of this illness and how it effected my life. I do take anti nausea pills and dizzy pills to help on those occasions that it is severe. Thank you for this post. it’s nice to have perspectives from other people.

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    • Sarah, you mentioned losing your job. I wanted to let you know Meniere’s is on the disability list now. You have to have a doctor say you are not dependable enough to hold a job. I’m on disability now.
      I don’t drive any more because of sudden vertigo. But I was thinking. If you think it’s anxiety, how about taking half a dizzy pill first, if it doesn’t make you too sleepy.
      My dizzy pills are valium, so that might work. My dr suggests that I take it before high stress times.
      You aren’t alone.
      Best to you.

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  2. Pingback: #HAWMC Day 26 – Care Page for the Newly Diagnosed with Meniere’s | Picnic with Ants

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