Feel like you might pass out or faint
Feel faint, like you are about to pass out, woozy, fall over:
You suddenly feel like you are about to pass out, fall over, or faint. It might also feel as though your legs are weak and that you might collapse. It can also feel like you are unsteady, like you are walking on an unstable surface, or that it’s hard to keep your balance.
While you haven't passed out yet, you think you might. The prospect may frighten you. You may also think, "What if I pass out, what will everyone think of me?" The thought of passing out frightens you, which can cause more symptoms and fear.
This symptom can also be experienced as a dizzy/lightheaded ‘spell,’ that is like having a sudden feeling of being dizzy/lightheaded that then disappears.
This symptom and/or ‘spells’ can come and go suddenly, come and linger, or come and remain for some time. This symptom and/or ‘spells’ might occur rarely, frequently, or persistently.
This symptom can also be characterized as having ‘episodes’ of feeling like you are going to pass out or faint that come and go, or come and eventually ease off, even if only slightly. This symptom can occur in ‘waves’ of stronger feelings of passing out which ease off or completely subside. Sometimes the intensity can increase for an extended period of time, such as days before the intensity decreases again.
Some people experience episodes of this symptom in association with an increase and decrease in their anxiety and stress (this symptom’s intensity and severity increases and decreases with the intensity of their anxiety and stress), whereas others experience persistent feelings of passing out regardless of an increase or decrease in anxiety and stress.
All variations and combinations of the above are common.
What causes a feeling like passing out?
Because there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, we recommend that you discuss this symptom with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that this symptom is solely stress related (including the stress that being anxious can cause), you can be assured that there isn’t another medical condition causing it. Generally, most doctors can easily tell the difference between stress and anxiety caused sensations and symptoms from those caused by other medical reasons.
If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions concur, you can feel confident that stress, including anxiety-caused stress, is the cause of this symptom and not some other medical or biological problem.
Causes relating to anxiety include:
1. Hyper- and hypoventilation - taking in too much or too little oxygen. Hyper and hypoventilation can change the CO2 levels in the blood, which can cause a myriad of anxiety-like symptoms, such as feeling like passing out.
2. An active stress response - behaving in an apprehensive manner activates the stress response. The stress response secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat - to either fight with or flee from it - which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.
Some of the stress response changes cause the body to shunt blood to body parts vital for survival and away from those that aren’t. These changes also cause the heart rate and respiration to increase. And many more. These changes alone can cause a person to feel like they are going to pass out.
3. Persistently elevated stress - stress impacts the body’s nervous system. Too much stress can cause the nervous system to act in odd ways, which can affect our breathing and sense of balance. If you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, this stress could be the cause of your feeling like passing out.
4. Fatigue: Behaving in an overly apprehensive manner stresses the body, and a body that’s under sustained stress can become overworked and tired. Feeling like passing out is a common indication of fatigue and/or over tired.
For more detailed information about feeling like passing out, you may want to join our Recovery Support area. It contains a wealth of detailed information about all of anxiety’s symptoms, including feeling like passing out.
How to get rid of the feel like passing out anxiety symptom?
If feeling like passing out is caused by hyper or hypoventilation, adopting a natural breathing style – relaxed, slower, and a little deeper – will correct the CO2 levels in the bloodstream, which will eliminate a ventilation caused passing out feeling.
If your feeling like passing out sensation is caused by an active stress response, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers, your body’s functioning will return to normal and a passing out feeling should subside.
If your feel like passing out feeling is caused by persistently elevated stress, reducing your stress and giving your body ample time to recover should eliminate this feeling. Keep in mind, however, that it can take a long time for the body to recover from persistently elevated stress.
If your feel like passing out feeling is caused by fatigue, increasing your rest and giving your body time to build up its energy will eliminate the feel like passing out symptom.
For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including this one, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.
You can learn more about our Recovery Support area by clicking on the button below.
If you’d like personal assistance with your recovery, you can learn more about our Personal Coaching option here.
Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated April 2015.