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Feeling Faint, Weak, Weakness, Like You Could Pass Out Or Faint, Fall Over – Anxiety Symptoms

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: October 12, 2019


Feeling Faint, Weak, Weakness, Like You Could Pass Out Or Faint image

Feeling faint, including feeling like you could faint, feeling like you could pass out, feeling weak, and feel like you could collapse or fall over are commonsymptoms of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test. The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including feeling faint or feeling like you could pass out.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and feeling faint.

Common descriptions for the feeling faint anxiety symptoms:

  • You suddenly feel dizzy, lightheaded, or faint.
  • You suddenly feel like you might pass out.
  • It suddenly feels like your head is “swimming” or spinning.
  • You uncharacteristically feel off balance, unsteady, or that you might fall over.
  • It feels like your body is floating or drifting upward.
  • It feels like your body is swaying.
  • You suddenly feel weak and as if you could collapse.
  • You suddenly feel faint, or like you could faint for no reason.
  • Your body feels weak and without energy, and so much so that you could fall over at any moment.
  • It feels like your legs aren’t going to support you and that you could collapse.
  • You have difficulty placing your feet because your perception of the ground or surface may seem wrong or incorrect because you feel so tired, lethargic, weak, and like you could faint at any moment.
  • Your legs feel rubbery, weak, or like they won’t support you any longer because you are so tired, exhausted, and out of energy.
  • While you haven't passed out yet, you think you might. The prospect might frighten you.
  • You might also think, "What if I pass out? What will everyone think of me?" The thought of passing out frightens you, which can aggravate feeling faint.
  • This symptom can also be experienced as having a dizzy or lightheaded “spell” or “episode” of dizziness or lightheadedness.

This feeling faint and having “spells” where you feel like you could pass out can come and go suddenly, come and linger, or persist 24/7.

This feeling faint anxiety symptom can occur rarely, frequently, or persistently.

This feeling faint symptom can also be experienced as having “episodes” or “waves” of dizziness, light headedness, or feeling like you are going to pass out that come and go instantaneously, come and linger for a short period, or come and linger for hours or days.

Those who have this symptom 24/7 can also notice increases and decreases in severity associated with “waves” or “episodes” of intensity. Sometimes the intensity can increase for an extended period, such as days before the intensity decreases again.

Some people experience episodes of this feeling faint symptom in association with an increase and decrease in their anxiety and stress, whereas others have a persistent feeling of being faint regardless of an increase or decrease in anxiety and stress.

This symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All variations and combinations are common.

Why does anxiety cause feeling faint?

Medical Advisory

Feeling faint is a common symptom of stress, including anxiety-caused stress. Here’s why:

Apprehensive behavior, which creates anxiety, activates the body’s stress response. The stress response brings about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that immediately prepare the body for emergency action.[1][2]

Because of the many changes brought about by the stress response, stress responses stress the body. Based on how anxiety and stress affect the body, there are several reasons why anxiety can cause a feeling faint symptom. Four of these reasons include:

Because the stress response can cause dramatic changes in the body, stress responses stress the body. Based on how anxiety and stress affect the body, there are several reasons why anxiety can cause a feeling faint symptom. The four most common reasons are:

1. Blood is shunted to body parts vital to survival

A part of the stress response changes include shunting the body's blood away from body parts less vital to survival to those that are.

A part of this shunting action includes having blood rush to the brain so that we have more mental capacity to recognize and deal with the threat. This pooling blood in the brain action can make a person feel faint or woozy.

Many people experience a lightheadedness, dizzy, or woozy feeling because of an activated stress response due to behaving anxiously.

2. Increase in heart rate and respiration

Another part of the stress response changes include increasing heart rate and respiration so the body can effectively shunt blood around to the various parts necessary for survival and immediate action.

This increase in respiration and heart rate can also make a person feel dizzy, lightheaded, woozy, and faint. Again, many people experience these sensations when a stress response has been activated.

3. A body that's under sustained stress will use up its energy resources much faster than normal.

A body that's chronically stressed will use up its energy resources much faster than normal. Increased energy consumption can cause the body’s energy resources to become depleted. When the body’s energy resources near depletion, we can feel weak, without energy, dizzy, and like you are going to faint or pass out.

4. Changed breathing pattern

Anxiety and stress can cause a change in breathing pattern.

For example, some people when anxious or stressed breathe to shallowly and quickly, which can cause hyperventilation (taking in too much oxygen), whereas others hold their breath or breathe to slowly, which can cause hypoventilation (not taking in enough oxygen).

Both of these breathing patterns can change the CO2 level in the blood, which can cause a feeling of being dizzy, feeling faint, and like you might pass out.

These are just four of the several reasons why anxiety can cause a person to have the feeling faint symptom. For a more in-depth explanation, visit our “Dizziness” anxiety symptom, or Recovery Support members can read our complete explanation under the “Dizziness” symptom in our Anxiety Symptoms section (chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area).

How to get rid of the feeling faint anxiety symptom?

When this feeling faint anxiety symptom is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes.

As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling faint symptom should subside and you should return to your normal self. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, the body can’t complete its recovery. Incomplete recovery can cause the body to remain in a state of semi stress response readiness, which we call “stress-response hyperstimulation,” since stress hormones are stimulants.

Hyperstimulation can cause similar symptoms to that of an active stress response.[3][4] As long as the body is hyperstimulated, it can create symptoms, including “episodes” or “waves” of feeling faint and like you might pass out.

Hyperstimulation can also cause the body to behave in erratic and more involuntary ways.[5] This erratic and more involuntary behavior can cause all sorts of anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, and of any type, at any time, of any intensity, of any duration, and at any frequency. Experiencing episodes of feeling faint is an example of how the body can misbehave when it becomes hyperstimulated.

When the body becomes hyperstimulated, it can take a long time to recover…and much longer than most people think. In the meantime, it can present symptoms of stress. So, the anxiety symptom feeling faint can come and go and/or persist for as long as the body is hyperstimulated.

Nevertheless, when the body has recovered from hyperstimulation, the feeling faint symptom will subside. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling.

Sure, feeling faint can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when the body has recovered from the stress response or hyperstimulation, this symptom will completely disappear.

Short-term strategies

In addition to the above overall strategies, there are a few things you can do to more quickly mitigate the feeling faint anxiety symptom:

Calm yourself down

Calming yourself down can end an active stress response, which can reverse the stress response changes. As your body recovers from an active stress response, your body will return to normal functioning and eliminate any symptoms of an active stress response, including feeling faint.

Choose a relaxed breathing pattern

Changing your breathing pattern from one that causes hyperventilation or hypoventilation to a more normal pattern can rebalance the CO2 level in your blood, which can eliminate feeling faint.

A relaxed breathing pattern is characterized as breathing somewhat more deeply and slowly. You don’t want to breathe too deeply, however, as that can exacerbate hyperventilation. But a more regulated and slower pattern can rebalance the CO2 in your blood.

Eat smaller more frequent meals

Eating smaller more frequent meals can stabilize blood sugar and prevent the body’s energy resources from running low. It’s wise to choose whole and healthy foods rather than fast or junk foods, as these will stabilize blood sugar whereas the latter have the potential to cause more blood sugar problems than they solve.

Regular rest and relaxation

Regular rest and relaxation is a great stress reducer. The less stressed the body becomes, the less likely it will send symptoms of stress, including feeling faint.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including feeling faint, 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.



The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the feeling faint symptom.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.” anxietycentre.com, August 2019.

3. Hannibal, Kara E., and Mark D. Bishop. “Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2014.

4. Justice, Nicholas J., et al. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-Like Induction Elevates β-Amyloid Levels, Which Directly Activates Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Neurons to Exacerbate Stress Responses.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 11 Feb. 2015.

5. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.