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Feeling Faint, Weak, Weakness, Like You Could Pass Out, Fall Over, Collapse, and Feel Like Fainting – Anxiety Symptoms

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 3, 2019

Common descriptions for the feeling faint anxiety symptoms:

This feeling faint symptom and/or ‘spells’ can come and go suddenly, come and linger, or persist indefinitely.

This feeling faint symptom and/or ‘spells’ might occur rarely, frequently, or persistently.

This feeling faint symptom can also be characterized as having ‘episodes’ of dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling like you are going to pass out that come and go, or come and eventually ease off, even if only slightly. Even people who experience persistent dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling like you are going to pass out notice that they experience waves (episodes) of increases and decreases of this feeling faint symptom.

Those who experience this symptom persistently 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 of time, 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 (this symptom’s intensity and severity increases and decreases with the intensity of their anxiety and stress), whereas others experience persistent a feeling faint symptom regardless of an increase or decrease in anxiety and stress.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

Why does anxiety cause feeling faint?

Feeling faint is a common symptom of anxiety. Feeling faint is actually a symptom of stress but we call it an anxiety symptom because behaving in an apprehensive manner (anxiety) is the main source of the stress that causes the body to produce symptoms of stress, including feeling faint.

Behaving apprehensively causes the body to produce a stress response. The stress response brings about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body to enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat – to either fight or run - which is why the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

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. Four of these reasons include:

1. A part of the stress response changes cause the body's blood to be shunted 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. Another part of the stress response changes cause the body's respiration and heart rate to increase so that 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. This 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. Many people who are anxious and stressed change their breathing patterns. For example, some people breathe to shallowly and quickly, which can cause hyperventilation (taking in too much oxygen), whereas others hold their breaths 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 complete explanation, see Chapter 9 (our anxiety symptoms chapter) in the Recovery Support area of our website under the symptom "Dizziness."

How to get rid of the feeling faint anxiety symptom?

When this feeling 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 and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a state of semi emergency readiness. We call this state stress-response hyperstimulation. In other words, the body has become overly stressed and stimulated, since stress hormones are stimulants.

A body that becomes stress-response hyperstimulated can cause similar sensations and symptoms to that of an active stress response. The difference is that these sensations and symptoms can persist for as long as the body is hyperstimulated, and long after an active stress response has ended. This is the reason why anxiety sensations and symptoms can persist and seemingly for no apparent reason.

Another factor to consider is that stress-response hyperstimulation can cause the body to behave in erratic and more involuntary ways. 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 its overly stressed (stress-response hyperstimulated).

When the body has become stress-response 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 overly stressed.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from its hyperstimulated state, the feeling faint symptom will completely 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, it can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.

Including the above overall strategies, there are several things you can do to 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.

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Additional Resources:

Return to our anxiety symptoms page.

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