Can stress and anxiety cause Meniere's disease?
Meniere's Disease and Stress seem to go hand in hand but is stress an underlying cause of Meniere's, is your stress a result of having to live with such a debilitating and depressing condition, or is stress a contributing trigger?
Well, possibly all three, as it can become a vicious circle. Prolonged periods of stress can cause the blood vessels to close up, slowing up blood flow and subsequently contributing to worsening the condition of the affected ear(s). If that is not enough, the levels of stress living with Meniere's Syndrome or Meniere's Disease, whatever you choose to call it, puts strain both physically and mentally on sufferers at levels beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of people who have never experienced it.
There is little doubt that stress is a massive trigger. So-called life-stress situations which commonly precede attacks include personal antagonism and conflicts, sexual conflicts, death of a close relative, social, educational or financial problems, common day to day stresses, work stress, and of course fear of future attacks.
Clinical trials at Osaka University, Japan have been ongoing since 1998, related to stress management and Meniere's disease; the most recent in 2013. These trials have shown a correlation of significantly increased plasma vasopressin in Meniere's patients and that this increase can rupture the reissners membrane within the endolymphatic sac.
The researchers are in no doubt that there is an increase of vasopressin, but are trying to find the exact stress events that may cause this to occur. One important aspect of this is that, while some in the west dismiss stress as a factor the researchers in Osaka had this to say:
"Attacks in Meniere's disease, characterized by vertigo and hearing loss, are well known to occur repeatedly under stressed environment. Hitherto, its pathology was revealed to be inner ear hydrops through human temporal bone studies in 1938?"
With many triggers, there is a gray area as to whether they are contributing triggers that increase pressure, tinnitus, dizzines and vertigo when a sufferer already has the condition or are they the underlying root cause.
In Japan stress is almost a given that it is one of many possible underlying causes to be considered.
Japan Science links by Takeda Taizo:
"In Meniere's disease, vertigo and deafness is often induced by stress. Stress is well known to promote the release of vasopressin, resulting in an increase in plasma vasopressin. We previously reported that an increase in plasma vasopressin was observed in Meniere's disease. Although histological and surgical findings support the hypothesis that the dysfunction of the endolymphatic sac is one of the important factors in Meniere's disease, we speculated that a high concentration of plasma vasopressin may be the other causative factor in the formation of endolymphatic hydrops."
In a 2004 study published Laryngoscope, 'Stress as a trigger of attacks in Meniere's disease. A case-crossover study' it stated:
"Being exposed to emotional stress increases the risk of getting an attack of Meniere's disease during the next hour, and the hazard period is possibly extended up to 3 hours."
The stress is making your Meniere's worse and Meniere's is making you more stressed! So what on earth can you do about it?
Does this sound familiar?
More often than not for people with Meniere's, severe bouts of vertigo come suddenly and unexpected. Sometimes though, you'll feel it coming: You start to feel clammy. A sudden fever will grip you, coupled with nausea and a sudden exhaustion. You panic, knowing full well what will follow, which more often than not, is a full blown vertigo attack. That panic (stress) helps speed up the oncoming bout of vertigo.
The vasopressin realeased is a hormone that constricts the blood vessels (restricting blood flow -which is vital), retains fluid which is building up in the endolymphatic sac, and may also increase salt into the blood. All in all a very bad set of circumstrances for a Meniere's sufferer.
So the very fast end result is that before you know it you are reeling with dizziness or vertigo.
Click here to read Stress and Meniere's disease - Symptom or Cause?
Stress, anxiety and Meniere's disease
Most of the time it seems unavoidable. But, have you ever, (situation permitting) as soon as you feel that clammy feeling and the feeling of panic, just closed your eyes sat back, kept your eyes closed and taken some deep breaths until the feeling passes. This can actually sometimes work, either with limiting the dizziness to a milder bout that passes more quickly or on occasions even keep the dreaded attack completely at bay. Being stationary, sitting and keeping your eyes closed is essential to this having any chance of working.
Stay still and stay calm.
To people with Meniere's who have never done this, it may sound an impossible task, and quite honestly with those sudden vertigo attacks it may be. But on the occasions where it creeps up on you (relatively speaking)...this can be done.
In general stress, not related to the anxiety related to Meniere's disease itself, the accepted stress management techniques are the following:
1. Keep a positive attitude.
2. Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
3. Be assertive instead of aggressive.
4. Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi for stress management.
5. Exercise regularly.
6. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
7. Learn to manage your time more effectively.
8. Make time for hobbies, interests, and relaxation.
9. Get enough rest and sleep.
10. Don't rely on alcohol, drugs.
11. Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you enjoy being with.
12. Seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.
Click here to read about the relationship between Meniere's disease and anxiety
Some of the above may seem difficult when you live with Meniere's disease. With that in mind the emboldened suggestions above are a vital minimum.
Have you ever considered meditation? In 12 years of support work we have increasingly received very good reports of the benefits of this for sufferers.
At the very least, it must be worth remembering that no amount of avoidable stress is worth bringing on vertigo. When you feel your stress levels rising, stop, step back, take a deep breath and walk away.
What ever you choose to do to combat stress and Meniere's it is important you do something positive. In general day to day living, try and surround yourself with positive people who make you smile and if you are stressed at work, or with the kids, just take a step back, take a deep breath and remind yourself that none of what you are stressed about is worth bringing on a vertigo attack. So chill out and get your priorities right; your health may just depend on it.
Finally remember that simply the best solution is to rid yourself of Meniere's for good and get out of the stress/vertigo cycle. Learn how to do that below:
Click here to read The Need for Balance - Dealing with the Causes of Meniere's
Further reading: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15454783/
Stress, anxiety and Meniere's Disease