Anxiety can cause a multitude of strange and unpleasant side effects of which fainting is but one. The medical term used for fainting is syncope and there are a few mechanisms through which anxiety can cause you to lose your conscience.
Another one of the unpleasant side effects of anxiety is that it can cause a drop in your blood glucose levels, called hypoglycemia. When your brain does not receive enough glucose it can cause you to lose consciousness in what is called metabolic syncope.
Metabolic syncope or fainting can also happen when the balance between the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood is disturbed. One of the ways in which this can happen is through hyperventilation, yet another common and unpleasant side effect of anxiety.
Neurocardiogenic syncope or fainting happens after you experienced something stressful or disturbing such as a panic attack or the sight of blood if you can’t stand it.
Psychogenic syncope is a loss of consciousness due to triggers such or intense stress or major depression. Untreated anxiety can result in depression, so it is important to get help as soon as possible.
Orthostatic syncope is when a sudden drop in your blood pressure deprives the brain of blood and oxygen causing you to faint. This usually happens when you stand up after sitting or lying down. Most people experience a rise in blood pressure with anxiety, but there are also people whose blood pressure may actually fall, instead of rise during periods of anxiety. This may cause them to faint during an anxiety attack.
Fainting may be an indication of a more serious condition such as heart disease, lung problems or even diabetes so it is always best to report any new symptom to your doctor.
There are a few ways in which you can reduce your chances of fainting, such as eating small regular meals to try and keep your blood glucose levels stable. Dehydration can lead to a drop in your blood pressure so drinking enough water and less coffee and tea during the day may also help prevent you from fainting during an anxiety or panic attack. Lastly you can breathe into your cupped hands while experiencing a panic attack to restore the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in your bloodstream.
The bad news is that you will only be managing your anxiety instead of curing it, and anxiety is a curable condition. The best way of overcoming the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety is to beat the anxiety first.
Multiple treatment options are available ranging from cognitive behavioral therapy to emotional freedom techniques and even biofeedback therapies. Relaxation exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises can be done in the privacy of your own home to help relieve the devastating effects of anxiety not only on your life but also on your health.
“Syncope.” Mayo Press. 1999. Mayo.edu. (November 13, 2012) http://www.mayo.edu/pmts/mc2900-mc2999/mc2945.pdf
“Fainting Causes”. NHS Choices. 2012. Nhs.uk. (November 13, 2012) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fainting/Pages/Causes.aspx