How do you define vertigo?

Most people, including doctors define vertigo as a spinning sensation. I personally don’t define it as spinning ONLY, I include every type of false motion I esperience. Rocking, swaying, room tilting, a constant sensation of falling, a constant sensation of being in a race car with a lead foot driver, mysterious pushes and shoves, and probably a few more that I could include.

The reason that I call these sensations vertigo is simple. What else would you call them?

Hi Brian

Good post. I think it’s important to be as specific as possible with each sensation. From what I’ve read Vertigo is a fast spinning (sometimes violently) motion like your on a carousel. You were very descriptive with your symptoms, the race car driver and mysterious pushing and shoving tell of exact sensations.

From what little reading I’ve done this is a relatively new disorder( maybe not the disorder itself is new, but the naming and classifying of it is new) and clinical studies have not been done. So maybe being as distinct as possible with our symptoms Drs and Scientists could eventually sort us into categories that get treated by different meds.

I think on this forum it also helps to be specific so that if someone has success with a particular med, then another person who has similar specific dizziness might suggest that med to their Doctors. When talking to the general public,“Vertigo” will suffice but amongst ourselves and people treating us I think we need to be as specific as possible.

Just my thoughts,

Yes, I’ve often wondered what it means when you read ‘dizziness but no true vertigo’. For me dizziness means either my surroundings are spinning or I am. I suppose I’m wondering what the difference is between dizziness and vertigo.

And of course Alfred Hitchcock didn’t help at all when he made that film. Joe Public thinks vertigo is ‘fear of heights’.

Dizzy Izzy

But… but… if dizziness means either I’m spinning or my surroundings are spinning, then I’m never dizzy! :?

It’s all a matter of definitions… many Meniere’s sufferers who have multi-hour, disabling attacks of rotational vertigo will say that unless you’ve experienced one of them, you don’t know what vertigo really is. Most ENTs say it is any illusion of motion, however slight, and whether it’s spinning or bouncing or rocking. It doesn’t seem to be too productive to argue over words, language is a tool for communication and as long as we are clear in our definitions, it shouldn’t be all that important whether we call it dizziness, or non-rotational vertigo.

FWIW my most common symptom is brief motion “trails” where my brain feels like it’s continuing to move in the direction my head was moving in, and moments ago stopped. That leads to all kinds of weird sensations where my head feels extremely heavy, or full of water, or even cotton. Once in a great while I will feel the floor bounce under me, or as if my head is bobbing up and down or from side to side when I’m sitting motionless. Despite all that I seem to have normal, though not excellent, balance.

But spinning? Never (fingers crossed and knocking on wood).

I occasionally get rotational vertigo (like Meniere’s sufferers get) and it is a very different thing to all the other types of dizziness I get. To me (and this is just a personal experience, as everyone is different) that’s what I describe as ‘vertigo’, as it feels like I am spinning around very fast on a fairground ride, it is totally disorientating and it would be absolutely impossible to sit up or stand. It’s also the same as I get turning over in bed when I have an attack of BPPV, but in the case of that it is at least transient (only lasts about 30 sec) and so is much more bearable.

Other types of dizziness I get, can be horrible and at times scary, but just aren’t disabling in the same way. I have had feelings of constant rocking, and feelings of false movement (they can be quite drastic). These symptoms are very unpleasant, but they don’t knock me over, or make me throw up (although they can make me feel quite queasy). Those types of dizziness made my life very difficult, but the rotational vertigo made doing anything at all impossible. Luckily I’ve not had any rotational vertigo attacks since last August (other than a bit of mild BPPV in bed last Oct/Nov).

The thing I found particularly frustrating when I was really bad last year is that a lot of people seemed to interpret dizziness as the kind of light-headed feeling you might get if you stand up too fast, or come over a bit faint. That’s not what it was at all.

I used to think the dizzy and vertigo were interchangable until the morning I had to go to the ER via ambulance because things were spinning so bad. There the doctor told me the difference - I was suffering vertigo - room spinning and severe. As beechleaf said it is impossible to do anything when suffering from vertigo - walking/standing is totally out of the question.

I would have to say dizziness is everything except vertigo, which would include unbalanced feeling, rocking, swaying, walking on marshmallows, pushes, shoves, etc. From what I understand the vertigo suffered during an MM attack and during an MAV attack are extremely similar and hard to tell apart. Vertigo feels like vertigo no matter what the cause. However, dizziness comes in many different forms and can feel many different ways.

With that said, I will add that I did have one attack several years ago (before the heavy vertigo hit) that wasn’t vertigo, and wasn’t “not vertigo” either. I suddenly became extremely carsick (wasn’t in a car) and things seemed to be moving up and down, I could walk but barely. Managed to drive home from work and lay on my couch. Everytime I closed my eyes I felt as if I were slowly rotating. Opening my eyes helped a little but things were still moving. I was still able to walk but barely. After a couple meclizine I felt somewhat better. About 5 years later a similar thing happened, and then a couple years later the horrid rotational vertigo attacks started.

I actually separate the two words into different meanings:

Vertigo meaning any type of false motion sensation.

Dizzy covering almost anything that doesn’t involve false motion. Typically light headed, room tilting, problems telling which way is up, motion sensitivity, etc…

I would describe all of it as a b*tch.

That’s about the only definition that covers it in it’s entirety!!!


I describe it as severe vertigo when the room spins round and I cant move my head a fraction of an inch without wanting to throw up, and I am laid on the bed for several hours before I can move.

I describe the short severe vertigo spins which are true vertigo but only for a few seconds.

I describe the daily dizziness as my surroundings moving slightly all the time, not being able to bend my head over without feeling dizzy and off balance, being pulled to one side. This dizziness can be mild or quite severe, when it gets more severe I worry about an imminent full blown vertigo attack.


i define my vertigo when everything around me starts spinning, if my eyes are open i have dble vision & extremem nausea…i must STOP anything i am doing & hold onto something. I also refer to it as the spins.

I’ve always thought of vertigo as the spinning sensation, which I’ve only had a couple times. It is truly a horrific feeling, and I really feel for people who get the vertigo spins regularly.