Helping your friends and family understand your vertigo

“If she’s having this dizziness – the ceiling is turning around – I’m going around, as well, in the house, because I don’t know what to do.” 

Jack is talking about the challenges of living with someone who suffers from vertigo (You can listen to Abby’s story here). His partner Abby woke up one morning and suddenly felt as though everything was swirling around her. After several tests, Abby was eventually diagnosed – but the challenges for her and her family continued. 

“It was very difficult for us at home because I was relying on a lot of people to get through my daily activities,” says Abby. “When you’re a wife, a mom, working full time, and with all the roles in life, it’s very difficult to live normally with daily routines, anticipating that you could have a vertigo attack.”

Abby’s experience highlights the importance of having friends, family and colleagues around you who understand what vertigo is and are ready to help you if you need it. 

Of course, it’s impossible for anyone who has never experienced vertigo to fully understand what it feels like. But by helping them to understand and empathize with what you’re going through, you’ll make their lives easier – and yours too. 

So, how can you go about doing this? 

  • Describe in detail what an attack feels like. This can be tricky, because it’s not always easy to find the right words to describe the sensation of a vertigo attack. For example, we might say ‘I feel dizzy’ and some people feel they know what that feels like. But vertigo dizziness is different. Abby describes her own attacks in a very vivid way. “Suddenly your head is heavy and everything’s moving around,” she says. “I tend to grasp onto a table or chair, just to tell my mind – ‘I’m not moving, I’m not spinning. Everything is stable.’” Try to find a clear way to describe what you go through to help your friends and family members understand.1,2 
  • Describe your main triggers – and together, find solutions to avoid or overcome them. If certain activities trigger your vertigo – driving for example, or going to the supermarket – then let you family and friends know these. You might be able to find solutions to avoid them (for example, a family member does most of the driving; you do your grocery shopping online), or at least they will be aware of the possibility in those scenarios and ready to act.2 
  • Also, there are adjustments people around you can make to create a safe and supporting environment at home or at work, and prevent falls and injuries.3 For instance, they can remove clutter, ensure adequate lightning, secure rugs and carpets with nonslip grips, install handrails, and avoid low or high shelves to minimize the need for excessive reaching or bending.
  • Ask when you need help. It’s OK to ask for help when you need it. Your closest friends and family members are your team, your allies. So if you need someone to support you, or someone to help research your condition, or go to the doctor with you, or just to listen to you – then ask.1 They could also help you perform the exercises recommended by your doctor and support you in lifestyle changes that can help decrease the frequency and intensity of vertigo attacks, such as prioritizing sufficient sleep, managing stress levels and maintaining proper hydration.

For some people, having vertigo can feel quite lonely at times. But remember, you are not alone.1 Close to 10% of people in the world have vertigo.4 And if you open up with those close to you about what it feels like to live with vertigo, they will be able to help you more.1 You may be able to improve or even resolve it together. That will bring huge relief not only to you but to the people around you as well.

“She can go anywhere confidently,” says Jack. “And that brings me peace of mind.”


  1. Brain & Spine Foundation. Dizziness and balance problems – A guide for patients and carers. 2015. Reviewed July 2018. 
  2. Dizzy & Vertigo Institute. Vertigo Triggers and How To Deal With Them. April 30, 2021. Accessed February 28, 2024.
  3. Menière’s society. Understanding vertigo for family, friends and colleagues. 2021.
  4. Agrawal Y, Ward BK, Minor LB. Vestibular dysfunction: prevalence, impact and need for targeted treatment. J Vestib Res. 2013;23(3):113-117. doi:10.3233/VES-130498.