Written by Trish
I was in a deep sleep from a remedy I was taking to address the core fear that had resulted from my trauma a week prior.
Suddenly I was awoken by a loud humming that sounded unnatural. I opened my eyes to see my bedroom fill with flashes of neon green.
I was so confused by what my senses had revealed to me that I started to shake.
The only explanation I could find is that aliens had landed in my backyard.
I heard my husband up so I got up to find him in the office. It was freezing rain and a nearby transformer had blown due to the weight on the power lines.
The intense humming sound and flashes of unnatural light from the disabled transformer continued to spook me, and I found my body turning to mush under the fear.
I needed to lie down before I collapsed.
The next day I awoke I was “floating”.
“Floating” is a sensation you can feel either with your whole body or parts of your body.
It feels like you are a buoy in the water; sometimes the water has light ripples and the buoy moves up and down, side to side at a slow constant pace, and sometimes it is stormy and the buoy is thrown about in all directions.
What it is not is vertigo or dizziness.
It can be constant or intermittent.
It is triggered.
Who’s talking about it and who’s not
Search “floating sensation, anxiety” on Google and you come up with a lot of links to people asking questions about it and getting a handful of brief answers.
Not a lot of people are talking about it in a clinical sense.
Not overly reassuring in my opinion.
These people asking the questions are looking for something to call it so they can say “such and such is wrong with me” and hope that it will go away fast. I know their pain; it makes you feel like a freak and it is so uncomfortable that you will do anything to end it.
A day in the life of a “floater”
You are continuously aware of the floating sensation; how it changes your perception of reality. You begin to notice which situations trigger it and you avoid those situations.
You wonder if you are going crazy.
You think you have some horrific disease that is altering your brain.
You worry about it all the time.
You begin to distrust your body.
You start to become a hypochondriac.
This fear and anxiety you have around the sensation and the triggers make your floating sensation worse and you begin to feel even more anxious. The vicious cycle begins.
Consulting the professionals
You’ve gone through the standard brain tests (MRI, CAT Scan, EEG, etc.) and you’ve been to the ENT Specialist to ensure that your balance is okay.
Nothing is wrong with you.
You doctors say the cause is anxiety. You already knew that because once your nervous system is in fight-or-flight, your “floating” increases.
You have noticed a connection to the tension in your neck, jaw and shoulders and how you posture these body parts has an affect on how predominant the sensation experienced.
Circulation also seems to be a factor because when your heart starts pumping from exertion, the floating sensation gets worse.
So you consult the Almighty Google again and you find a glimmer of hope that it may be caused by a Dissociative Disorder. Yeah, that sounds pretty good but you don’t seem to have the main symptoms.
You try psychotherapy, alternative therapy, anti-anxiety medication.
You still have the floating sensation.
You find yourself asking “when will this bad trip end?”
What you can do about it
Build you support team of caring professionals and family and friends that don’t look at you strange when you tell them you feel you are “floating”.
Get treatment for your anxiety and learn how to manage it.
Then do what you need to do to take responsibility for the “floating” because in the end it is all up to you:
- eliminate or at least minimize all substances that trigger the sensation. You know the ones I mean: booze, coffee and recreational drugs. Then use your power of heightened awareness to the sensation to detect any other substances that trigger it. For me it’s rice;
- work to accept that there is nothing wrong with you–you are just right the way you are;
- work to let go of wanting to put a label on it and to “cure” it;
- try not to get stuck in how unfair it is. See it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself;
- work to accept that this is how things are right now.
Begin to practice the following:
- focusing on the present.
So this is what you need to do right now…
Desensitization: You will have recognized by now which situations cause your floating sensation to be at its worse. Go and put yourself in the most controllable situation (where you feel you can opt-out any time without feeling embarrassed or punishing yourself for it) right now. For me that’s lying flat in bed. Sit with the “floating” and the fear and the anxiety that come with it and focus on your sensations. If thoughts or worries come up, turn your focus back to your sensations. Relax into them. Do this for as long as you can. Continue to do this practice until you begin to notice that the floating sensation is not as predominant.
Focusing: Engage in an activity that requires your complete focus. You will notice that when you are fully engage you do not notice or think about your floating sensation.
It is during these times that you feel the relief. Recognize and celebrate this for what it is: the potential for healing.
This is hard, hard work and takes the courage of a warrior. You have that courage; you have felt hell in your mind and body.
Focus on your stamina to do the work; you have lived with the most unexpected sensation imaginable 24/7 and survived.
Pledge gratitude to what you will learn: patience, acceptance and compassion.
Eventually the sensation will subside to the point you will not notice it most of the time. You may even forget.
When it does flare up, you will feel comfortable enough not to feed into the fear and anxiety. You will have learned to trust your body and mind again.
I know that you can do this. The discomfort you feel right now is the best motivator you’ve got; use it to face your fear.
I’ve compiled stats from the 500+ comments
(Last updated: November 27, 2018)
I’ve compiled stats based on data collected from the information people have left in the comments re their experiences with floating. You will find them in the tables below.
The percentage (%) represents the number of responses for that item in that category relative to the total number of responses for that category.
I suggest that you read them in their entirety because there are contradictions. The most controversial is around anti-depressants and benzodiazepines; they may make the floating sensation better/disappear or make the sensation worse. The data also shows that starting a benzo can cause the sensation, as can reducing a benzo.
PLEASE NOTE that regardless of what conclusion these stats may reveal, my recommended first step is that you see a doctor, including an ENT specialist and a neurologist, as well as a therapist.
If you wish to add to this data by telling us about your symptoms, possible causes, how you’re managing, and if you’ve found a possible cure… or you just want to connect with us… please leave a comment below.
|Feels like floating in air/buoy in the water/moving up and down/side to side||21.7%|
|Body parts/whole body feel numb||5.1%|
|Tension/pain in areas from upper back to top of head||4.3%|
|Feel as if dying/going to die/have a terminal illness||4.0%|
|Feel disconnected from body||4.0%|
|Goes away for awhile then comes back||3.6%|
|Feel unbalanced when walking||2.9%|
|Feel high and drunk||2.5%|
|Moving head/eyes/neck triggers sensation||2.2%|
|Pressure in head||2.2%|
|Feels like the ground is moving||1.8%|
|Worse when sitting/standing still||1.8%|
|Feels like brain is shifting side to side||1.5%|
|Limbs feel weak||1.5%|
|Moving legs makes me feel the sensation||1.1%|
|Worse after high stress||1.1%|
|Sensation starts a few hours after waking||1.1%|
|Rapid heartbeat/heart palpitations||1.1%|
|Worse when lying down||1.1%|
|Worse after working out||1.1%|
|Head feels like it’s filled with cotton wool||0.7%|
|Scalp is tight||0.7%|
|Visual disturbances / everything looks slanted||0.7%|
|Feels like the bed is moving||0.7%|
|Worse after eating high carb and/or greasy foods||0.7%|
|No control over limbs||0.7%|
|Worse when driving||0.7%|
|Worse with sinus/ear infection||0.7%|
|Hyper-aware of every sensation||0.4%|
|Worse when around mold||0.4%|
|Turn over in bed and feel off-balance||0.4%|
|Sensation is worse when lie on belly||0.4%|
|Only occurs when walking||0.4%|
|Electric shock sensation||0.4%|
|Like a force is pushing||0.4%|
|About to fall off a cliff||0.4%|
|Pulling on hair||0.4%|
|Worse in the morning and early afternoon||0.4%|
|Blood sugar crashing||0.4%|
|Stressful event/high stress in life||11.1%|
|Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (or MdDS)||5.6%|
|Anti-depressants make it worse||3.7%|
|Started when taking anxiety meds||2.8%|
|Travel on an airplane||1.9%|
|Reduced/stopped anxiety meds||1.9%|
|Long term Vitamin B12 deficiency||1.9%|
|Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness||1.9%|
|Candida and mold||0.9%|
|Rapid weight loss||0.9%|
|Electro-magnetic field sensitivity||0.9%|
|Cervical or cervicogenic vertigo /cervical or cervicogenic dizziness||0.9%|
|Minor head injury||0.9%|
|Long term Vitamin D deficiency||0.9%|
|Fluid in middle ear||0.9%|
|Trauma or whiplash to the head||0.9%|
|Long term depression||0.9%|
What Helps to Manage and/or Lessen the Floating Sensation
|Eat lots of protein||2.5%|
|Maintain low stress level||2.5%|
|Cutting out foods that you are allergic/intolerant to||2.5%|
|Better when in a car||2.5%|
|Vestibular rehabilitation therapy||2.5%|
|Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)||2.5%|
|Walk every day||1.2%|
|Wake up by 9-10am at latest||1.2%|
|Therapy to heal trauma||1.2%|
|Avoid recreational drugs||1.2%|
|Positive self talk||1.2%|
|Better in the morning||1.2%|
|Drink a couple of beers||1.2%|
|Better when swimming||1.2%|
|Rocking back and forth||1.2%|
|Requip (medication/dopaminergic agent)||1.2%|
Possible Cures (reported by 6 commenters only)
|Managed anxiety through therapy and/or psychotropics||4|
|Adjustments by chiropractor||1|
|Gluten free diet||1|
Cartoon credit: Trish Hurtubise
Hi. I’m Trish Hurtubise…the founder, curator and an editor for Mental Health Talk. I love serving those who are relegated to the shadows by society by giving them a platform to share their voice and be seen and heard… hence my passion for working with all the wonderful people who have shared their stories and wisdom on MHT.
You may view all posts by me here.
I have also written a romance novel (under the name Tricia Best) that is a story of two young adults struggling to come together and embrace their sexuality when faced with PTSD and addiction. I wanted the book to have meaning as well as entertain the reader in true new adult romance fashion.
Much love to you.