Symptoms & Diagnosis


MdDS is a feeling of rocking and or swaying. Similar to that of being on a boat. These sensations have been described by patients as:

  • Swaying to one side, often with a gravitational pull of my legs
  • My legs feel like they are constantly moving
  • Like a gyroscope in the head, together a humming vibration in my bosy
  • Like walking on a trampoline or waterbed
  • Legs feel like jelly
  • Legs feel like concrete
  • Gravitational pull of the body to the left
  • Gravitational pull of the body to the right

More commonly, symptoms include:

  • Fatigue (just from trying to stay upright)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Staggering gait
  • Headaches/migraine
  • Tinnitus
  • Ear pain or fullness


Generally, Mal de Debarquement Syndrome is diagnosed by a process of elimination rather than clear cut tests. MRIs and CT scans return normal. The fact that a patient has recently travelled is a good indication. Relief of symptoms is experienced whilst being back in passive motion such as driving. The latter is found NOT to be the case with other balance disorders.

Many factors are found to exacerbate the symptoms of MdDS. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress/anxiety
  • Bright lighting
  • Low barometric pressure
  • Confined spaces
  • Hormonal changes
  • Computer work
  • Showering
  • Supermarkets/shopping centers
  • Crowded places
  • Bending down / up
  • Darkness
  • Descending stairs
  • Colds and ‘flu

As one can see, the list of exacerbating factors is quite extensive.  This means that Mal de Debarquement Syndrome has a dramatic impact on the patient’s quality life. Activities taking for granted become difficult and at times impossible. Doing the weekly grocery shopping means relying on someone to assist you, as with hanging out the washing.  Many have to reduce working hours or resign from work altogether. All of these factors lead to physical, emotional, psychological and financial difficulties.

MdDS has a high comorbidity rate. Meaning many of us  become depressed because of the loss of lifestyle, work and general comittments.