Writing Tips

A Collection of Tips and Symptoms for Writing about Fainting

Three Things Writers Tend to Get Wrong: Forests, Fainting, and Hunting

(Please note that this post has been revised as of 10/12/2015)

I have talked about forests and hunting, but today, I am talking about a more fun topic—that is, if you are a psychopathic writing.  Fainting can make for interesting scenes in our writing. Today, we are focusing on fainting caused by sickness, lack of nutrients, heat stroke, etc. Fortunately, I have never been knocked out or had someone press a rag with chloroform to my face, so I don’t know anything about that type of fainting 😉 However, I will briefly cover other types of fainting at the end of this post.

A Collection of Tips and Symptoms for Writing About Fainting

Originally, I wrote this post under the assumption that most fainting experiences are relatively similar. Yet, through the comments, I have discovered that fainting happens and feels differently depending on what causes the faint. However, here are four general rules to follow:

  1. Fainting is not a sudden feeling of cold nothingness and then blackness (see specific causes and stories below for more detail on this)
  2. Where your character lands can add additional injuries to the faint (Want to give your character a concussion, too? Missing teeth? How did your character land?)
  3. Recovering from fainting is slower than you think. As Brina puts it: “The point is, trying to push yourself after, will lead to fainting again. And again. And again.”
  4. Your character will have to deal with what caused the faint in the first place (Whether it was an emotional shock, hunger, dehydration, or something else, your character will still have to deal with what caused their faint after they wake up)

To elaborate on these points, I am including my personal experience with fainting and several testimonies of people who commented. I have corrected grammar and spelling in the comments copied here, but otherwise have used the commenter’s direct words. Now, I can’t testify for the medical accuracy of any of these stories, but I think they will be useful for us writers. Hopefully, you can scroll through these quickly and find the specific type of faint to use in your novel (or you can use mine as a general example.)

Fainting due to Anemia (lack of iron)/General Example (My experience):

Whenever I have fainted, I always feel like I have a fever first, and then I keep getting hotter and hotter until I feel like I am going to throw up. In addition, I feel really dizzy, and my vision completely fades to black, but I am still conscious and have complete control over my body. This is where most people would sit down, and then either their sight would slowly come back or they would pass out while sitting down. At this point, my hearing fades out, and I collapse shortly afterwards. (Yes, I should have sat down sooner, but I am stubborn.)

After I wake up, I feel very weak and sick (again, like I have a fever), and I think I threw up once. It takes me at least an hour before I feel like I can walk anywhere without someone supporting me, and a whole day (including a good night’s sleep) before I felt back to normal. However, I am functioning relatively normally after two or three hours.

Please note that many commenters have talked about similar experiences with only a couple variations. If you could like other details, you should consider reading the comments, but I consider my experience with fainting to be a good basis for most fictional faints.

Fainting due to Blood Loss (Commenter: Jeanette)

“I have once fainted due to blood loss. I had donated blood… and walked up a single flight of stairs. I felt very hot, winded and I started feeling dizzy. I have fainted before, so I knew to sit down, put my head between my knees and take deep breaths. I felt a bit better and then my neighbor comes out, sees me, and ask if I’m ok. I raised my head and said that I was not feeling well… [the next thing I remember was] dreaming something about going about daily chores, but my dream was interrupted by a pain in the back of my neck just below the skull. I opened my eyes and saw my neighbor inches from my face. I was profoundly confused…. I wanted to get up, but she pushed me down; I was too weak to fight her. From there on I spent 10 minutes lying on the floor drinking cola with a straw. My lips were blue, I was pale, and my hands were tingling. The paramedics came, and they got me sitting, talked to me, checked my stats, and so forth. After about 10 more minutes they follow me home and order me to spend the day on the couch.

“I had hit my head when I fainted and it took me 3 days before I could walk without feeling like puking. Another week before I felt almost like myself again. This is what happened when I fainted due to blood loss. I knew I was about to faint, but I lost the memory of actually fainting. Which resulted in a gap between feeling dizzy and waking up.”

(Please note that the results of Jeanette’s faint could be due to a concussion and not the blood loss.)

Fainting due to Head Trauma (Various commenters)

I am not including the comment here, but the experience of head trauma seems to be forgetting the events directly after passing out and relatively little pain when they passed out.

Fainting due to Pain/Fear of Pain (Commenter: kzgraphicdesigns)

“I have blacked out several times – and once was definitely from pain – I still don’t know what caused it, but I was in my room and my side seized up and I was in enough pain that I couldn’t breathe. Within seconds my vision went black, and I tried to make it to my bed to lie down. The next thing I knew I was on my back on the floor and very disoriented. (I thought I was waking up in the morning, and was trying to figure out why I had slept on the floor – and then it took a while to remember what day it was and what I had been doing…) What I remember most is how my mouth itched – and my lips were super tingly – similar feeling to when your foot has fallen asleep and is getting the pins-and-needles of ‘waking up’. The other time I came super close to blacking out from pain was when I took a good spill in gravel. Again, my vision went black and I couldn’t hear anything. I was determined not to black out so I took slow, deep breaths and just when I was on the edge of completely blacking out my vision slowly began to return. I was super shaky afterwards both times.”

(Please note that one commenter suggesting that people don’t truly pass out from pain but from something else. So I will leave this story here, and you as the writer can decide what to do.)

Fainting due to a Sedative (Commenter: Kat and Olorim)

Kat: “I had surgery last year and was in the hospital about five days. I was on pain killers most of the first three days. They injected dilaudid (probably misspelled that!) for the pain into my arm several times a day (into one of those tube thingies they insert). It felt both icy cold and hot at the same time, and almost like you could feel it rushing in your veins up your arm toward your brain. Then there would be like a “whooshing” feeling as it hit my head and I’d just go right straight out. It would be like just seconds from injection to “whoosh”. Like “fade to black” in the movies but really fast. I’d wake up like 5 minutes later except it would actually be hours. And I’d be thirsty and disoriented for half an hour or so. Same thing happens when you’re knocked with anesthesia for surgery.”

Olorim: “All I remember was that they gave me a shot and left the room for a while, and then I woke up. Apparently, I had been awake for some time, babbling away unintelligibly… and what I thought was me waking up was just the beginning of me remembering things. I was a bit unsteady on my feet, kind of like when you have been sitting or lying down for a long time and you stand up suddenly (which I guess is how you feel when you are about to faint), but without the clouding of your vision. Apparently, most people can’t stand without help, because they  WOULD NOT  let me walk by myself. It would be my guess that some people can’t see very well, either, or they just can’t think straight at all, because they kept showing me where we were going, even though there were no other cars anywhere near our car. I was very tired for the rest of the day. I felt weak for a while, and it was probably about a week before I was back to full strength, though I was feeling pretty good in about two days….”

Fainting due to a Heat/Dehydration

The symptoms seem to be pretty similar to what I experienced, so I would suggest using my experience to write about this type of faint. If anyone had fainted due to heat and experienced something different, then I would appreciate your comments.

Fainting due to a Heart Arrhythmia (Commenter: Emilymstanton)

“I have a heart arrhythmia, and I’ve fainted from it before. For that kind of fainting, it’s almost exactly what you describe, with a few additions. I started being able to feel my heart jumping in my chest, then got very hot, even sweaty. I sat down on the floor and immediately passed out. I have no idea how long I was passed out but I think it was only a few seconds. When I woke up it took me several minutes to be able to even lift myself up without collapsing, and several more to be able to stand up. I didn’t feel right until the next morning.”

Fainting due to a Fever (Commenter: Inconceivablemeg)

“I’d had a fever for a day or two and had just woken up early one morning to use the bathroom (right next to the bedroom) everything was fine, though it’s a little foggy. I remember standing in the bathroom, and my mom knocked on the door to ask if I was alright. I think I was talking to her one moment. I faintly remember sharp pain in my head and a loud bang (as my head hit the toilet) but I think I was unconscious during the fall. I woke up a few seconds later wedged between the toilet and the wall with a splitting headache. My mom asked what had happened. I told her “I think I fell” (she freaked out because she knew what was going on, but I was oddly calm). I stood up, pressed myself against the wall and assured myself I was fine. A moment later, I woke up on the floor again. I didn’t really get a dizzy feeling or any black fringes to warn me of it, it just happened. I did end up with a concussion, though from the first fall…”

Of course, and not all fiction needs an accurately portrayed faint. However, if you want to write a realistic faint, maybe this post has helped.

We have had a ton of awesome commenters adding their experience to this post, so please feel free to add your own opinion and experience in the comments below! Also if you want more details or to hear different stories about fainting, you can read the comments. I have not included some of the stories in this post for various reasons, but you are welcome to read them.

God bless,

Gabrielle Massman

Tips for writing about fainting

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108 thoughts on “A Collection of Tips and Symptoms for Writing about Fainting”

  1. I actually could only scan this as I kept having psychosomatic symptoms I remember having during my own experiences.

    The people who work in blood labs and clinics make more sense than the brain of someone near fainting, even when they know what they are feeling is light-headedness (assuming you feel off at all). “stay in your seat with your head down” makes sense in First Aid class, makes sense when you see someone get pale and shaky, but not always before you’ll be wondering who on campus isn’t going to ask if you’re feeling better. The reactions of the people around the fainter can also change the story.

    The one my family most remembers was my getting up to go to the bathroom in the night when I was 16 or so. Due to the thunderstorm, my parents were awake in the room next to mine, and we exchanged some comments about a former dog’s reaction to thunderstorms. A few seconds later Mom and Dad hear a thump. I think I may have seen things fly by as I went down, but I hadn’t felt off when I got up, it was a normal “since you’ve been awakened you won’t get back to sleep until you’ve peed” trips. Then I’m thinking it must be time to wake up, and that my bed was against the wall so how is Dad calling me from over there? Dad was yelling for Mom to call 911 (she’s disabled so he does the running in. Usually grabbing his robe. She was by the phone). I had bit my lip going down, have a tiny scar on the inside of my lip right at the incisor, but had no other injury. I was just a bit nauseous. Mom could hear us start talking, and because she had been a speech pathologist at a hospital was able to calmly explain to my father knew we were getting dressed and taking me to the hospital. On arrival I was feeling sluggish, but when we were running through the events with the ER doctor he asked how long I’d been afraid of thunder, going for a psychological reason when I couldn’t give him any symptom that preceded the faint.

    An hour or so later I proved to have a pretty bad stomach bug. So I started out with the IV of fluids with both medicines (given my symptoms, a blessing) before being sent home. Obviously it’s hard to say how much of that recovery time was related to the faint.

    I have tricky veins and they have trouble taking blood samples, and have had reactions to some other procedures. They’ve had to stick me several times in different veins to fill a vial, so I go in, tell them I need to lie down and direct them to draw from the back of my hand. I have tried several mental techniques, but even when I’m following my breathing and feel calm my body will feel icy. And right then is when they ask me how I’m feeling. Mentally I feel like I should be okay, but my body disagrees. If I sit up my head will spin, and my stomach will turn over. I’ll be off for an hour.It was longer before I learned to just start lying down.

    Another type occurred when I was in college. I was having occasional hypoglycemia with no real warning. I got through a class, and when I started to stand up after it. Felt off. I sat back down, put my head on my hand. A few moments later the section of my brain that had told me to get back in the chair ran out of glucose and I carefully stood up, only to collapse back into my chair. The professor called the campus nurse, got me orange juice, and somewhere in this let the professor whose class I was supposed to be in know I wouldn’t be there. That was because both classes were in my major. Someone in this alerted my father, a professor in a different department. At least my department sent me first to one of the prof’s offices and then off with the nurse (surreal conversation as she’s asking who my doctor is, and I’m giving her a name that sounds like “I’ll check”) and I was able to stay there until Dad had a break in classes. I think they even had Dad meet us after his class in the parking lot nearest the infirmary. Still, the 5 professors in my department, classmates either saw me nearly fall or being helped out or were taking the same class the next hour and knew there’d been a message between the professors (possibly through another upperclassman). Dad told his colleagues he needed to take me home, and the other science professors heard and at a small Catholic university you can’t even say that it had been gossip, because there is real concern and people are wanting to help or pray.

    Lastly, I had an ER trip when I wasn’t making sense one morning, and in the ER I was slightly confused, in part because I would suddenly be in a different place or have an aunt seem to beam in. There was no feeling of moving between states. My blood tests were fine and the CT scans of my head were normal. I remember thinking that these sudden shifts really should be bothering me but I couldn’t concentrate enough to. I was glad enough to remain lying down, but rather annoyed that they kept asking me who the President was. I’m told that was only the first question and that I gave the same answer no matter what was asked. More going on than a faint, but they say that that might have happened after a seizure that occurred before I woke up which might offer some insight

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      1. That was nice of you, thank you! I think half the time I’m ignored in a bloggers comments area is because they think I don’t care or worse… *sigh.* 😓

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  2. Thanks for such a great post, it really helped! If anyone needs help with writing about a character fainting fron heatstroke, I can help with that. It was a lot like the first description of fainting, but I remember a sharp pain behind my eyes (people who wear glasses will recognize it as the headache you get from reading/watching tv without your glasses) and my vision was clouded by the same type of coloured shapes and black around the edges from standing up after sitting for a long time. I also remember feeling heat rushing up my arms to my head in repeated waves, like when you stick your hand in bathwater that’s too hot, and it kind of feels like it’s hot and cold at the same time? I don’t know if I’m the only one that experiences that. But with every wave of heat came another headache. I hope this helped someone! 😊

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  3. Once I was at the doctor and I was given a shot for pain
    I don’t remember what it was but I had to get it in my back and it suddenly felt like it was burning
    I felt really nauseous and I was hyperventilating, my head hurt, and my vision just started going fuzzy. The doctor had to hold me up and tell me how to breath to keep me from passing out.

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  4. Another thing I might add is stress. I’m not entirely certain that stress was the sole cause of my fainting, but it was certainly a factor. Hope this helps!
    I was getting an eye exam for glasses at a place that I had never been to before. Instead of testing eye pressure via puff of air, they gave me numbing eye drops and then inserted something into my eye that would somehow measure the pressure. As I saw it get so close it went blurry, then disappeared completely, it felt like every muscle in my body was tense, and my anxiety and asthma started acting up a little. I was able to repress most of the panic by trying to relax and take deep breaths, which worked until I stood up once they had stuck the thing in both my eyes. Abruptly, my sight and hearing faded rapidly; everything went dark and silent, and I got extremely dizzy. I was able to sense a little of what was going on around, so I forced myself to keep walking out of the room. Blinking, I kept trying to clear my vision, but to no avail. My throat was tight and I couldn’t breathe well at all. I collapsed into a chair, suddenly exhausted, and lost consciousness for a moment. My dad said I just kind of slumped over in my seat for a second before sitting up again. My senses still muffled, I asked it there was a restroom around, and was directed to one. I cleaned myself up and splashed some cold water on my face, and my senses became clearer until they were normal, and I had more energy than ever. I was completely recovered, if a bit tired, by the time I got home.

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  5. This is a great post, very informative. I’ve had several experiences with fainting, but nothing as dramatic as some of the causes listed here- all of them can be chalked up to genetically-caused low blood pressure, and the occasional stubborn urge to hold my breath for far longer than I should. One of the funnier stories I have to tell people is the time I got the hiccups at a bake sale I was helping out at, and decided to hold my breath to get rid of them. Next thing I know, I’m waking up on the floor, with a group of people standing around me talking loudly. My family reinstated a ban on ever holding my breath underwater again.
    I usually have some slight memory loss after fainting, and don’t always immediately remember what I was doing before I passed out. When I was younger I fainted during class, and woke up on the floor wondering why I was lying in front of the bathroom. I was not in front of the bathroom. My classmates kept telling me I’d fallen off of my chair, and I didn’t realise until about an hour later that that was impossible, as I’d been carrying my chair to the edge of the room at the time. It later turned out that I had been holding my breath to impress a friend.
    From my experience, fainting is like having all senses muffled, and then waking up. Nothing in between. Tunneled vision, static, dizziness, waking up on the floor, confusion.
    I’ve never experienced some of the nastier side-effects described by the above people- no vomiting, or nausea. Just dizziness, a slight headache, a feeling of all of my senses fading out, and the occasional bump on the head. Once I fainted after standing up too quickly and walking down the hall, and woke up with what looked like a giant rash down the side of my face from sliding down the wall. It’s usually not too hard to get up and walk it off after an episode, though that’s probably only because they’re pretty mild compared to some of what is described in the previous comments. The only truly scary thing that ever happened was when I didn’t quite faint- I had all the symptoms, but didn’t actually pass out. All I could do was lie on the floor and keep jerking and trying to get back up, but I could only lift my head off the ground.

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  6. I had my wisdom teeth removed. the i.v was put in and in the short seconds for the nurse to put a blanket over me to keep me warm i was out. i woke up feeling like i only blinked for a long time i wasn’t groggy or anything i wanted to get up but they made me sit in a wheel chair to the car. by the time i got home i was cold so i went and took a nap when i got up to pee everything was fine until i suddenly i felt a sudden chill woke up on the floor. What they gave me caused sudden fainting spells

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    1. I don’t think fatigue alone would cause one to faint. If one was in a situation of extreme fatigue (in a natural disaster/ medical worker in a lasting medical emergency), then firstly adrenaline would be keeping the mind awake for longer than it normally would. When the emergency has gotten over the worst point, the adrenaline would lesson and the fatigue would start to kick in. The person would then come to the point where they could no longer function and they would go to sleep, rather than faint.
      Fainting happens when the brain does not receive adequate oxygen to cover its needs.

      Being fatigued is unlikely to cause that on its own. If one was under extreme fatigue and DID faint, it is probably in combination with one of the many stressors which would cause a faint.

      For example, I fainted on my first day of a 6 week trip to Australia. I hadn’t slept at all in the 20 hour journey (including the stop overs) and had been up for the 10 hours prior to leaving on my first flight. I also hadn’t eaten much food during that time because the in-flight dinner was truly horrible, and I’d forgotten to bring any local currency of the places we changed flights in (the days before plastic was currency). I also have hereditary low blood pressure which affects me often when getting up from sitting or first thing in the morning. Lastly, Australia is much hotter than the UK, and I don’t do too well in heat. Put all this together, and the result should have been predictable. Stupidly I didn’t think and went happily clambering up some hills on a hike over midday after 6 hours sleep.

      Some of the warning signs I have prior to fainting (they all don’t happen each time, but at least one of them will): light headed/ feeling like there’s water being swirled in my head; my body temp ramps up in a very short period of time to the point where my skin looks like I’m standing in a rain shower; my legs feel jelly-like; I’m unable to concentrate n anything but what is directly in front of me- not tunnel vision, but tunnel mind; a few flashing lights or complete snow storm static.

      When I notice these sign(s) I have about 10 seconds or less to lie down or faint. If I lie down in time then it can take about 15 minutes for the warning signs to go away and I feel able to safely get up. If I don’t, then I will faint and I actually recover much quicker.

      Occasionally after a faint I have to lie there for quite some time as I have uncontrollable shaking. I always get up in stages. I’ve had a second faint once because I got up too quickly.

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  7. This is such a useful website! Thanks so much!

    I’ve only ever passed out once in my life, and it was from lack of air. I had been blowing up a lot of balloons, and suddenly my vision went black, like a headrush, and I heard a high-pitched whistling in my head, almost like I could hear a dog whistle. I was still conscious, though, and felt myself lose control of my body and begin falling backwards. The last thing I remember was my best friend shouting my name…apparently, I hit my back on the wall that was (thankfully) behind me and then slid down to the floor. I woke up sitting on the floor with two friends trying to talk to me (which was really disorienting). I was only out for a couple of seconds, but I felt a little shaky for about 15 minutes after. I had apparently gone super white and limp but my eyes had stayed open the whole time (freaky).

    I did get knocked out with sedative once, and the only addition I can add is that I tried to fight it at first (I was getting my wisdom teeth out and didn’t like the idea of being force to sleep) and it made the whole room spin sickeningly. I felt extremely lightheaded, but I could still speak and joke for a while until I was completely knocked out.

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  8. Thank you for this post, very interesting! I dont usual comment on blogs but I just wanted to add my experience of fainting due to pain/fear of pain.

    The first time I fainted was actually due to low blood sugar levels when I was about 15. Since then, I seem to be prone to fainting, sometimes due to low blood sugar (which is an excuse to have something extremely sugary!).

    I often now faint when in pain. When it first happened, I thought the fainting was the result of the pain, but a first aider once said that it was probably due to shock, which made sense. The fainting seemed to be the result of sudden, unexpected pain, like slicing my finger with a knife.

    I have also fainted before when having injections, I’m rather terrified of needles… so it is quite possible that it is not pain itself that makes me faint but rather shock or fear of pain.

    When I faint, I always know it is going to happen. I go dizzy, my head feels fuzzy and my body suddenly feels weak and sluggish. I get an awful high pitched buzzing noise in my head. I then blackout, sometimes I remember dreaming. When due to low blood sugar, I have fitted a little before and my lips have turned blue. The first sense that comes back to me is my hearing, which is fuzzy and sounds like I’m underwater. I sometimes still hear the buzzing noise afterwards, particularly if I sit up too quickly. It takes quite a while for me to recover and sugar often helps even when it is not blood sugar related as it gives my weak body a quick boost of energy.

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  9. This is an interesting subject! The first time I fainted I was terrified of it for months after. I actually have orthostatic hypotension, which means that my blood pressure can drop suddenly and dramatically after a change in posture – going from sitting to standing, or even going from hard excercise to stopping completely. The latter is the reason for my first (and so far only) total faint, though since then I’ve had some very near misses. I stepped off the eliptical at the gym and felt very lightheaded, and my mind and sight began closing into darkness – my vision was leaving, but so was my capacity to understand what was going on. Fortunately my mom was working out next to me and she caught me. She later said my arms and fists curled up against my chest and my lips were blue. I woke up on the floor of the gym with paramedics arriving. My blood sugar and EKG were normal, and within 15 minutes I felt well enough to let them wheel me out to our car, which I was able to get in without much help. As they wheeled me out I noticed a damp spot where I had been lying in the floor, which a doctor explained to me later. It’s is the one thing about fainting I haven’t noticed among the comments here: when you completely lose consciousness, you pee yourself. Yep. Embarrassing. I’m not a doctor, so I assume there are different levels of fainting, blacking out, etc. But it has been explained to me that complete loss of consciousness causes the muscles in your body to totally relax and your bladder voids itself. Delightful tidbit! Anyway, while fainting isn’t something I’d wish on anybody, it’s been interesting to hear different peoples’ experiences with it and how to write about it. Fainting in books and movies has bothered me since my experience since nobody ever mentions the messy consequences.
    Love your blog!

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  10. Once I was sitting on the couch and I got up suddenly. Often when I do that I just start seeing black dots and feeling a bit dizzy but this time I saw nothing but darkness and I felt numb. I had the impression of being stuck in jelly or something and I tried moving my arm but couldn’t. I felt a tingling in my arm and slowly I became aware of what was around me. I had fallen and my arm ha hit the corner of the table. I don’t think it lasted more than a few seconds. I managed to pull myself back onto the couch and waited a few minutes. I still felt a bit dizzy but after a short while I was better.

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  11. Julia: Heat stroke/dehydration/pain
    I was in Thailand on vacation a few years back with my family and on our first day we spent like 8 hours by the beach. Now I hate tanning, and I was 13 years old so I had to listen when my mom told me that I couldn’t go swimming in the water, so as our standard foolproof compromise I lied down on my stomach reading for the whole day. But I forgot to use sun protection so having the reflecting book by my nose the whole day gave me the worst sunburn I’ve ever had – my face was practically swollen by the evening. We put some cooling lotion on before bed and went to sleep.
    Thing is, our cooling lotion was the kind that becomes stubborn crusts on your skin as it’s dried and so by the morning when I tried to was it away in the bathroom I couldn’t because my sunburn and the hard crusts was extremely painful. So I asked for my mom to help me and she wasn’t careful at all which just amplified the pain so quickly that I couldn’t even react. So in a few seconds, my vision got more and more obscured by fuzzy lights and then I couldn’t hear my mom’s voice and the running water in the bathroom and then I just before everything went black I thought “This pain is too much for me to handle” and then I registered nothing at all, like when you’re asleep and haven’t started dreaming yet. My hearing came back first as I heard my parents call out my name worriedly, and then I could see them in the hotel bedroom and then I registered that I was sitting down on the bed. I was too shaky to get up and my mom told me how when I fainted she immediately caught me and carried me into the bedroom. It had gone less than a few minutes. I then vaguely remember my dad making a phone call, us getting dressed – mom carefull that my head would be covered from the sun and me wearing sunlotion. Next memory after that is us on a bus and then us meeting a doctor who said I had had a sunstroke, a nearly 3rd degree burn on my entire face (literally my entire face had a thick layer of liquid under all the skin like a bad burn wound) and dehydration, and he told us that I wasn’t allowed to be under direct sunlight for the rest of our trip without having my head and body protected by clothes and he gave us a prescription on cortison that I had to use for the rest of the trip.

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  12. Oh boy. I’ve fainted a lot. In many different ways. I’ve only half-joked about the sense that my body’s defense mechanism is not fight or flight but “I give up!”. I theorize that, if I were drowning, I would probably just pass out and drown and die rather than have any chance at survival. With how often I’ve fainted and the many reasons for why… well, you might agree with that observation in a minute.

    So…

    Fainting from dehydration: I can confirm that it has felt exactly like your description for “general”, for me. I feel like I need to get to the floor because it is cold. I once was in a grocery store with my mother in the summer and she found me hanging out in the ice cooler, draped over some bags of ice because it was helping me.

    Fainting from pain: I tripped over a friend who was sitting on the floor, and slammed my shin on the cement floor. The pain was immense. Two friends jumped in to help me, recognizing that I was fainting. They kept my head elevated, got a cool damp dish towel for my head. My vision ‘crackled’ in blackness; my ears got VERY LOUD and high-pitched. Things eventually calmed down, and I was very weak and sleepy. They let me sleep it off.

    Fainting from choking: I was at a mall with my aunt and a french fry got stuck in my throat. One second I was talking with my aunt, the next everything faded out. I didn’t know where I was. But I had slumped in the seat, fallen out of it, and kicked over the table. The drink had spilled in my lap. Apparently my aunt thought I had “faked it” because I looked like that overly dramatic theatrical fainting. So apparently that can be a thing?

    Fainting for no known reason: I passed out already sitting down in my living room. I was with friends, they were talking, and suddenly I was just out. They said I just went slack and started making a noise in my throat (probably from airway being loose like sleep apnea) and I was unresponsive for a few seconds.

    Fainting from emotional panic, while sick: I was sick. I had quit my crappy retail job because I was being stalked. But I hadn’t told my parents. This was the summer after I graduated high school, so I was still living at home. My mother thought she was being nice by calling into work to tell them I was sick, but they told her I hadn’t worked there in a week. Her and my father called me to the living room, confronted me about the fact that I had been going somewhere during hours that week I had been saying I was at work (I was visiting two friends, trying to sort my life out), and coupled with the sickness it was just too much. One second I’m shivering on the chair, seeing them glaring at me, and the next I’m on the ground, and my head hurts. I had hit my head on the coffee table on the way down. When I woke up, I thought I was waking up in my bed. I was very confused as to why I was on the ground and what was going on. And then apparently my parents also thought that I had faked the fainting, like my aunt had previously, and even though I was very weak and disoriented continued to chew me out. I don’t remember much of that day beyond that. I was probably delirious.

    Fainting from dehydration and pain: Similar to other times, but I had broken my ankle. My boyfriend was nearby the bathroom after helping me out of the shower. We knew I had a broken ankle, but I had an appointment to get a cast so it wasn’t on just yet. I had been using the hospital issued brace instead. He had me sit on the toilet so I could dry myself off. I felt this rush of cold, and my vision blanked out. I called out to him. I felt like I was asleep, like I was in bed, and then I heard him in my “dream”. I started to piece together what was happening. I told him I couldn’t find him. He was very scared, he told me later, because my lips were blue, and I couldn’t see him even though I was staring right at him. Like other times, weakness and sleepiness followed.

    Fainting from lack of oxygen to the brain: I have been put in a sleeper hold during fights and knocked out several times. I have had a massaged knot on my neck have me faint. When it has happened quickly, it’s like the brain just had an OFF switch. No warning, just suddenly ‘asleep’, with ensuing panic of waking up. When it has been slow, there was a feeling like cotton or velvet over my ears and eyes. Then I felt the world drop out from under me, and it was like I was over a canyon, terrified I couldn’t touch the ground. Sometimes I can say a few things, give a warning that I’m going to pass out. But then inevitably I’m out for a few seconds. Coming back to, I feel like I’m clawing my way out of that canyon, trying to right myself. Sometimes I can bounce back from adrenaline, to fight back, but other times–like when it was the massage that did it–I needed to sleep for a few hours to regain being a normal human being.

    So… yeah. I’ve fainted a lot. I’ll probably faint a lot more still in my life. The major things for me are:

    * vision and hearing fade out until they are gone, returning slowly
    * weakness after fainting, sometimes sleepiness
    * typically I am not out for more than a few seconds (1 – 20 seconds of truly being unresponsive with 2 – 5 being most common; possibly several minutes of incoherent, low responsiveness, or returning functionality)
    * lying down and feeling something cold tends to help, aid, or speed recovery and return to the normal world (I think the cold works for me because I think I’m looking to have a real-world “touchstone”, something to anchor me to reality so I don’t slip into the faint or slip into it again after partial recovery)

    Hope this helps!

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  13. Thanks for a thoughtful post!

    Here’s something I’ve experienced. I never fully fainted but close. Perhaps it’s more like vertigo but it may be helpful to know.

    Whenever I would get particularly dizzy (I’m not sure why), my vision would blur up and/or it felt like the room was spinning around. If it weren’t too bad I might try walking on. But if it were too much I would stop because the control over my limbs is lost, they tend to shake randomly (like slight jerk) and I feel weak. It’s hard to sit down in this state. If I didn’t sit down before and it hits me hard, what might happen is my legs will just give out suddenly. I drop straight down. Usually that happens also my vision might black out. But I can hear still, though sometimes it seems muffled and it feels like it’s not reality.

    One such incident I got up and walked into the kitchen I got dizzy and before I knew it went black and I heard a banging noise. Then I could see again I was slumped down on the floor leaning against the cabinets.

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  14. I have always been something of a victorian lady when it comes to fainting. I’m a very slender young woman, so that may contribute to some of the problem.

    When I pass out, it is called Vasovagal syncope. For me, fainting was usually due to stress, exhaustion, or the sight of blood.

    Right away I felt dizzy, and when I was little (3-10) I described it as a fuzzy feeling in my head. It was a similar feeling to when you stand up too fast. I also would become very pale, clammy, and I would yawn a lot. At this point, I would stumble if I tried to walk.

    The next thing to go was my hearing. Sounds would become indistinguishable but very loud. They sounded distant all the same, as if the sound was echoing from far away.

    Then everything would become blurry. But it was always more like i was trying to look through a very thick fog. I could not see anything going on around me. And the fog was always a sort of lime green color. I’ve never talked to anyone else who experienced the distinct color, and the doctor’s that I’ve seen haven’t been able to explain it. At this point when others look at me, my eyes will still be open and moving, but they won’t focus on anything. My friends and family who have seen me this way say that I look through them.

    After that, I experience something similar to the feeling you have when you’re drifting off to sleep and then you wake up suddenly with the feeling that you’re falling. This stage is very brief, and I can feel my limbs failing. Other people say that it looks as if I just crumpled.

    While I’m unconscious, I dream. They are usually very vivid and they feel as if they’ve been going on for hours, when in reality I’m only unconscious for about a minute. How you fall is very important. If I know that I’m about to pass out, I tell someone and then try to be sitting or laying on something. I’ve never seriously injured myself, but it is definitely a concern. Sometimes I twitch or spasm while I’m unconscious. It looks very similar to a seizure, but it is impossible to have a seizure during vasovagal syncope because the fainting is caused by not enough blood in the brain and a seizure is caused by too much.

    When I wake up, hearing is the first sense to come back, but it’s still very fuzzy and I’m only vaguely aware of where I am or what has happened. Then the sense of touch. I can feel acutely if I’ve fallen awkwardly, and I am often sore or in pain. But my head is still very foggy and I can’t really have coherent thoughts at this stage. Sometimes I groan or start moving at this point.

    Then I will open my eyes and start making sense of what has happened. I’m still very pale and clammy, and teachers and school nurses who have been present and tried to take my pulse have never been able to find one. After a little while, I will be able to walk. Usually, I eat or drink before attempting to do so. My judgment is very poor at this point, and I’m not very reliable. Sometimes nurses ask me questions to test for head trauma and I often can’t tell them much more that my name and birthday.

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  15. I´ve never fainted but sister M has and describes it as waking up on the floor with people all worried. Have felt close to fainting, very dizzy, everything is dark, but has multiple neon outlines

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  16. I tend to faint from dehydration, and once everything goes black, my body starts shaking. I know I’m going to faint and I know I need to sit down, but a lot of times trying to sit down will lead to more trouble.
    I’ve hurt myself more trying to sit down or to get to something stable than I have from just fainting. I’ve fallen into a TV tray stand, chairs, fences, counters, tables, because I was trying to use them for support.
    A few weeks ago, I fainted at the bottom of a staircase that goes from my mailbox to my house, and had to figure out how to get back up the stairs when I woke up. I fainted twice more before I managed to get to my couch, where I fainted again. (Yes, I have neighbors; no, no one helped me/cared/noticed.) The point is, trying to push yourself after, will lead to fainting again. And again. And again.

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  17. Wow, that’s so informative! I’ll be sure to remember all this!
    I would like to tell my sister’s experience. She was counselling at a summer camp, eating breakfast. She was extremely tired and probably sleep deprived, and also overwhelmed by stress. She also, like me, is protein deficient and needs to eat protein first thing in the morning or else she’d feel faint. Because she’d already been awake for an hour, she was extremely nauseous and weak. Hoping to fix this, she immediately ate some bacon. After just a few pieces, tiredness and fatigue made it hard to keep her eyes open, and then she fainted.
    You see, she should have drunk some juice before giving her weak body protein, because the effort of digesting the meat put her over the edge.
    All those things (fatigue, stress, and hungry) added up to the faint.
    She was only out for half a minute, but she was kept in bed for the rest of the day, feeling extremely nauseous and weak. So that’s how you can faint from hunger/sleep deprivation. I hope that helps!

    I’ve learned from her experiences, but despite that, I’ve come close to fainting as well when working at camp where you’re low on sleep and working in the hot sun all day.

    And I hate to be a troll, but chloroform is actually incredibly unpredictable and hard to handle and isn’t realistically used. It’s just been used in movies and books. 😜

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  18. I just read this, and even though I know it’s been about two years since you first posted it, I thought I’d add my own experiences. I faint from low blood pressure. Like you, I’m stubborn, and don’t like to stop what I’m doing. My dad also suffered from it when he was a teenager, so he knows the signs, which a narrowing of the vision and a throbbing pain in the head. I also feel weak and wobbly, and sometimes feel dizzy and disoriented. However, there are times when I quickly wake up and get up to turn off my alarm clock, and my vision will begin to narrow, and then go black. I try to get down, but I can’t always get down in time, and I faint. I used to share a room with my now four year old sister who came from an abusive home, where drugs and fainting was common. I remember one morning, when she was a new three and had been in our home for about a year, I got up to turn off my alarm and the next thing I remembered was Emma, my sister, crying and shaking me awake. I was confused. She tried to help me stand up, but her little three year old body couldn’t lift my eighteen year old one. My head hurt for a while, and my limbs felt like jelly. I couldn’t even remember fainting.

    Another time, when I was about nine, I had a massive migraine. I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, my head pounding, and turned off the light to go back to my room. The next thing I remembered was my mom calling my name and asking me if I was alright. I was lying down at the top of the stairs, my front part hanging off the top step. (Our bathroom door is right at the top of a small landing which opens to stairs.) It was only by God’s grace that I didn’t fall down the stairs and hurt myself even more. The next morning I was taken to the emergency room and they did a cat scan. It turns out my migraine and the fainting spell were caused by low blood pressure. I had had no protein and very little water the day before, both of which raise your blood pressure. Since then I have come very near to fainting several times, but my family have always been able to force my head down and know not to tell me to do anything until I am back to normal. I also carry a small container of peanut butter and a water bottle if I go out.

    I also wanted to note that the description of being put under by medication is much like what I went through when my wisdom teeth were removed. I woke up much earlier than I remembered, and I was told later that I was babbling like an idiot for an hour before I regained consciousness of what I was doing. I, however, was very alert at that point and had very little problem understanding what was going on. I did, however, have to be transported in a wheelchair because my legs wouldn’t cooperate.

    I hope this was helpful. God Bless!

    Bethia Lark

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  19. I have epilepsy and have fainted from it before. Before fainting you get very nauseous and dizzy, like the world is tilted. Then it feels like your head is full of cotton balls, you can’t concentrate on anything. My legs get shaky and my vision starts to blur out rather than fade to black. Normally then I pass out, and I don’t remember where I am/what I was doing. I also feel sick, shaky and weak. It takes a day to get back to normal, and there is also a fear of passing out again. The fear more than anything really bothers me.

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