PTSD and Menopause: Why Your Symptoms May Be Worse

Unlocking the Menopause-PTSD Link: Expert insights on symptom relief and coping strategies. Learn how to manage your journey effectively.

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The Unseen Link: Menopause and PTSD Symptoms

Today, we are going to look at an area we increasingly understand is connected to the intensity of our menopause symptoms. PTSD, and complex PTSD (cPTSD). Most women who struggle with these symptoms won’t have received a clinical diagnosis – but they will be experiencing worse flushes, or anxiety, or agitation – and not really understanding why.

A Glimpse into the Three-Part Brain

When looking at trauma, it can help to understand that our brains are made up of 3 main parts – the “human” brain, the cortex – where we think, remember, and make sense of our worlds. Underlying this, are our limbic brain, and our older “reptilian” brain – programmed for primitive instincts like appetite, sexual attraction, and survival. Acting on instinct, it works much quicker than the cortex due to neuroception: the constant scanning for safety or danger.

How Trauma Alters Our Reactions

When we experience a situation that makes us feel profoundly unsafe – a trauma – we default to trying to survive. We act at a reflex level (fight, flight, fawn or flop) rather than with the other part of our brain – the part that time stamps the memory, and makes sense of it.

Menopause and the Primitive Brain: A Vicious Cycle

Trauma takes many forms and is far more complex than we can do credit to in a single post. But the point is, what happened to us is stored in this primitive part of the brain, and becomes part of how we react to sensory information in the future. Our neuroception may trigger our primal brain if it thinks we are in danger again. Our “thinking brain” is not as fast as this part that is wired for survival. Our sympathetic nervous system is activated – meaning our bodies react with adrenaline and cortisol: racing heart, dry mouth, shaking body, the whole works. Our thinking brain often even goes offline during this process – making it hard to verbalise.

Coping Strategies for Symptom Management

Many of our menopause symptoms fire off the same sympathetic nervous system. We have several studies now showing women who have experienced trauma have a harder time of both menopause, and their PTSD symptoms, during menopause. Body based therapies can work really well – yoga, emotional freedom techniques, breathwork, trauma release exercises. HRT may help too.

Let us know what tools you use to manage your symptoms.

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A note on our language

Throughout this website, we use the term women when describing people who experience hormonal symptoms. However, we acknowledge not only those who identify as women require access to menopause and hormone health information. For example, some trans men, non-binary people, intersex people or people with variations in sex characteristics may also experience menopausal symptoms and PMS/PME or PMDD, and we warmly welcome everyone who needs this support in our clinic.

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