Menopause and unresolved trauma

Perimenopause and menopause can be difficult times for any woman due to hormonal fluctuations and midlife changes.


‘Midlife’ changes could be many different things – challenging relationships with parents, and siblings, career experiences that haven’t sat well with you over the years, ‘empty nest’ as children move out of home into their new place or go off to uni. Or grief and loss that you haven’t processed – this can be losing a loved one or a concept coined by Julia Samuel ‘living loss’, which could be about the loss of identity, health, purpose, confidence, self-esteem and/or relationship(s). 

So, any unresolved past issues can crop up for us in our ‘midlife’. And they do, don’t they?

For women who have experienced trauma – in childhood, abusive relationships or PTSD, this sensitive time of life can reopen old, unresolved wounds, resulting in symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or panic attacks. Even hot flushes and night sweats can be exacerbated.

These things can continue to trigger us if not fully looked at, understood and processed. We can go the ‘ostrich syndrome’ route and suppress them. Or we can look to explore these unresolved past issues. If we choose not to recognise and deal with any unresolved issues and past trauma, we risk that they will hold us back in both our present and future. And you don’t want that for yourself, do you? 

We associate trauma and PTSD with the military or survivors of terrible disasters and the like. However, what we now know is that things such as childhood trauma and abusive relationships have the same effect on our nervous system. The person who experiences this can indirectly become conditioned to living in fight or flight mode – constant hyperarousal. It becomes a default setting in their nervous system. Dysregulation of our nervous system and the effect on our mental health can make our menopause symptoms more significant and severe. 

We hold emotional baggage and energy in our bodies – viscerally and somatically. This will show up physically and mentally for ourselves. As Bessel Van der Kolk says: "The body keeps the score".

Whether our hormone fluctuations of menopause can trigger a trauma reoccurrence is still unknown and more research is needed, but for the women affected, the familiar lack of emotional control can cause anxiety, hyperarousal and vigilance and can disrupt their lives. Their radar is always up, and this is draining, tiring, and creates stuckness and immobility.

There are many ways to alleviate challenging symptoms including:

  • therapy or counselling
  • breathwork
  • take time off work to prevent burnout
  • journalling
  • join support groups
  • reduce/stop alcohol and caffeine
  • good gut health
  • walks in nature
  • yoga/Qigong, somatic exercises
  • tapping (EFT)
  • EMDR/Wing wave coaching
  • support network (surround yourself with people who are supportive and empathetic)

The earlier trauma is recognised, the quicker appropriate action can be taken to prevent symptoms lasting months or even years. HRT alone will not resolve the symptoms. Always speak to your healthcare provider for medical information. We need to "feel to heal" and as Edith Eger says in her book The Gift, “The opposite of depression is expression. What comes out of you doesn't make you sick; what stays in there does." - Dr Edith Eger (psychologist, holocaust survivor)

Easy said than done I know to look at the past, yet there is help and this is where I come in to support you with menopause ‘midlife’ therapy to look at unprocessed and unresolved issues and for you to be able to let it go. Therapy can really help to unpick an issue, or memory from the past, so that it no longer bothers you, although you may never really forget it. Yet, it will no longer hold the same emotional ‘charge’ as previously.

And please don’t hesitate to get in touch if unresolved past issues are exacerbating your midlife menopause experience. With my counselling experience, I can help you to process and heal from any past unresolved traumas, which can trigger and destabilise us during perimenopause and menopause, as well as support you with lifestyle modifications and cognitive ways to manage your psychological symptoms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Sevenoaks TN13 & London W1F
Written by Nicola Pendregaust, Ad. Prof. Dip. PsyC; Reg. BACP; Accredited Registrant NCS
Sevenoaks TN13 & London W1F

Nic Pendregaust is a counsellor, working in private practice, both face to face & on-line. She help her clients explore their current peri or post-menopausal experiences, situation, and problems, understand the impact on their own emotional health, relationships, self-confidence, self-esteem, sense of identity, purpose & professional career life.

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