Menopause Will Scare You Sometimes

Cactus Whirl © lynette sheppard

Anxiety may literally be the most unnerving of the emotional traumas visited upon menopausal women; certainly it’s one of the least recognized or discussed. A number of goddesses struggling with this frightening symptom have written me recently, so let’s address and demystify it.

First and most important, anxiety that comes out of nowhere when you enter perimenopause and menopause is NORMAL! Not every woman will suffer it, but those who do can take heart that it is just another in the panoply of maladies that accompany our transition. Second, it is TEMPORARY! It will get better. Most women I know have anxiety issues that last 6 months to 2 years. (If you’ve just started having anxiety episodes, you may be screaming inside “Two years! I can’t take two more years of this!”) Oh yes, you can. And you will. And there’s help.

The biggest help we found was the discovery that we were not alone. Other midlife women, who previously had never suffered from anxiety and fear, found them selves terrified driving on the freeway or over bridges, petrified for no reason on a daily basis, even experiencing full-blown panic attics in the absence of any recognizable threat.

The Venuses don’t really know of any ingestible remedies that decrease the anxiety of menopause per se. (OK, maybe wine, but it can also make it worse sometimes.) Yes, there are some herbal anti-anxiety supplements but we felt we just didn’t know enough about them. Kava kava, for example, relieves anxiety but may damage our liver. (Although that may be dose related – Fijians have been using it for decades on a daily basis – they seem to have a decent life span.) As always, when trying something like this, let your health care partner/practitioner know and monitor your symptoms and dosage carefully. If your MD is not acting as a partner, but as a parent or ultimate authority, find one who will work with you. I can tell you as a health care practitioner myself that the amount we DO NOT KNOW about menopause and many of the complementary therapies would fill a library. Or two.

While you may consult your health care practitioner/partner about your anxiety, be wary of pharmaceutical intervention as a first answer. Tranquilizers and other drugs such as Prozac may be helpful, but may cause other problems or adverse effects. Remember, we’re women. We can handle a lot. We do every day. As long as we know it’s NORMAL and TEMPORARY.

As a group, the Venuses’ fretting was rarely overwhelming, but it was scary and disturbing. If it had been worse, we likely would have seen therapists. (Differentiation note: If you are frightened and jittery, that’s normal. If you cannot leave the house because of fear, or are unable to conduct activities of daily living, that’s not normal and professional help is needed.)

We did practice giving ourselves and each other little “reality checks” when our worrying was excessively annoying. We practiced asking, “What is happening right now, this moment?” (Usually the answer was “Nothing.”) “Am I safe, alive, comfortable, etc?” Then we took deep breaths and decided not to panic until we had something to actually panic about, rather than a mental litany of “what ifs”. This actually helped ease our jitters quite a bit, although some days our practice worked better than others.

Above all, be gentle with yourself. Give your fear a name. Invite it in for tea. Recognize it as another part of this roller coaster ride we call Menopause – remember right after the scary climb up, anticipating the drop, comes the thrill of a great ride. Let’s do it together – it’s easier to share both the fear and the fun.

(Stay tuned for a future blog entry regarding the Night Terrors, a nocturnal flavor of anxiety.)

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41 Responses to Menopause Will Scare You Sometimes

  1. Saskia January 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    An out-of-balance Thyroid can also be the culprit of feeling anxious. So women should get their levels checked yearly once they’re past 40, eat lots and lots of dark chocolate, curse like sailors, and take time to detox from cell phones, computers, traffic, relationship dramas and whatever else has them off balance by putting their feet in cool grass or warm sand every day for 15 minutes while breathing deeply…it does wonders for the soul! Just my comment on this windy Sunday afternoon in my blissfully quiet, for the moment, home 🙂
    I wrote this unedited, so if there are mistakes, my apologies and an excuse because I’m two hours behind on my chocolate fix!

  2. DJ January 31, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    At first I thought I was going crazy. The anxiety and panic attacks were as debilitating for me as the hot flashes. They came out of no where and they were hard to explain to others. Now that I know it’s normal, I’m able to self-talk myself down off the ledge most of the time.

    Except in the middle of the night, when I’m alone with my thoughts. I wonder if that’s part of my insomnia? Just avoiding going to bed out of fearing my own mind, keeps me up late sometimes.

    Yes, wine helps, but as you said, not always. Glad to know that this too, shall pass 🙂

  3. jenn November 26, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    I too was surprised by the suddeness of anixiety attacks and general feelings of unease that increased during peri-menopause. I saw a naturopath and homeopath and tried various remedies. One that seemed to have no side effects and gently took the edge of my nerves (stopped me screaming at my kids) was Motherwort tincture, highly recommended by Susun Weed in her book Menopause the Wise Woman Way. Homeopathic Sepia also helped with feelings of overwhelm. It’s worthy consulting someone, as these remedies can work differently for different people and symptoms.
    The anxiety did lessen, though I remain hyper sensitive to caffeine and wine. Dr Christiane Northrup says our brains are being rewired for greater intuition, and perhaps that is why the nervous system feels so sensitive to all our surroundings. Can’t watch violent movies anymore either …

  4. Andi (@superminx) December 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    I’m so pleased to read that this will pass. For me it’s been going on since April and life can be a bit horrid at the moment. I have a child starting high school next year, work dramas, and a stepfather with dementia to deal with so i really can’t afford to be out of action over this stupid anxiety and depression. Today I also have vertigo and general malaise. arghghgh.

  5. Tracey February 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    It helps allot to read that anxiety attacks are a common menopause symptom. Because i have never had them before.

  6. LynetteSh February 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    I never had anxiety before Menopause either – luckily it gets better as time goes on. Hang in there. After all, we’re women, we can handle just about anything as long as we know it’s normal and won’t last forever.

  7. mcusumano April 26, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    I would love to read your perspective on people who already suffer from anxiety prior to perimenopause. I have always been somewhat anxious and have gone through spells of more severe anxiety in my life. I have always taken great pride, that in spite of the anxiety I have worked my way through it, via exercise, diet or just pushing through. But right now is over the top, and I have finally gone to talk to someone about it. I tend to be a very high energy person and very demanding of myself, and it is frustrating not to get everything done. Last year, I was lifting weights and running 10 mile races and working out 2 hours a day and feeling great. But the reality it that is not reality. I am lucky if I can get in 4 hours a week and the muffin top is reappearing. I feel like a slug and it is very depressing, I would need to quit my job to work out enough to stay in shape. Thank you for the information and the humor! I will be referring to this site very often.

  8. LynetteSh April 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    I’ll give a shout out on my Facebook page to see if other Menopause Goddesses have suffered anxiety prior to perimenopause and the Big M – and see if they have any advice. I think it is a great idea to talk to someone. And do remember that the worst of this lasts only a year. Or two. Of course the weight gain – sheesh. It’s a tough one – believe me I know! I work out, I eat well, and still… I will say this, however. I am feeling healthier than I ever have, even if I am a little more zaftig now. I bought some new bigger clothes and felt a lot better. I’ll let you know if I come across anything that works especially well. For not, hang in there. And we’ll be here. Hugs to you!

  9. LisaT May 23, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    I need help and I’m hoping this forum will be that help. I’m nearly 53, last period nearly 4 months ago and anxiety with obsessive thinking especially at night which is now resulting in insomnia. Here is the “weird” part. My obsessive thinking has to do with thoughts involving whether or not I can still do things like a sommersault, in & out of water, or a handstand (I haven’t done a handstand in 40 years, except in the water) and these thoughts lead me to fear I HAVE to try these things or I’ll never do them again and then I’m panicked about having the thoughts and having the “compulsion” to HAVE to try and its all so scary and yet all so ridiculous. I don’t want to try things that could possible cause injury. I don’t want to feel I HAVE to do anything. I’m wondering if what I’m thinking is just incidental to the anxiety and therefore basically beside the point, and if the anxiety were to get under control then the thoughts would be more in perspective. As a footnote, I have some weakness due to Guillain Barre at age 14… pretty significant and now the added fun of right hip arthritis, also pretty bad. Finally, I had similar anxiety with the same types of thoughts early on with my pregnancies. That’s what really leads me to lean toward a hormonal cause…but the specifics of my thinking just seems so bizarre, maybe related to my limited physicality…I DON ‘T KNOW. I just want to be able to relax more and SLEEP, preferably without drugs. Do I just sound crazy to everyone or is this just my manifestation of what’s happening to others and this too will pass…or both?

  10. LynetteSh June 2, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Alas, Lisa, this does sound like the sometimes bizarre ideation that comes with the anxiety associated with Menopause. Rest assured that you are not crazy, it is NOrmal (altho sucky) and that this too shall pass. HOwever, it your sleep continues to suffer, you may want to avail yourself of some remedies to “get over the hump”. Good luck – we know just how you feel.

  11. Thankful4thissite June 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Feeling not alone is going to help me out tremendously. I actually feel better already. Thank you all for your open and honest comments on this very real and often very scary issue. I wish the best for each and everyone of you. Good Luck All.

  12. LynetteSh June 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Thank YOu for your kind words – I promise that it does get better. Hang in there – and don’t forget the power of girlfriends.

  13. Syl Harrington July 11, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    I am a guy and have low testosterone and was told it is a male menopause. Do y’all feel scared like you are going crazy?

  14. LynetteSh July 15, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    All the time, Syl. ALL of our Menopause Goddess Group was sure we were going insane – until we got together and compared notes. Law of averages – we couldn’t all be going crazy – so it must be Menopause. Sure enough, it gets better with time. Sheesh. Hang in there!

  15. GAB417 November 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I am so glad I found this post and that I’m not alone with having anxiety attacks. Never had them before and just had my third one on Friday. I was driving home listening to music and it hit fast and furious. Good to know it’s normal and temporary.

  16. LynetteSh November 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Oh yeah, it’s normal, temporary, and really sucky. Just hang in there, it does get better.

  17. Syl Harrington December 9, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Thank you Lynette. I have real bad heart palpation too.

  18. Diana January 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    Try Flower Essences – like the Bach Flower Remedies – there are many for anxiety, overwhelm and other emtional experiences… i also use acupumcture to help calm my nervous system

  19. LynetteSh January 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    Excellent idea, Diana. I love Flower Essences.

  20. Gail July 12, 2014 at 6:46 am #

    My emotions have been a roller coaster and I liken them to the fight or flight response. When I feel sad and lonely, I get panicky and just want to jump into my car and head out west!! Sometimes I need to be “talked down off the ledge” so to speak. On the opposite end, I feel aggressive and will push my way through things.

  21. Gail March 7, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    My period stopped for 6 months but then I started spotting after exercising one day. The spotting turned into daily bleeding. It got quite heavy at one point. A doctor told me Ibuprofen can help. It definitely did but then I started bleeding again so I took more IBU which was effective. This has been going on since January. Has anyone experienced this? My emotions have been awful. I get feelings of loneliness, fear, and anxiety. I tell myself that my thoughts and feelings cannot hurt me and that I am safe. This does help.

  22. LynetteSh March 8, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    Dear Gail,
    You are not alone – many women suffer from heavy bleeding rather than missed periods – put “heavy bleeding” into the search box on Menopause Goddess Blog and read several posts about this. It can definitely be a normal variant of perimenopause. And yes, the anxiety and such are very NORMAL – telling yourself that your thoughts and feelings are just that and cannot hurt you is perfect. I hate to sound like a broken record (CD? MP3?) but I would urge you to start your own Menopause Goddess group where you can commiserate and laugh with other women in the same boat. Put “Creating Your Own Goddess Group” in the search box on the blog to find out how. Good luck and keep us posted. I guarantee that it does not last forever.

  23. Gail March 9, 2015 at 7:21 am #

    Thank you for your prompt response. Your words are very reassuring to me. I have to take this one day at a time with no long term plans right now.

  24. Blessed August 26, 2015 at 4:32 am #

    I’m sort of laughing because I have had exactly the same thoughts as so many written here including just getting in my car and driving out west! I get surges of energy that are powerful and uncomfortable and cause me to feel sort of like the scene in Forrest Gump where he runs out the front door and never comes back! These surges typically come in the morning when I wake up or if I wake up in the middle of the night. Anyone else experience these anxious energy surges? I also have feelings that I am a jar full of marbles that someone is shaking. Nice.
    Besides occasionally being able to laugh at it all I am also crying because the roller coaster is just a lot on so many days. I am grieving big losses and now this. It makes me feel defeated and alone and wondering if daily yoga is a good idea…maybe I’ll try that. Prayer and talking with good listeners is very helpful for me.

  25. Jill January 15, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    Hi I am new to this site but I had a panic attack about four years ago cos I felt weird and thought I was having a heart attack. I have suffered with anxiety and weird thoughts about not ever recovering and been poorly for the rest of my life. I too have been told I’m on early menopause. Do u think the panic attack and anxiety is caused through the menopause or am I just going crazy? I want another baby but how can I when I feel like this and think so silly all the time. I’m on antidepressants too.

  26. Maria Forbes February 19, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    Hi I’m new here I have been in perimenopause for few years now I do have heart palps and hot flashes along with other symptoms most people have on here. It seem no ending to this nightmare don’t know if to cry or laugh I try so hard to get through it and praying everyday for it to all go away I have some thoughts but I tell my self it will pass

  27. Cee May 11, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    Is this site still up and running?

  28. LynetteSh May 16, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    Absolutely! We post once a week generally (according to our survey, our readers would prefer once a week and a longer, meatier blog post.) Last post was 5/9/16 – am in process of posting one today 5/16/16. And many menopause subjects can be accessed by putting your area of interest in the search box. What specifically were you looking for?

  29. Marge May 20, 2016 at 6:05 am #

    It is awful, muscle twitches, pains, mood swings,nausea , emotions -mostly crying, awful awful thougts, fear, constant anxiety, a.s.o. Started last year age 43 …. 🙁 , 1 week of the months feeling ok!! Talking to myself “it will pass…. 🙂 🙂 ” also helps to know that I’m not alone with it!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  30. Robin May 31, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

    Hi everyone. I’m 41 and have felt “weird” for the past three years. Aside from anxiety and worry, I get extreme nausea which in turn causes more anxiety and worry. Anyone else?

  31. Marge June 17, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Yes, same here!! All those wierd symptoms!!! 😀😀

  32. Lori G July 4, 2016 at 5:17 am #

    It’s July 4th and wondered what the most recent post was. On this topic it was May 2016. I am 57 and had been on Lexapro for really bad panic attacks for 5 years. I warned myself off about 6 months ago but now that my 16 year old is driving and out with friends all night I wake up at 4AM every morning with a zing of adrenalin and a fearful thought. (like he must be on drugs) I will pray and talk some sense into myself, go back to sleep for a half hour only to have it happen again. Help!

  33. LynetteSh July 8, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    Alas, Lori, you are already doing what you need by giving yourself a reality check in the middle of the night. We really feel for you. Meditation, deep breathing, and such help as well as laughing at yourself. More info here in a couple of our blog posts: https://www.menopausegoddessblog.com/2012/09/17/menopause-and-anxiety-the-night-terrors-pt-i/
    https://www.menopausegoddessblog.com/2012/09/24/menopause-and-anxiety-the-night-terrors-pt-ii/
    As for latest post – go to menopausegoddessblog.com and it will be the one at the top. You can also subscribe and new posts will go to your email. Keep us posted! Hugs, Lynette

  34. Rhonda_1968 January 31, 2017 at 9:28 am #

    I feel like I’m losing my mind. This is the first time I’ve “publicly” acknowledged any of these issues, so this may be very long and I apologize in advance. Some background. I had a uterine ablation 5 years ago for very heavy bleeding (but no other peri or meno symptoms at that time), so I will only very, very lightly spot when I have a period and sometimes I have nothing. I will be 49 in April. On Dec 1, 2016, I ended up in the ER with chest pains. Because my EKG was different than a previous one (my T-waves were “flipped” according to the cardiologist), I was kept overnight and a arteriogram was done to check for blockages in the main arteries of my heart. Praise God, they were clear and I was sent home. Ever since the arteriogram I have had debilitating anxiety. I have also developed symptoms of acid reflux… burning in my throat. I have had chest and upper back pain and this sends my anxiety into overdrive. Is it acid reflux or some kind of coronary chest pain? I was put on a beta blocker a few years ago for PVCs so heart palps have been an issue for 7-8 years (perhaps a symptom of peri I wasn’t aware of at the time?). I do not have hot flashes. In fact, I usually freeze all the time. During this time between the arteriogram and now, I started waking up with my heart racing within 10 minutes of falling asleep. Doctor put me on a heart monitor for 2 weeks and said I’m having occasional SVT (a type of ventricular tachycardia) and upped my beta blocker. Well of course, that made the anxiety worse. My brain is making me crazy! I project out what my 3 kids and husband will do if I die and how they will proceed in life. I’ve been cleaning out rooms so they won’t have to do it if I die.

    I cry at the drop of a hat… so incredibly emotional. Let me add that I have the most fantastic children any one could dream of having. Two girls, 21 and 17, and a boy 12. My husband is wonderful. Supportive, but at a loss of how to deal with his once rational and care-free wife who is now a blubbering, anxiety ridden weird-o. I homeschool, don’t work outside the home. I am active in my church and have lovely friends. Is this perimenopause?? I almost feel like I don’t qualify for the club because I don’t have hot flashes. My GP did a general blood test (for thyroid, potassium, magnesium, etc) and all came back “perfect.” I do take fish oil, the beta blocker, a good multi-vitamin, and 500mg of magnesium every day. Any advice/help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  35. LynetteSh February 7, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    Dear Rhonda, You might want to try getting a second opinion from a holistic or integrative MD. They are better able to look at the whole person, including diet, lifestyle, and more. You didn’t mention whether you take hormone therapy or not – which if your hormone s are low, can really help in the long run. Again, for this I recommend a holistic practitioner. (Google can help you find someone in your area – search integrative medicine near me or try the integrative medicine association finder: http://www.abihm.org/search-doctors As for your blood tests, my integrative practioner like many others, uses clinical data to diagnose hypothyroidism and other imbalances. My thyroid blood test was normal, but I had every physical symptom on exam – when he put me on thyroid supplements as well as bioidentical hormone therapy, everything leveled out. EVery woman’s menopause is unique, so don’t let the lack of hot flashes deter you from seeking more answers. Good luck and keep us posted.

  36. Trt April 13, 2017 at 6:05 am #

    Rhonda, I just turned 49 and everything hit this year. Anxiety through the roof. Warm flushes in my face. I feel like I can’t handle anything stressful. My husband is supportive too but he’s not sure what to do to really help me. I’ve been to the ER four times in two months, and all the heart tests and blood comes back normal. I don’t feel like me anymore,

  37. Vayola August 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    I feel the same way as many of you feel. I’ve never experienced Anxiety prior to menopause. Now, it’s in full force as well as other symptoms like dizziness, unbalanced and overall not feeling well. I’ve been to emergency room several times and everything came back normal. It got to the point that I have to take Xanax when I feel the anxiety coming on. I was to get off Xanax, but at this point of my life, I need it.

  38. LynetteSh August 14, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi Vayola, Yep, Xanax sounds like it’s helping right now and will get you over the hump. I figure that medical science can sometimes be a godsend. Good for you. The anxiety is one of the worst and least talked about symptoms. Thankfully, it does get better. hang in there! Lynette

  39. Rhonda_1968 August 14, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

    Thanks everyone for the advice and comments. It’s been several months since I posted and I started tracking my symptoms. It seems the week and a half before I should start is when I’m at my worst. Anxiety, heart palps, weepiness, malaise, all the bad stuff is much, much worse during that week to 2 week period. I’m sure it’s peri now. I’m looking into progesterone cream and will talk with my doctor tomorrow when I go for an annual physical. Good luck to all through this craziness!

  40. Rhonda_1968 August 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    I’ll add that just knowing I’m not the only one feeling this way has helped tremendously.

  41. LynetteSh August 14, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

    Amen, that’s how we all felt too!!!!

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