AM I: In a Panic Attack or Trauma Response or Dissociation or Menopause? How Do I Tell The Difference?

This is my question for the morning as I ponder a rough night last night.

Is what I went through a panic attack?

A trauma response?


Or menopause?

Or, all of the above?

It is not my first time having these stressful episodes that make me feel like I am loosing my mind, that I can trust no one because people will hurt me, and my body – on its own – starts having somatic release.

I have an appointment with a psychiatrist tomorrow. An appointment that, in these COVID days of overwhelming the public mental and physical health care system – I am so very lucky to have secured. Typical waiting times to see a psychiatrist for a one hour session in the Nova Scotia public mental health system can take up to 5 months or even longer.

I’ve waited about four months for this appointment. It took my family doctor, my therapist and myself to advocate and actually get the ball started to get the coveted appointment.

Before I was even given an appointment to see the psychiatrist, I first had to be pre-screened by an intake worker. This involved a rigorous assessment with a social worker. I advocated for myself like a mad woman desperate for help. I listed everything I was doing to live a healthy, empowered life – but felt like I didn’t have control over my life because of the intense level of anxiety and dissociation I can experience.

Seems I passed the test, and my appointment with the psychiatrist was booked at a much earlier date than even anticipated by the social worker who screened me.

Then this serendipitous event happened where, long story short, I recently changed therapists and my new therapist knows the psychiatrist I am scheduled to see because she once worked in the same public mental health building where my psychiatrist appointment is.

I then asked my therapist how a proper diagnosis of my brain can be done in one hour by someone who has never met me before?

My therapist comforted my fears, indicating there will probably be more than one session with the doctor.

Time to Prepare

So, here I am.

I am taking today to prepare for what feels like the most important appointment I’ve had in a long time – to finally know what is wrong with my brain.

I’m going to start, for my own purposes, to write a closer look at what each issue I wonder I am having, to help me be prepared for tomorrow’s appointment.

I’ve written recently about Trauma, Flashbacks and Dissociative Disorders.

But, here I am today. With new musings and wonderings as I try to find my way…

Panic Attack

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Photo Credit –

I can identify with most of the symptoms. Last night I experienced the sweating, nausea, numbness in my hands and feet (common for me), hyperventilation. The somatic release was more intense than trembling and shaking. Thanks to my Fitbit, I know my heart rate spiked to 130bpm.

Trauma Response

This has been a new experience for me, as these episodes started a few years ago.

A couple of these episodes have been witnessed by trained trauma therapists and have been labeled as trauma response.

I found an excellent article on what living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feels like when I googled symptoms of trauma response.

I read it out loud to my husband, who was able to verify that I consistently experience a majority of what the article describes.

I will list the specific sub-titles that describe what the article speaks of, of what living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feels like:

  1. Deep Fear of Trust
  2. Terminal Aloneness
  3. Emotional Regulation
  4. Emotional Flashbacks
  5. Hypervigilance About People
  6. Loss of Faith
  7. Profoundly Hurt Inner Child
  8. Helplessness and Toxic Shame
  9. Repeated Search for a Rescuer
  10. Dissociation
  11. Persistent Sadness and Being Suicidal
  12. Muscle Armoring

Here is the link to the article that goes into details of each subtitle:

12 Life Impacting Symptoms Complex PTSD Survivors Endure

Complex PTSD, according to my internet search, seems to be a new and upcoming term for those who suffered trauma over many months and years verses PTSD that is a result of a singular traumatic episode.

What is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Photo Credit – in2uract – A Therapist’s Journal


This is, feels, very different from a panic attack. It can feel like a trauma response, but is more a part of a trauma response when I feel like I am a younger age/part (dissociation) while (as I’m learning) experiencing emotional flashbacks and other symptoms of the trauma response.

I also experience dissociation on a daisy basis, without the loud volume of the trauma response taking over. This feels like I am in a dream or outside of myself – not connected to myself or I feel like a younger age has taken over and is driving the bus of my brain.

Difficult to explain.

Add to that, the lack of trust (bordering on paranoia) that is always simmering beneath the surface.


“Signs and symptoms depend on the type of dissociative disorders you have, but may include:

  • Memory loss (amnesia) of certain time periods, events, people and personal information
  • A sense of being detached from yourself and your emotions
  • A perception of the people and things around you as distorted and unreal
  • A blurred sense of identity
  • Significant stress or problems in your relationships, work or other important areas of your life
  • Inability to cope well with emotional or professional stress
  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors”

This diagnosis is certainly one for the professionals.


I’ve been menopausal for a few years now, with recent bloodwork confirming I am post-menopausal.

Menopause is such a mystery to me, because I can’t tell when it started. I had a hysterectomy at least ten years ago. I’d say my hot flashes became noticeable in my memory about five years ago.

I blogged about it:

It’s Official – I’m at The Start of Menopause!

It’s Official – I’m in Menopause! The Craziness IS Real!

A recent conversation with my family doctor confirmed that menopause hot flashes/night sweats and PTSD hot flashes/sweating can appear the same.

How do I tell the difference between a menopausal hot flash and a PTSD hot flash?

How do I tell the difference between a menopausal mood swing and PTSD irritability and always on edge – hyper-vigilance?

Post Menopause Symptoms

Photo Credit –

December 23rd, 2016 - Zermatt, Switzerland


I guess this is why there are trained professionals out there who can sort through mental health symptoms that overlap, to determine which one is the best fit.

I wonder what my diagnosis will be?

I’m looking forward to the journey…

S, 🌼

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for being open and honest and vulnerable. I hope you get some guidance to help you navigate life easier. You are already doing what so many won’t do which is the first appointment so good on you.

    1. Wow!!! Thank you…. 🌼💛🌼💛

    2. You too, have been through a rough go and turned your life around in an amazing way… it’s so great to connect… thank you… 🌼🌼🌼

      1. And I’m getting back into remote therapy and take a mood stabilizer and have no shame. On my 1 year TBI date I did Weekends with Elyse Snipes and it was a weekend of therapy and life changing. I’m doing another one this year in Joshua Tree and eventually one in Bali with her. Check her out. Elyse Snipes and then Radical Wellness is her therapy remote group. Not cheap but my mental health is worth it and I love to travel so win win:)

      2. WOW!!!!! Sounds AMAZING!!!!! I can’t wait to read your blog about it!!! I’ll check out Elyse Snipes and Radical Wellness, for sure! 🎉🎉🎉🎉

      3. I sat in the house with 5 others and the therapist and felt like I didn’t belong but that’s not true we just all had our own traumas and stories and you cannot compare one’s story or journey to another’s. It was a life changing weekend. I realized that so much of what I did in life and where it came from and left with a solid understanding of myself but can’t wait to go again in April and see what I learn 3 years later and with so much more and different things to figure out:)

      4. Man!!! SO WELL SAID!!!!!! Your journey is incredible… I like how you say you can’t wait to see how you’ve grown over the 3 years and are eager to discover new things to figure out. 🌼🌼🌼

      5. A constant learning battle and I haven’t even hit menopause yet so there is so much more in the years to come but at least I’m here to do it:)

      6. Exactly!!!!!!!! You Go Girl!!!!!!!!!
        Right On!!!!!!!!!!!! 🌼💛🎉☀️

      7. Thanks for chatting and being vulnerable. Thinking of you and hoping you get some answers and guiding. Have a great day 💚

      8. If you listen to podcasts check out Trailercast, Elyse Snipes podcast. It’s amazing. I was on it a year ago or so too and others working through things and she still does that and I learned something I had no idea about in my story.

  2. I’m such a believer in mental health after working in an ER and seeing family who don’t believe in it and I know it can still be taboo which is heart breaking and I’m proud of you!

    1. Mental health still has such a stigma attached to it, but I talk openly as much as I can so in some way, hopefully I make meaningful connections with others who also suffer. 💛

      1. Exactly and to start to break the stigma by being real about it and showing how great people and strong woman all are affected but it doesn’t mean they are broken 💜

      2. EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 💛🌼☀️💛

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