While it’s probably one of the most common anxiety disorders and social phobias, it’s one that is less talked about. You have probably experienced it yourself. You’ve been gulping beer for hours and you now feel like you need to go to the restroom. You arrive there and as soon as you unzip, someone else comes in and suddenly, nothing comes out – even though your bladder is full and you really need to go.
Shy bladder syndrome is particularly common in males, although women also suffer from this anxiety disorder. The syndrome can be quite debilitating to your social life and can often create a lot of discomfort in public places. Not only does it disrupt a natural physiological process and create further discomfort for you, it can also be quite embarrassing if you are in front of people, waiting in line, and you seem to be just standing there feeling foolish. It can affect anyone at any age, although it typically starts in elementary or pre-school age. So what is it exactly and why does it happen? How can you stop it and start peeing confidently when others are in the vicinity?
What is shy bladder syndrome?
Shy bladder syndrome is one of the most common types of social phobias and is known by many different names, including paruresis and pee-phobia. It’s characterized by the inability to urinate as soon as you’re in the presence of other people. No matter how much you need to pee, you cant. For sufferers to avoid it, they feel like they need privacy, which is often not possible in public places such as bars and restaurants.
So if you suffer from shy bladder syndrome and would like to live a normal life of a job and friends and be able to go out with others, then you need to cure your fear. Whether it is just a fear of peeing somewhere visible like a public urinal, or if it is chronic enough that you require the house to be completely empty in order to go, there is hope.
Steps to stopping shy bladder syndrome
There is no single easy cure for shy bladder syndrome. Although it is more common than you may realize, there has yet to be invented a magic pill. This is because it is not a physical disease, rather a mental anxiety. The physical act of peeing is not the issue – even people with the worst case of shy bladder syndrome are perfectly capable to peeing. Rather, it is anxiety that causes a physical block.
Accept that you have a problem
Stop being ashamed over something you cannot control. It is not a sign of weakness that you cannot pee in public. It is just your mind playing tricks on you. Just like depression or a social phobia like public speaking, accepting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. The more shame you feel over peeing, the more you will convince your mind that it is a negative thing, and this will only exacerbate it.
Start with a trusted friend
This will be the hardest, yet arguably the most important step in your recovery. But the only way to properly overcome shy bladder syndrome is to start peeing around people. So choose someone you trust, someone very close to you. You can tell them about your issues or not (it is up to you), but start by inviting them over to your house, or somewhere you are most comfortable. Then when you need to pee, make a conscious effort to not make a big deal about it – don’t announce that you are peeing and don’t draw attention to it. Simply get up, and walk to the toilet. If your friend asks where you’re going just say ‘bathroom’ in a non-committal way. Then when you are done, act as if nothing happened. Just walk back into the room and go about what ever it was that you were doing.
If you don’t make a fuss about peeing, then your friend won’t either. Because your friend also pees, so it’s nothing unusual to them. Make a mental note of the fact that there is no reaction from your friend. This is a good thing, this is what you want. You want to be able to anonymously pee in front of people. Repeat this until you are comfortable about peeing with your trusted friend around.
Once you are comfortable peeing at home with your friend in the house, move it to somewhere more public (like a restaurant or shopping centre). Have your friend come with you as they will not be a source of discomfort for you, and your brain will associate them with being able to pee without anxiety. When peeing in the public setting, again make a conscious effort to again act natural like it is no deal. And no one will even look at you twice – everyone will be minding their own business and honestly they don’t care that you just peed. After a while, you should be able to pee in a public setting without your trusted friend.
Relax and breathe
Just remember that no one is judging you about your bathroom habits, no matter how much you may think that they are. Relax, breathe deeply and focus on something else, like what you have to do later that day, or even something like naming the members of your family in your head. Before you know it, you will have finished peeing and will be able to go about your day, just like everyone else!