Are you suffering with a shy bladder (paruresis)?

Apr 7, 2020Common Disorders, Hypnotherapy Information and Advice

Are you suffering with a shy bladder (paruresis)?

Are you wondering why you only feel comfortable going to your own loo? Maybe you are worried about going to the toilet in public places? Scared that people will hear you when you pee? Or maybe you start to get anxious when you feel the urge to urinate when you are not at home. If this is you may have a shy bladder. You probably haven’t told anyone else because it’s really embarrassing to talking to other people about it. So, you keep these thoughts and feelings secret.

Rest assured you are not going mad! This condition is very common. It’s also called shy bladder syndrome, bashful bladder or its proper medical term, paruresis. It can develop into a social phobia.

In this blog I’m going to give it its proper name, paruresis.

Let me tell you a bit more…

What causes paruresis?

The exact cause of paruresis is unknown. It’s thought to originate from childhood when children get stressed or embarrassed about something related to going to the toilet. It’s a psychological problem not a mental health condition. It’s not a physical problem but as people can have physical problems that result in similar symptoms such as retention of urine and infections, therefore it’s important to get a medical check-up to rule out other issues.

What makes paruresis worse?

Venturing out to new places makes it worse. You also probably get more nervous when you need to go to places that you have not located the toilet yet.  Socialising will be difficult especially if friends want to meet at places where there is drinking involved.

The more that you think about it the worse the negative thoughts and behaviours become. So, you go out less but think about it more and that just makes it worse because you are using avoiding tactics. You worry more and now you are stuck in a cycle of avoidance and fear of going out and visiting public toilets.

Going to work makes it seem worse as well especially if work involves socialising. Yet often we must go to work, travel and mix with other people even if we don’t want to. This fear might result in you stopping drinking before you go out and then avoiding drinking during the day at work so that you won’t need to visit the loo. If this is you and you have additional demands like work-related stress or relationship or family stress your anxiety will continue to rise.

Maybe you try and hold your urine until you get home but that is uncomfortable.  Holding on to your urine when you get the urge to go doesn’t work as we are all producing urine throughout the day. It gets stored in our bladder till there is enough to empty.


Keeping it a secret makes it worse. We know that paruresis isn’t very nice but for many people it’s just too embarrassing to do much about, let alone talk to others, so you continue to suffer.

What anxiety symptoms might you get?

People suffering with paruresis can get a all the anxiety symptoms that other anxiety sufferers get. However, there will be a focus on building up negative thoughts that make you feel anxious before going out. You might say to yourself ‘Perhaps I could go out tomorrow. I wonder the nearest the nearest toilet is? Will there be lots of people there?’

Let’s review the symptoms.

All the general anxiety signs will also apply. They include:

  • General anxious thoughts
  • Sweating and feeling warm with cool extremities
  • A fast heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • General aches and pains
  • Tightness in the neck and chest
  • Back ache
  • And more…

These symptoms of stress and anxiety can also be caused by other things so do tell your doctor.

What should I do if I feel that I am suffering with paruresis?

Decide that you are going to do something about this today. Make a commitment to yourself. You might write it down because that can reinforce your commitment. Start today by realising that you don’t need to keep suffering with paruresis.

Talk to your doctor. They know about paruresis and how difficult it is for the sufferer. You will be asked questions so you could write a bullet point list down if it helps you to remember what you need to say. You might be asked to take a urine specimen in to check for urinary tract infections.

What helps paruresis?

Here are some simple ways to deal with it.

Some doctors will suggest taking medication to reduce your anxiety or to help relax the muscles in your bladder. A lot of people don’t like taking medications because of side effects. If this is you it’s advisable to discuss this with your doctor rather than saying that you will take medication then don’t.

However as with everything in life it’s important to look at your lifestyle. Take control. Are you eating healthily? Are you drinking enough water? Do you exercise? Do you have any hobbies and fun sometimes? Life needs to be in balance to reduce anxiety and paruresis.

Relaxation will help. It can be physical or mind body relaxation. This can be with hypnosis, meditation, a massage or something else that you enjoy.

Talking therapies will also help. There are many different types of counselling. For example, art therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Person Centred Therapy. Some counsellors also do walking and talking while counselling. The aim is to help you reduce your stress and anxiety and to cope with difficult situations.

So there are lots of things you can do, but you must do something. Things can change. Get help before paruresis stops you from having fun and developing in life.

Make paruresis a thing of the past!



Awaken the Change is about Focusing Minds for Positive Results

Awaken the Change is a self-help service providing education and information.

Linda sees clients at her practice in Bournemouth, in the UK. She is also happy to provide online help via webcam for hypnotherapy, counselling and supervision. Counselling and supervision can also be provided by telephone.

Linda is an accredited trainer and supervisor.

Linda Witchell
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