Two people looking away from each other as though embarassed to talk about shy bladder


The secret condition no one talks about

20 million Americans suffer from it. Men with it outnumber women 2:1. Its effect can be devastating, but people who have it are sometimes too embarrassed to talk about it with even their closest friends and family. And many who suffer from it don't know there is effective treatment.

What is it? It is an often misunderstood mental illness called paruresis, also known as shy bladder. People with this condition find it difficult or impossible to urinate in the proximity of others, either in their own home or in public facilities. Other ways paruresis manifests itself is difficulty urinating under time pressure, while being observed, when others are nearby and might hear them, or when traveling on moving vehicles. 

Sometimes the topic of jokes, paruresis is a serious condition with serious consequences. Sufferers sometime drastically dehydrate themselves, which over time can cause damage to kidneys. They may refuse to participate in social activities and avoid having relationships. People have even quit their job because they simply can't use the company bathroom.  

There is hope

If you have paruresis, you are not alone. It's a common condition that affects millions. It's also important to understand that paruresis can be successfully treated with graduated exposure therapy, which is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. It is a simple, effective treatment.

A mental health professional can teach you the steps to take. Gradually, and at your own pace, you learn to understand and change the thoughts that cause your condition. Some people choose to go through the process with a trusted friend or family member.

The bottom line is paruresis is treatable. The first step is to recognize the problem, then understand there is effective treatment and ask for help. You can do it. 

Fear vs. phobia?

Most of us have a fear of some sort, such as a fear of heights, water or snakes. So what is the difference between having a fear of something and having a phobia? 

A fear of using public bathrooms means someone may dislike using the bathroom in a restaurant, but they will if they need to. Paruresis is a phobia, a mental illness. It presents as a persistent, excessive and unreasonable fear of urinating under certain circumstances to the extent that a person becomes physically and/or psychologically impaired by their fear.

Specialists at Allina Health can help with a number of anxiety disorders, including paruresis. Find an Allina Health mental health clinic near you.


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