Everything you need to know or as about Paruresis Shy Bladder Syndrome – frequently asked questions on a single page.
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Paruresis: Frequently Asked Questions
How Is Paruresis Pronounced?
Paruresis is pronounced Parr-yur-ee-sis. Anyone suffering from the condition is call a Paruretic.
What Is The Origin Of The Word?
The term Paruresis was first used by Williams and Degenhart back in 1954 when they wrote a paper entitled “Paruresis: a survey of a disorder of micturition”. This was published in the Journal of General Psychology 51:19-29 and first officially recognised the condition.
What Is The Definition Of Paruresis?
According to Collins Dictionary Paruresis is simply “a psychological inability to urinate in the presence of others”. This doesn’t just mean when in the physical presence of others it could also be in the imaginary presence of others – i.e. when there is a danger of someone walking in or someone else may be around such as when in a public rest-room. It can also prevent urination when under time pressure, or on vehicles such as trains or airplanes.
Is Paruresis Known As Anything Else?
Yes – there are a number of common alternative names for paruresis:
- Avoidant Paruresis
- Shy Bladder Syndrome
- Shy Bladder
- Bashful Bladder
- Pee Shy
- Psychogenic Urinary Retention
Is Paruresis Really A Medical Condition?
Shy Bladder Syndrome is not a medical condition but actually a common type of social phobia also known as Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This, in turn, is defined as a fear in one or more social situations which causes “considerable distress and impaired ability to function in at least some parts of daily life.” Wikipedia
As we said, there’s no medical condition and there’s nothing wrong with the workings of the urinary tract. Basically there are two muscles which control the flow of urine from the bladder to the urethra. These muscles are called the urethral sphincters. They must be relaxed to allow flow. Parurues causes anxiety about peeing in public which stimulates the nervous system to clamp these muscles shut and prevents urination.
It’s a vicious circle too – failure to pee increases anxiety and makes matters worse!
Do I Need To See A Doctor?
Whilst Paruresis isn’t a medical condition similar symptoms can be caused by a physical ailment such as prostate problems.
Your practitioner will also be able with help and advice in relation to therapies and support groups. So we always suggest this should be your starting point.
How Common Is Shy Bladder Syndrome?
It’s probably a lot more common than you’d think. It’s actually one of the most common forms of Social Phobia.
Whilst there could be a strong argument for further studies right now, historical research suggests that up to 17 million Americans, 3.25 million Canadians, and 51 million Europeans suffer from Paruresis to varying degrees. That’s around 7% of the population!
I’ve never Heard Of It Before – Is It Really That Common?
Is it the sort of conversation you overhear in public places? Have you ever discussed it with your friends or family? That’s right, it’s one of those conditions which people are embarrassed or ashamed to discuss but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there … believe you me … it is! It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it should be discussed more and awareness increased (we’re trying to do our bit!).
So, the answer is yes – it really is that common and is probably one of the least spoken about social phobia there is.
Does Bashful Bladder Only Affect Men?
No. Paruresis affects both men and women although it tends to affect men more. This is for the simple reason that it’s all about privacy and women don’t have a row of open urinals to contend with!
When you think about it, shy bladder probably affects people in just 3 ways:
- Difficulty in peeing in a public urinal but fine in a public restroom cubicle.
- Difficulty in starting a stream in a public toilet cubicle but no problems at home.
- Difficulty when people are around at all times … even the home environment.
So, that means that women can only be affected by 2 of the above 3 symptoms.
In addition, it’s also probably true (again for the reasons above) that there is a reduced awareness of the condition amongst women.
What Causes Paruresis or Shy Bladder Syndrome?
Because Paruresis is a psychological disorder there’s no medical condition that can be identified as the cause. Instead the actual single initial trigger that started the downward spiral of rest room anxiety can often be difficult to pinpoint. It could have been an event at any time from infancy up to adult age.
Common triggers are known to have been events such as being bullied, embarrassed or teased in a restroom, being unable to pee whilst under pressure for a urine sample, harassment in public toilets, sexual abuse (extreme cases). This list in in no means comprehensive but, instead, demonstrates that the actual cause can differ significantly and that no two cases will ever be the same.
Can It Or Does It Get Worse?
Yes – most definitely.
The mind is a complicated thing that reminds you of things which in turn can trigger a natural reflex in the body.
The first time you’re affected by shy bladder or have trouble peeing can be the start of that snowball rolling downhill and getting bigger and bigger. Next time you go to the toilet in similar circumstances your mind will pipe up “hey … remember last time you couldn’t start a flow cos someone was next to you?” and your body will shut off the flow. Next time you’re on your way to the restroom it could be you get this reminder before you even reach the restroom. It can further develop into thoughts like “so … you’ve been invited out on a hot date … but what if you need to pee?” In quite a number of cases paruretics don’t go out because of the condition!
It can affect life to that degree so it needs treatment as quickly as possible to stop it taking over your life.
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