Shy Bladder Syndrome – A Form Of Social Phobia

shy bladder syndrome

Paruresis, commonly known as bashful or shy bladder syndrome, is a phobia that involves an irregular idiopathic form of urinary retention (when you’re unable “to go”) and avoidance and fear of using public lavatories. It’s a fear or phobia preventing sufferers from urinating when in the real, or imaginary, presence of others. This type of urinary retention isn’t caused by a blockage of any part of the body, it’s more of a psychological condition – a result of “mind over matter” if you like.

Individuals suffering from paruresis have a phobia of relieving themselves in the presence of other people. More precisely, paruresis is the fear of being unable to take a leak without some or total privacy, contingent on the symptoms severity. The condition can interfere with one`s quality of life, to great degree in some cases, with people suffering from paruresis facing difficulties that range from social situations to travelling on long plane trips to work problems (where they are required to submit a urine sample for drug testing for example).

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Paruresis – Phobia Or Physical Condition?

To anyone not familiar with the condition it can appear trivial, almost amusing but, as any paruretic will confirm, the actual effect is far from trivial or funny.

Shy Bladder Syndrome Is A Form Of Social Phobia. Paruresis has been formally classified as a subtype of social phobia also known as social anxiety disorder. Social phobia, is the most common form of anxiety disorder and is also one of the most common psychiatric disorders, as a matter of fact 12 percent of American adults have had this disorder at one point in their lives. It`s characterized by great fear in one or more social situations, impairing the ability of them functioning normally in at least some parts their daily lives and causing considerable distress. These fears may be triggered by actual or perceived scrutiny from others. Anyone familiar with bashful syndrome will immediately relate the symptoms mentioned above with paruresis.


What Causes Paruresis?

There are many things that are still not known about the cause of shy bladder syndrome. This disorder can afflict a young child in preschool, a minor in late or early adolescence, or even an individual in mid-to- late adulthood. Although some paruretics are not able to identify any particular triggering incident, others believe that their illness was brought about by a traumatic incident that occurred during or before adolescence including sexual abuse, embarrassment by a parent, harassment in public lavatories or teasing by siblings or classmates. Even though most minors experience such incidents (for example being teased by their age-mates while trying to use a urinal or public toilet), not everyone ends up developing shy bladder syndrome. Note that it`s pathophysiological in nature and recent medical research in neurology has shown that there may be psychiatric as well as somatic components to this disorder.


Just How Common Is Paruresis?

Although there`s no way to ascertain the number of people suffering from paruresis, surveys conducted over the last few decades show that the numbers could be between less than 1% to more than 25% of American citizens. The 1994 National Comorbidity Survey showed that 6.6% (17 million people) of the American population has a fear of relieving themselves away from their homes, although it`s unclear the number of fears that were related to the difficulties of taking a leak in public lavatories. The observed variation in the paruresis rates is most likely correlated to whether major life interference was needed in order to be considered as meeting the criteria for paruresis. There`s isn`t any clear data about this medical condition on a worldwide basis, but it seems to be a serious problem that affects people in many countries.


The Associated Symptoms Of Shy Bladder Syndrome

Here`s an explanation of how paruresis occurs and affects an individual`s life: After an initial bad experience, the person anticipates difficulty relieving themselves whenever entering a lavatory. Forceful attempts to control this process fail, and the associated anxiety with performance reduces the chances of the individual taking a leak in a public facility. Paruretics must then adjust to the medical condition by urinating as often as possible when they are at home, limiting the intake of water and other fluids, and turning down extended social invitations so that they can avoid relieving themselves away from home and locating vacant public lavatories.

As with many social phobics, people suffering from paruresis practice avoidance behavior that briefly reduces the fear that is associated with the inability to take a leak but reinforces the phobic pattern. Although some deny feeling anxious while in public lavatories and maintain that they merely cannot initiate urination, other people do report that they experienced physiological anxiety symptoms, including shaking, heart palpitations, dizziness, sweating and faintness.

Since this subject is rarely discussed publicly, most paruretics feel that they`re the only people suffering from it. They also feel embarrassed of their medical condition and become specialists at concealing it from their spouses, closest friends and even their doctors. The sense of humiliation, shame, secondary depression and isolation resulting from this situation can be incapacitating.


Is Shy Bladder Syndrome Treatable?

Oh yes! There are many different methods that should always start with a visit to a urologist – just to make certain that there is nothing physically causing the problem.

Once the condition is confirmed as psychological then it’s a question of re-programming the mind to not shut off the flow when around others and there are several tried and trusted methods for doing just that.

We find that certain self-help treatment systems are likely to work best. These can be followed in complete privacy and at a pace that suits.

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