Shy bladder, also called paruresis, is something that affects 4 million people in the UK, men and women alike. Mostly it’s minor inconvenience but for people like Darren* it can become something much worse. Anxiety about other people being present when he was urinating had increasingly affected his work and his social life.
Darren’s shy bladder had started when he was in his early twenties. At first he’d had trouble going when other people were stood next to him. When this finally became too bad, especially at work, he started to use a cubicle all the time instead. This is the stage that a lot of people with shy bladder reach, and then stay at.
Darren though started to feel more and more self-conscious even when using a cubicle at work. This had slowly but surely seen him start to use the toilet at home instead of at work. As a result he had stayed in the same house and with the same employer long after he would rather have moved on from both. He’d also stopped having drinks at work during the day, in order not to need to go to the toilet.
Darren came to see me not only because he felt trapped by the way he worked round his shy bladder, but because he had seen it getting worse again. He’d noticed that he was reluctant to go if other people were upstairs, and had started waking and going in the early hours of the morning, when everyone else was asleep.
Darren was relieved to hear that he was by no means on his own, and that I didn’t think he was stupid for coping in the way he had. He was also glad to hear that we weren’t going to spend our time (and his money) on rooting around in his childhood to find out the cause of his shy bladder.
Darren didn’t believe that he’d ever be able to use a public toilet again. I explained to him that he’d got to the point he was at through small steps each time, and that it would take a series of steps to get back.
We started with his anxiety and shy bladder if his children were about upstairs. I taught him to relax, mentally and physically, through focussing on his breathing. He took a normal breath, but only exhaled three quarters, and then held what was left for a minute. This actually causes the bladder muscles to relax, and allow people to urinate.
Once he could successfully overcome his shy bladder with other people upstairs, we moved onto the next situation where he felt unable to go. Small steps each time, but already Darren’s using the toilet at work again – proof that you can take control of your body and your life.
* Darren’s real identity has been protected, and he is happy to share his story.
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