Some men find it difficult to urinate in the presence of other men. They cannot urinate in a public toilet if anyone else is there. The muscles that control urination tighten up, stopping the flow. This is called ‘parauresis’ (pronounced par-YOU-ree-sis) or ‘bashful bladder syndrome’. According to doctors in the armed forces – who know about servicemen living in open barracks – it is quite common and possibly 1 in 10 men is affected. It can be distressing, because it can limit your activities if you are unable to urinate away from home. And some people worry that others might assume they are gay because they are spending so long at the urinal. One study found that 60% of men with bashful bladder felt ashamed, and most tried to conceal the problem; 25% had not told their partners, 44.4% had not told their families and 58.7% concealed it from their friends (Actas Urológicas Españolas 2007;31:328-37). Hiding the problem can itself be a source of stress, particularly if you are in a close relationship.
What causes ‘bashful bladder’?
What you can do
- Try doing a series of mathematical calculations in your head. This activates the cortex of the brain and blocks the inhibiting impulses to the bladder. A report in the Lancet as long ago as 1981 suggested this as an effective remedy.
- Breathe in deeply and tighten your pelvic muscles, as if you are pulling your anus (back passage) inwards. Then relax and breathe out. Repeat until you start to pass some urine.
- Check the website of the International Paruresis Association (see Useful contacts) for information about anxiety-reducing techniques and ways of gradually getting used to passing urine when others are nearby.
If it is really affecting your life, you could get help from a behaviour therapist, who would help you with some of these techniques.
Dr Phil Hammond looks at the frustrations of bed-wetting, with a little help from ‘Henry’, in his informative and entertaining video guide on bed-wetting.
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Thursday, May 17th 2012
Useful contacts for Urination shyness
Click to see all the contacts that you may find useful in relation to urination shyness
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