How A Young Woman Overcame Paruresis

Few people are familiar with the anxiety disorder known as paruresis or “shy/bashful bladder syndrome.”

Overcoming Shy Bladder

Paruresis is a fear of using the restroom while someone else may be present. People who have paruresis are not able to relieve themselves if they think someone else might be nearby. For example, even if someone needs to use the restroom at a public place, he or she will feel unable to.

Paruresis can have surprisingly far-reaching effects on a person’s life. Think about, for instance, having to take a drug test for a new job. Certain businesses require such testing to be done in order to hire an applicant. If the person has paruresis, he or she will likely feel uncomfortable trying to use the restroom under these circumstances because of a lack of privacy. A shared bathroom can be extremely uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking for someone with shy bladder syndrome. Understandably, someone may not know how to explain his or her condition to a potential employer who may be unsympathetic or ignorant of the challenges of paruresis.

In an article about treating paruresis, researchers describe how a young woman who had paruresis was able to recover from the condition. A twenty-four-year-old college student, the woman reported showing typical symptoms of paruresis including an inability to use public restrooms, especially if she heard someone else enter the room.

The participant was experiencing some disruption in her daily life, because she would often have to leave a public restroom where she felt anxious, travel all the way back to her home and use the restroom there.

The participant’s treatment involved “respondent conditioning.” She was told to think of a certain word every time she was about to relieve herself. Initially she was told to only think of that word in a bathroom where she felt completely comfortable. Eventually she moved on to less private bathrooms where she would normally feel more anxious.

The researchers found that “in each type of location (i.e., private or less private bathroom), there was at least a 50% decrease in the number of seconds required to initiate urination.” So by using the respondent conditioning taught to her, the participant was able to feel calm enough to use the restroom (within a reasonable amount of time).

One thing to note about the study is that the researchers were unable to follow up with the participant after her treatment to see if she was still feeling calmer in public restrooms. However, the results are promising for people who suffer from paruresis, and treatment by a professional in the mental health field is always recommended for anyone who has a mental health condition.

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