Why Keeping Your Paruresis Secret Can be Dangerous

shyParuresis is not dubbed the “secret social phobia” for the heck of it. Many who suffer from the phobia are hesitant to admit it. And there are many. WebMD reports an estimated 17 million Americans suffer from shy bladder, with an estimated 1 to 2 million of them experiencing major hindrances in their professional and social lives because of it.

Coming clean about your paruresis is certainly not the easiest thing to do, but it could pay off in the long run and help prompt your recovery from this “secret” condition.

What Keeping Shy Bladder Secret Does to Your Paruresis

“Paruresis thrives on secrecy and shame,” according to the International Paruresis Association (IPA). 

Giving your shy bladder that dark and secret place in which fester is like throwing 800 logs on a mildly burning fire. The shame and anxiety can spark and flare at a rapid pace, worsening your paruresis and perhaps even bringing along another anxiety issue or two to boot.

Getting the truth out in the open by disclosing your disorder to people you trust can help to smother those burning flames. IPA says telling others about your parursis is a vital step in recovering from it, and you may be surprised by their reactions.

The guilt and shame that come with the phobia are actually side effects of the phobia itself. The IPA notes others who do not suffer from the phobia don’t typically view it as shameful or catastrophic. Those views stem directly from your fears.

On the flip side, you can enjoy several positive side effects if you talk about your paruresis in trusted circles. In addition to smothering the flames of shame, discussing your phobia can help others who suffer from the same thing. If you really want to go for it, the IPA goes as far as to suggest speaking out at your children’s school, your gym, your workplace or other public facilities.

You don’t necessarily have to start the conversation by admitting to everyone in the room you suffer from paruresis, but you can open a discussion on what it is, how easy it is to develop and what other people can do to make it less likely and less embarrassing to those who suffer from it.

Even if you’re not about to embark on a shy bladder crusade, letting those close to you know what’s going on can help stop it from continuing further. As IPA points out, once you tell your friends, family member and your significant other about your shy bladder, you may be relieved to discover they are understanding rather than judgmental.

You may also be relieved because you are less anxious around them when you do have to use the bathroom and that reduction in anxiety will make it easier to use it successfully.

 What Keeping a Secret Does to Your Soul

Deception is the burning fuel that can keep many anxiety disorders and even addictions alive, and most secrets are prime examples of deception. Psychology Today blogger Alex Lickerman, M.D., says keeping some secrets deeply hidden “is like swallowing a low-acting poison: one’s insides gradually rot.”

He also offers a way to gauge if a secret should indeed remain hidden in our souls or if we should reveal it to the world (or at least to people who would understand). He definitely suggests revealing a secret if it happens to be something you’re concealing so you can keep on performing the behaviors that are making up the secret in the first place.

A major example of such behaviors is anything to do with addiction. This includes drug addiction, food addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction and alcohol addiction. In fact, one of the phrases kicked around alcohol recovery circles is: “You’re as sick as your secrets.”

Coming clean about such behaviors, or any behavior that hurts ourselves and those around us, gets it out in the open and, invariably, tougher to repeat. As with the IPA’s take that revealing you suffer from paruresis is an essential step in recovering from it, the same holds true with recovery from addictions and past shameful behaviors.

Then there’s the iffy place that contains secrets that may be better off left unsaid. This place typically contains one-time behaviors that make you feel ashamed and awful but you are not likely to repeat. An example may be a boyfriend cheating on his fiancée, which he did at his bachelor party, and his thoughts that he should confess on his wedding night.

Not cheating at his bachelor party would have been the more desirable behavior for everyone involved, but he has to weigh the benefits of telling his new wife with the pain, anguish and outcome it may bring. Those situations are hazy and, as is the case with anything in such a grey zone, there is no right or wrong answer – only what feels right in the heart.

Who to Tell vs. Who Not to Tell

The fact that you suffer from paruresis may not be something you want to shout from the rooftops. Nor are you likely to be so eager to disclose to the world your addiction to cheesecake, Jack Daniels or sex.

Folks You Probably Want to Tell 

  • Family members
  • Close friends
  • Your doctor, therapist, acupuncturist and other relevant health care professionals
  • People you trust 

Folks You Probably Do NOT Want to Tell

  • The office gossip
  • The nosy neighbor
  • Anyone who could potentially bully you or use the information against you (yes, we get bullies even as adults) 

If the information does fall into malicious hands, IPA brings up a good point to remember:

“People who are ignorant or condescending toward those with paruresis are the ones who have an illness: A lack of empathy and inability to help and support others,” IPA says. 

Folks on the Fence

Telling your boss about your paruresis may not seem like the most professional move, but it could benefit you in the workplace. One benefit may come from improved bathroom accommodations. Another could come if you’re subjected to drug tests.

Problems have cropped up from people with paruresis unable to take required drug tests just because they were unable to provide a sample on demand. Even if your boss is not the one to tell, perhaps the head of human resources is just so your employer is aware of your phobia and can possibly take measures to ensure your environment is more comfortable and conducive to productivity.


Photo Credit: Lili Vieira de Carvalho via Compfight cc