If you are on the go and feel like emptying your bladder, you head straight to a public restroom. However, millions of people do not see that as an option. A public restroom causes intense fear and is not an option for them. They have a condition called shy bladder.

Simply being near other people makes their sphincter muscles (the muscles that control the flow of urine from the bladder) to lock tightly. Once locked, you cannot pee. In many cases, it happens in public restrooms. However, you can also experience shy bladder when using other people’s bathrooms or even in your home when you have visitors.

In this post, we demystify shy bladder to establish what it is and its symptoms. We will also outline the best methods to address the problem naturally.

What is Shy Bladder?

Shy Bladder, also referred to as paruresis, is an anxiety disorder that makes a person fear using the restroom when other people are nearby. Therefore, they develop a lot of anxiety when they want to use the restrooms, especially in public places.

It is important to note that the problem does not have anything to do with poor functioning of your bladder. Rather, the building anxiety locks the sphincter muscles and prevents the urine from flowing out. The anxiety makes you avoid socializing with others, traveling, or even working in an office.

Shy Bladder

In other cases, shy bladder can make urinating on demand for a drug test at school, work, or athletics impossible. In the United States, more than 20 million people suffer from the problem.
Before shifting to shy bladder symptoms, it is prudent to differentiate it from agoraphobia. While shy bladder makes it difficult for a person to pee in the presence of others, agoraphobia is the fear of being in places where escape might seem difficult. However, severe cases of shy bladder are similar in many ways to agoraphobia. For examples, in both cases, the affected persons prefer to stay at home to avoid going to places such as crowded areas.


When a person suffers from shy bladder, he tries to force the urine out but it is impossible. Then, he results to changing personal behavior in order to stay away from public rooms. These behaviors are the common symptoms of shy bladder. Here are some of them:

  • Avoiding most social situations that require you to urinate in a public restroom. Some people would rather relax at home as opposed to traveling to work, social gatherings, or visiting friends. Some would even use excuses to discourage friends from coming to their places because they would be unable to pee in their presence.
  • Drinking less fluids so that you do not need to go to a public restroom when traveling out of the house.
  • Feeling of anxiety when you think of or trying to use a public toilet. This includes elevated heart rate, shaking, sweating, and even fainting.
  • When you want to pee, you take a lot of time looking for empty toilets as opposed to using the urinals or other common areas. If there is none that is empty, you are unable to pee.
  • Dashing home during break, lunch-time and any other available free time to urinate as opposed to using the common restroom.
  • In some cases, people suffering from shy bladder will want to use the home restroom more to ensure they will not need to use the public toilets.

If you experience these symptoms regularly, it is prudent to seek a solution urgently. But the good thing about shy bladder is that it can be treated.


If you are experiencing the above symptoms, your urinary system does not have a problem. Rather, shy bladder is being caused by nervousness when you want to pee in a public area. This is why it is referred to as a social anxiety disorder. Here are the main causes:

  • One of the possible reasons why people develop shy bladder is if they get criticized so much about using potty at a tender age. This could make them associate peeing with negative impacts that persists even in adulthood.
  • In other cases, people can develop the fear of urinating in public if they were bullied in school. For example, if bullies make fun about you when urinating, the negative thoughts around it can make you develop fear of peeing in public restrooms.
  • If you get abused in a public restroom, it is possible to develop negative thoughts of such toilets and avoid them. Even when there is no risk of harm, you get tense and find it unable to pee.

When you fear for the first time, you start worrying about the problem happening again. This makes it to snowball until it becomes impossible to pee. Anxiety fills the nervous system with adrenaline that makes the muscles that allow you to empty the bladder freeze. Even if you try to force it, it cannot!

Many people say they feel so anxious about using a public restroom that they’ll search for one that’s vacant. Some avoid shared bathrooms, and others can’t pee in public stalls or urinals at all. Before the anxiety strikes, there are a couple of triggers. Here are some of them:

  • Lack of privacy: Well, public restrooms such as urinals do not have privacy at all. This is perhaps the main reason why more men suffer from shy bladder than ladies.
  • People in the restroom with you: Being surrounded by persons that you do not know can make it hard to release the bladder.
  • Personal emotions: When you are angry or under pressure, the sphincter muscle may freeze and refuse to cooperate when you want to pee.

How to Overcome (Naturally)

When people learn that they have shy bladder, they feel ashamed of the problem and rarely talk about it in public. Therefore, they adopt avoidance behavior that reduces fear around the issue. If you opt for this route, the problem is likely to get worse. But the good thing is that you can overcome shy bladder naturally. Here are the main methods that you can use:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

This method of treatment is aimed at helping you to replace the negative thought patterns with healthy ones. The focus is demonstrating that the shy bladder actually happens in the mind and can be addressed by breaking the cycle of anxiety. The strategy can include procedures such as gradually increasing exposure to others when they pee until you can feel okay to pee in a public restroom. Note that this will require patience and persistence.

Relaxation techniques

If you can learn how to relax the mind, defeating shy bladder becomes relatively easy. When the anxiety starts to build, you should use relaxation techniques such as holding breath so that your muscles can relax and allow you to pee. Note that this method requires you to practice regularly.

Graduated exposure therapy

This is another highly recommended method that involves trying to pee in situations that are considered difficult. The process requires being guided by a professional therapist and may include the following steps:

  • Picking a number of urination points starting from the most difficult to the easiest. For example, you might find it easy to urinate at home but very difficult in a public restroom.
  • Working with a pee partner for support. You could opt for a close member of your family or a friend.
  • Ask your partner to stand close to the washroom as you pee. Was that hard? Pee a little and stand there for a moment.
  • Ask your partner to draw nearer and pee again. Repeat the same process until you are comfortable to pee when he is around. Note that this might require a number of sessions.
  • Make noise when peeing in the toilet as your partner gets closer. You can do this by splashing urine in the toilet water. This can help you to avoid concentrating on other people who are using the restroom.
  • After practicing with the home toilet, repeat the same process with a public restroom. Then, keep moving up different restrooms based on how difficult you ranked them.

To make graduated therapy work for you, it is important to practice regularly. Besides, you should also take a lot of water and avoid negative talk about the condition. Then, do it slowly and the results will start becoming evident.

The Final Take

Shy bladder is one of the most stressful anxiety disorders that can have negative impacts on both your social and professional life. If left untreated, the problem could make your entire life completely unbearable. However, the good thing is that the disorder can be treated irrespective of the stage it has reached.

Using the treatment methods outlined above, you can slowly change the negative thoughts and tell your mind that peeing in public is no longer harmful. Do not live with shy bladder anymore, learn about it, treat and live a paruresis free life.

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