Q: I have what I think is a problem that is somewhat unique; at least, as far as I know, it is.
My problem is that I am so self-conscious when I go to the washroom that I cannot pee anywhere other than my own home unless I am certain that no one is around.
If someone happens across me when I am peeing, I cannot finish that which I started. I have to have a private pee.
I hope that you can understand how this problem of mine affects my daily life. I cannot go anywhere for any great period of time unless I have figured out a safe place to go to the washroom, and I often have to turn down invitations that might otherwise brighten up my social life.
I cannot go overnight with anyone unless I have my own hotel room and I cannot stick around the golf course after a round with my friends because I need to go home to pee.
I dare not tell anyone about my problem. It is too embarrassing. What, if anything, can I do about this?
A: Your problem is actually fairly common. An estimated 20 million people living in the United States, along with proportionally similar numbers living in Canada, have similar struggles.
You think of yourself as being somewhat unique because you are too self-conscious to talk about it and that is unfortunate. Because you are alone, you are struggling longer than is necessary.
Medically this thing is called paruresis. On the street, where the rest of us non-medical people live, it is called “shy bladder.”
No one is certain what causes paruresis. Most likely it is the end point of an embarrassing moment when you were young. Perhaps you were victim to a calling out with caustic comments from other children; maybe you were caught in those unforgiveable moments of impatience from your mom and dad.
What we do know is that you are most likely to have forgotten the issues that started the problem.
Treating paruresis is relatively simple. Check with your family doctor to make sure that you do not have a physiological issue that may be contributing to the problem.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you settle down your anxiety.
Your doctor also should refer you to a mental health clinic for one-on-one counselling with a mental health therapist.
The more you can talk to a counsellor about your problem, the more likely it is that you will become more comfortable with it, and the more comfortable you become with your problem, the greater are the odds that it will start to go away.
It may take a bit of time but chances are very good that your problem can be resolved.