Women and Paruresis

Women and Paruresis - Shy Bladder Syndrome

This condition does affect both men and women but, by the public nature of urinals, it is generally more evident among men. However women with paruresis can suffer just as much as men.

Many women experiencing paruresis restrict their lives by limiting social activities, and narrowing their horizons by turning down invitations and opportunities for meeting other people. Additionally, many women restrict their liquid intake when they can’t avoid going out, and subsequently find themselves vulnerable to developing uncomfortable urine infections.

Every woman has experienced the irritation of walking into a public toilet and finding a long queue for the next vacant cubicle. For women with paruresis the anxiety is increased, as many of them experience great difficulty in peeing when they know there is a queue. The anxiety appears to be even greater when someone in the queue is specifically waiting for them. When they do reach the toilet, some women find that they need to wait until someone operates a hand air dryer or flushes another toilet before they are able to pee, if indeed they are able to pee – some women find it impossible in this sort of situation. It can even affect their ability to pee if the walls of the toilet cubicle don’t reach the floor and stop at ankle level, especially if the next cubicle is occupied.

Many women with paruresis experience particular problems around holidays. They often can’t pee on moving vehicles whether they are trains, boats, coaches or planes, and so they restrict their plans for travel, missing out on experiences that most people take for granted. Those who can’t avoid travelling often spend weeks beforehand worrying how they will manage. Indeed the length of time spent in states of anxiety can be longer than the actual period of time that they are worried about.

Home is usually a place of safety where women with paruresis can feel able to relax and function normally. However, even home can cause difficulties if there are guests, and some women report feeling anxious and uncomfortable trying, and sometimes being unable, to use their own toilet when there are other people in the house.

It can be difficult and embarrassing for women to admit to having paruresis. Most hide the issue from all but the closest friends; some even hide it from close family members. But not speaking about it means that it remains hidden and women tend to think that they are the only ones experiencing the difficulties. They often express a great relief when they discover that it is a known, albeit little known, medical condition and that there are other women sharing similar difficulties. They seem to benefit from opportunities to compare experiences and support each other once they have taken the step of acknowledging their paruresis.

Currently fewer women than men attend the UKPT weekend workshops, but feedback appears to indicate that the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach works as well for women as it does for men.

We now have a Women’s Forum to enable the discussion of issues which mostly affect females.


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