UKPT News and Blog

3 minutes reading time (558 words)

Is Peeing Driving You “Spare”?


Here at UKPT, we often say that shy bladder syndrome has no respect for gender, age, or status. It can happen to anyone – from pauper to prince – quite literally it seems!

Prince Harry's recently published book Spare features a passage about an incident that took place on board a yacht in fearsome weather. He badly needed to pee but was struck by what he calls "stage fright", and was unable to pee while other people were nearby and watching him. Here's what he says:

"Then another fear took hold. The fear of no on board loo. I held it in for as long as I possibly could until I had no choice. I swung my body over the side into the tossing sea... and still couldn't pee, mainly thanks to stage fright. The whole crew looking. Finally, I went back to my post, sheepishly hung from the ropes, and peed in my pants."

The conditions Harry found himself in were clearly anxiety provoked, so it was hardly surprising that he was unable to pee while the conditions were wild and his life was in danger. But the crucial thing which stopped him peeing, was not the danger he was in, but because the crew were watching him.

This will be very familiar to anyone who experiences paruresis, also known as shy bladder syndrome, but what exactly are we afraid of? Someone seeing us pee? Someone hearing us pee? Keeping other people waiting when there's a queue? The answer can be all of these, and more.

It's hard to understand just why these things matter so much, and why they cause us so much anxiety that our bodies defy us and refuse to allow us to pee.

The answer is in the body's fight or flight response. When we think we are in danger, whether or not the danger is real, our bodies prepare us to either run away or stay and fight.

This response is a throwback to our ancestors who had to decide whether to run away from a life-threatening situation or stay and fight. Either way, our ancestors' bodies prepared them by sending extra blood to their limbs for fight or flight, which put a stop on other bodily functions which were unnecessary for either challenge. So now, when we suspect there's a threat, our bodies go into overdrive and prepare us for fight or flight. For people who experience paruresis, this means that the nervous system over-reacts and stops us peeing.

Like Prince Harry, the trigger may be as simple as someone watching us as we try to pee. When shy bladder syndrome gets us down, it can be helpful to remember that experiencing "stage fright" is perfectly normal and can happen to anyone!

Excerpted under Fair Use from "Spare" Copyright © 2023 by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex. All Rights Reserved. Published in the United States by Random House. Pages 270-271. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976; allowance is made for "Fair Use" for the purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, education, or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All rights and credit go directly to its rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended. 

The Guardian - Decades on, I am still traumatised ...
The Telegraph - Agony Uncle


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Thursday, 18 July 2024

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to

Find the UK Paruresis Trust on Facebook
Follow the UK Paruresis Trust on Twitter/X
Follow the UK Paruresis Trust on YouTube
Follow us on Instagram
Registered with Fundraising Regulator
Community Fund
BMA Patient Information Awards Highly Commended 2019
Trusted Information Creator
Copyright © 2017 United Kingdom Paruresis Trust. All Rights Reserved.
Last review date: January 2023.
Next review date: January 2026.

UK Charity Registration Number 1109541
Privacy and Cookies Policy