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Let’s talk about shy bladder syndrome

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Student life promises many things - and most of them exciting. For many young people, it marks their first venture into the adult world and all that entails, from living away from your family, to shopping for food, doing your own laundry and, hopefully, enjoying an exciting new social life.

But for the estimated 7% of the population who suffer from shy bladder (aka paruresis) to some degree, uni or college life holds other challenges, and they can feel insurmountable. Paruresis is the inability to pee in the proximity of other people and affects both men and women. For someone who is leaving home for the first time, the prospect of living in halls or a shared flat can bring that fear to the fore.

While sufferers of paruresis may well have already faced situations where their issue caused them stress, it is likely to have been less of a problem in the relative safety of the home. Living somewhere else, however, brings new routines and new people which can be challenging.

Avoiding socialising

People who experience paruresis often put in place routines and structures to avoid having to go to the toilet in the presence of other people. These can range from not drinking enough liquid to turning down nights out. Presenting a 'normal' face to people can be difficult and exhausting, not to mention its effects on your social life and friendships.

If you are always turning down invites because you don't want to be in a place where you do not know what the toilets will be like (and therefore if you'll be able to use them or not), then you run the risk of missing out. And avoiding drinking enough liquids can be dangerous. Hydration is important. If you're studying, your brain needs plenty of water to keep it happy and fully charged for all the new concepts and ideas it's going to encounter at college or university.

For some people, leaving home to move into halls or other shared accommodation might be the trigger for paruresis. If you've come from a family unit, then the idea of peeing in the proximity of people you don't know can be enough to make your bladder decide it doesn't want to co-operate.

Career choices

Students with paruresis face all of these difficulties, plus potentially difficult career choices at a time when they might have been hoping that the world was full of possibilities for them. Is a career that may involve travel going to be possible? How might you cope in an office workplace with a lot of people sharing a small number of toilets?

Talk it over

We believe it's good to talk. Your new friends at college or university probably won't judge you if you tell them you suffer from shy bladder syndrome - and if they do, then are they the right mates for you anyway? You might even find others admit to the same issue too.

Help is available from the UK Paruresis Trust. Visit our website www.ukpt.org.uk. Consider signing up to a virtual workshop. Start to live your life without the restrictions of shy bladder and use #UniMentalHealthDay as the day you chose to tackle your paruresis. 

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Friday, 20 May 2022

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