Women and Paruresis

Women and Paruresis

Paruresis affects both men and women but, by the public nature of urinals, it is generally more evident among men. However, difficulty passing urine is something women can suffer from just as much as men.

Many women with paruresis restrict their lives by limiting social activities, turning down opportunities to meet other people. Many also restrict their liquid intake when they can’t avoid going out and so may find themselves 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. But 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 dryer or flushes another toilet before they are able to pee - if indeed they can, for 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 especially if the next cubicle is occupied.

Many women with increased urination anxiety experience particular problems around holidays. They often can’t pee on moving vehicles such as trains, boats, coaches or planes, and so restrict their plans for travel, missing out on experiences that other people take for granted. Those who can’t avoid travelling often spend weeks beforehand worrying how they will manage.

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; some women report feeling anxious and uncomfortable or even 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 their closest friends, some even from close family members. But not speaking about it means women can think that they are the only ones experiencing difficulties.

They often express great relief when they discover that it is a known medical condition and that there are other women with the same urination anxiety. They find it helps to compare experiences and support other women having difficulty urinating once they have taken the step of acknowledging their own paruresis.

Feedback from the women who attend our workshops indicates that the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach is as effective for women as it is for men.

For more information about the ways that women may experience paruresis visit the Shy Bladder Video Series.

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