If you’ve experienced anxiety, you know how it can make even the simplest tasks feel impossible. For some people, one of these tasks is using the bathroom.

Toilet phobia, sometimes known as bowel and bladder anxiety disorder, is a type of anxiety that can manifest in a number of ways.

For some it can make it difficult or even impossible to use a public toilet. Another form of toilet anxiety is the fear of not having access to a toilet when in public spaces or on public transport.

What is toilet anxiety?

It may seem like a strange fear to have, but toilet anxiety can be a debilitating issue for those who struggle with it. It’s estimated that around 15-35% of the population experiences some degree of toilet anxiety.

Paruresis (also known as shy bladder syndrome) is when people find it difficult to urinate (pee). It’s the second most common social phobia after the fear of public speaking.

Parcopresis (or shy bowel syndrome) on the other hand is the fear of pooing in public spaces, and usually related to the stigma of noise and smell.

Besides bowel and bladder shyness, another common form of toilet phobia is the fear of needing the toilet in public places. Often those who experience this have underlying health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or overactive bladder (OAB).

People with this kind of anxiety may plan their days around where the nearest toilet is, and may avoid going out altogether if they don’t think they’ll be able to find a toilet when they need one.

The impact of toilet phobias on mental health is significant, and can stop people from living their lives in a meaningful way. This real fear can take over someone’s social life, leading to panic attacks, isolation and depression, and potentially agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house). It can also cause medical problems, including constipation and urinary tract infections.

What causes toilet anxiety?

There are a number of possible causes for toilet anxiety. For some people, it may be due to a traumatic or unpleasant experience when they were younger, such as being bullied or having an accident when going to the toilet.

Others may have a medical condition that makes using the toilet difficult or even painful, such as hemorrhoids.

Germ phobia or fear of contracting an infection from using a public toilet may also play a role in toilet anxiety.

Some people may have a general anxiety disorder that makes them anxious in any number of situations, including using the toilet.

Others may have a specific phobia, such as a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), that makes using a public toilet especially difficult.

No matter what the cause, there are a number of things you can do to ease your anxiety and build confidence in yourself. So if you’re scared to use the toilet in a public place, experience increased anxiety about having access to the loo when going about your daily life or worry about having a panic attack over the thought of going to the toilet, read on.

Dealing with a toilet phobia

If you suffer from toilet anxiety, there are a number of things you can do to help ease your symptoms. First, it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. Many people suffer from some form of toilet anxiety, and there is help available.

There are a number of different treatments for toilet anxiety. It’s recommended that in the first instance you speak with a GP. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms, and put you in touch with a mental health professional if necessary.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can be effective in treating anxiety disorders. It involves working with a therapist to identify and challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs that are causing your anxiety.

You may also be prescribed medication to help ease your symptoms. If you have a specific phobia, such as claustrophobia, you may be referred for exposure therapy. This involves gradually exposing yourself to the thing you’re afraid of in a controlled and safe environment

For example, if you’re afraid of using public toilets, you may start by visiting one with a friend or family member. With exposure therapy, it’s important to work at your own pace and only push yourself as far as you feel comfortable.

It’s worth noting that although the NHS does not offer hypnotherapy as a service, evidence suggests that hypnosis as a complimentary treatment alongside CBT can be very effective at reducing toilet anxiety. In some cases people have reported they have been completely cured.

What is hypnotherapy for toilet anxiety?

Hypnotherapy is a type of talking therapy that uses hypnosis to bypass the part of your brain that is sceptical of new ideas. The treatment is well documented for relieving symptoms of social anxiety.

Hypnosis is a natural state of being, you’ve probably experienced a trance-like state many times in your life. An example of this relaxed state of being could be when you’re driving and suddenly realise you can’t remember the last few miles, or when you’re absorbed in a book and the outside world fades away.

During hypnosis, a person is in a state of deep relaxation and they are more open to suggestions. This makes it a powerful tool for change and can be used to help people overcome mental health issues such as toilet anxiety.

Ready to take the next step?

When it comes to discussing bathroom experiences it’s not uncommon for people to feel embarrassment or shame. This can make it difficult to seek help, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there is plenty of support available.

If you’re struggling to cope with your toilet anxiety and would like to speak to someone about how hypnotherapy can help, please call 07966 464 005 or via this contact form.