Would you believe that 14 million people in the UK alone suffer from bladder problems?
That's a lot of people and a proportion of them will find that there is no medical issue, no infection or weakness just.....fear. Once doctors have ruled out all the possibles some patients are still left with a problem: How can I stop thinking about the next trip to the toilet?
Fear of needing the toilet, being caught short, of not finding the loo in time is a fear that blights both men and women, young and old. Many hours are spent planning the next toilet stop or an aisle seat for easy access at theatres and cinemas, one eye on the nearest toilet all the time. Long trips become logistical nightmares while many social gatherings are cancelled out of fear and anxiety: Better safe than sorry.
So how is this problem treated, when there is no medical issue, in effect nothing wrong but the thought processes of an anxious mind?
The central issue is often, but not always, trust. Most adults have memories of wetting themselves as a child and some carry that thought with them into adulthood and torment themselves with the question: Will I wet myself in public? This thought is quickly followed by the threat that this would be the most awful thing in the world and must be avoided at all costs.
The main job of the therapist is to rebuild the patient's trust in the body. Restore the idea that the bladder holds itself very well most of the time with little conscious holding or effort. Most toilet anxiety sufferers do not wet the bed at night but feel they have to 'hold on' during the day.
After rebuilding trust in the body the next step is to prove it, by relaxing the body and finding the bladder holds itself automatically in the same way as many other bodily processes work perfectly well without conscious attention.
Once trust and relaxation has been established then a certain amount of training is involved where the patient reduces the number of toilet stops, the 'precautionary ones' and limits toilet stops to a minimum. This builds confidence and allows the body to get more used to holding a greater volume of urine (because the toilet phobic usually empties the bladder at low volumes) . It is a muscle and requires training like any other muscle.
The freedom obtained by being able to trust the body and relax and live a more spontaneous life can be an immense breakthrough for people. The mind is set free from checking and planning.
ps Toilet Anxiety can also mean Bashful Bladder ( the fear of using a toilet) but that is a topic for another day.