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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Peeing Paralysis

Anxiety in the bathroom is more common than you think
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The bathroom door slams open as I rush inside, feet skidding on the mysteriously wet floors. Seeing no one occupying the room, I sigh in relief and quickly enter one of the graffitied stalls. But just as I’m getting up to leave, two voices enter the bathroom and I suddenly become a statue of ice in the middle of reaching to unlock the door. Ten minutes pass incrementally as I stand awkwardly in the stall, waiting for them to leave. By the time I finally exit and make my way upstairs, I’m both extremely late and deeply embarrassed.

Let’s be honest, I’m not the only one. “Toilet anxiety” is a phrase that’s often used to label these feelings and encompasses all such experiences in the bathroom. In a more specific sense, it’s defined as an anxiety disorder in which one may experience fears that have to do with the inability to urinate or defecate, using a public restroom, being a long distance from a toilet, having an accident, other people seeing/hearing you use the toilet and more. Many people go years without being aware of toilet anxiety, even though this bathroom nervousness is extremely common. While there aren’t many studies on the topic, many psychologists have been working to raise awareness about it.

“I have patients who have gone all the way back home to use the bathroom. I have individuals who will wait until the bathroom is free before they can use it. I have people who have ‘secret’ bathrooms in their office buildings so their co-workers can’t hear or smell them in the bathroom,” said Dr. Frank J. Sileo, a New Jersey psychologist, in the article Why Some People Will Do Anything to Avoid Pooping in Public Toilets.

Toilet anxiety is a broad term that encompasses not only what Sileo defined, but also parcopresis (the inability or fear of defecating with others nearby) and paruresis (the inability or fear of urinating in public toilets). Overall, toilet anxiety is simply another form of apprehension. And as with any other discomfort, it most likely has a source.

“People are embarrassed by the smell and sounds of going to the bathroom,” said Sileo. “This is probably one of the greatest contributors to bathroom anxiety. It makes people feel vulnerable.”

Why is something so essential a cause of anxiety? While toilet anxiety is definitely not a thing to be ashamed of, it’s treated that way. People look down on this form of anxiety without knowing that it can be seriously harmful and is, in fact, relatively common. Little research has been done on paruresis since the condition was first recognized in 1954, and with even less done on parcopresis, we’ve resulted in a population that’s ignorant of its adverse effect. Many have no idea that toilet anxiety is even an actual thing, and not just a personal experience.

In truth, 6.5%-32% of the population is suffering from toilet anxiety in some form, according to Dr. Simon Knowles. Along with this, it’s found to be more prevalent in adolescents, something many parents may have struggled with while raising their toddler. Overall, toilet anxiety is not as shameful as you might think. 

If anything, it’s harmful. Being unable to relieve yourself in any public setting could be extremely detrimental to one’s health, along with purposeful dehydration, which is one of the most common symptoms of toilet anxiety. 

Toilet anxiety is something a lot of people struggle with, but very few talk about. Why is doing something so essential seen as shameful, especially when this perspective can cause pain and unnecessary anxiety? Many psychologists and doctors are attempting to right this wrong through educating people and making these issues more well known. 

The BBA Clinic website made by Mind Over Gut takes a step in the right direction, offering facts and studies on the topic of toilet anxiety. This website has offered information to those searching for answers and helped people understand that these things are more or less common. 

A large step to stopping toilet anxiety comes from educating people about it. With the knowledge that others are experiencing the same symptoms and problems that you are in the bathroom, you may be able to finally relieve yourself in peace. 

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About the Contributor
Scarlett Tucker
Scarlett Tucker, Staff Writer

When staff writer Scarlett Tucker isn’t doing ballet, she can often be found reading a new book, drawing to her heart’s content, and procrastinating on any and all work. With nearly no free time to spare, you can find her up and moving all time, even late into the night. A steadfast Swiftie, she often spends hours (that she doesn’t have time to spend) clowning around with other Swifties and listening to Taylor Swift, mainly her alternative album Folklore. She’s extremely excited to learn how to enhance the few writing skills she has, and work with a team of people who also enjoy writing.

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