Paruresis: Treatment & Overview

Instructor: Vidhi Desai

Vidhi holds a Masters in Education, B.A. in Spanish Literature from Rutgers University. Vidhi has experience working in academic affairs and staff management.

Some people feel self-conscious when it comes to performing in public; most feel more comfortable performing in the privacy of their own homes. When we think of this, we think of activities like singing or acting. Paruresis is a similar anxiety, but one related to a necessary bodily function, and about 21 million people suffer from it.



Also known as shy bladder syndrome, paruresis is a social anxiety disorder that causes fear of urination in public restrooms due to other people being around. Some people experience short, infrequent episodes of shyness related to urinating in public restrooms, but paruresis can be much more serious than that.

Let's look at two distinct cases: A young man named James is accustomed to living at home and then relocates to a college residence hall, where he shares a restroom with others living on his floor. He may experience shyness the first few times he uses the bathroom but then eventually gets used to it. This is normal.

James's experience is different from that of someone who has paruresis. For example, let's look at a young woman named Jill, who is on a plane ride lasting ten hours. Leading up to those ten hours, Jill does not have any beverages just so she won't have to urinate in the plane's restroom. She refuses all beverages on the flight, and only lets herself into a bathroom when she arrives at her private hotel room. This is a case of paruresis.


Some people who suffer from paruresis cope by either holding their urine or by avoiding drinking fluids. Both are dangerous options. Those who repeatedly hold their urine are prone to bladder infections, which can spread to the kidneys, causing more harm than good. Avoiding fluids has negative impacts as well - dehydration can occur if a paruresis sufferer avoids fluids for a prolonged period of time.

Treatment Options

There are a number of safer options to cope with paruresis:

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