Anxiety about pooping: How to deal with it and stay regular
Some people have anxiety about pooping, especially in public places or with other people nearby. However, not pooping can have negative consequences for health, so anyone experiencing this problem should try to seek treatment.
Experts believe that anxiety about pooping is a type of social anxiety or phobia.
A person who experiences anxiety about pooping will be fearful of pooping in places that are not completely private, such as in public restrooms or in another person’s home.
It can affect men, women, and children. In fact, toilet anxiety affects around 6.5% to 32% of the population.
People with anxiety about pooping may avoid social outings, holidays, or public events, and they may also find that it interferes with their work. All of these limitations can severely restrict their lives.
However, they may choose not to seek treatment for their anxiety about pooping because they feel ashamed of it.
That said, there are a range of treatments available for anxiety about pooping. Delaying pooping because of anxiety can be harmful to a person’s health, so treatment is necessary.
This article explains what pooping anxiety is, which treatments are available, and some tips on keeping the digestive system healthy.
What is pooping anxiety?
“Parcopresis” is a term that refers to the inability to poop in public settings. People also call this condition “having a shy bowel,” “shy bladder syndrome,” or “psychogenic fecal retention.”
Anxiety about pooping can interfere with a person’s life in different ways. For example, they may not be able to poop if they know that other people may be nearby or if they think that people will be able to hear them. They may also be too anxious to travel in case they need to use a public restroom to poop.
Parcopresis may also make a person feel anxious about being judged for not being able to poop in public settings. For this reason, a person with parcopresis may only poop in their own bathroom, which may make it difficult for them to spend time away from their house.
In order to reduce the chance of needing to poop while in public, a person may wish to consider changing certain aspects of their diet.
Causes of pooping anxiety
One 2016 study found a link between anxiety about pooping and social anxiety. This is because people with anxiety about pooping are likely to use avoidance techniques and believe that there will be negative social consequences related to pooping in a public setting.
For instance, a person with anxiety about pooping may believe that people will judge them if they can hear, see, or smell them when they pass a bowel movement.
A person who is anxious about pooping may also be experiencing a toilet phobia. This can make a person feel scared about using a public restroom, about being too far away from a toilet, about not being able to use the bathroom when they need to, or about the toilet being unclean.
These feelings of anxiety can increase muscle tension, which can make it harder to poop. This can create a cycle that can be hard to break without effective treatment.
Situations that can cause anxiety about pooping
Certain situations can cause a person to feel anxious about pooping.
Although many of the situations that trigger anxiety about pooping involve public environments, some people may even feel too anxious to poop in their own home.
The following sections will discuss some common triggers of anxiety about pooping in more detail.
Using public restrooms
A person may feel increased anxiety about using a public restroom if there is a queue of people waiting to use it.
Being seen, being overheard, or feeling as though one is taking too long in a public restroom can cause anxiety about pooping.
Using someone else’s bathroom
A person with anxiety about pooping may prefer to only use their own bathroom because they feel safe.
If they have to use someone else’s bathroom, they may not feel that they have the privacy they need.
With partners or guests
A person may feel anxious about needing to poop if they are with their partner or have guests. This may be because of a fear about ruining their image around their partner or embarrassing themselves in front of their guests.
According to one 2012 book called Psychology in the Bathroom, women are more likely to feel shame about the process of going to the bathroom. For example, they may be more likely to worry about the sounds and smells associated with pooping.
Women are also more anxious about being overheard while pooping because they fear that it will negatively affect their relationship with the person overhearing it.
How to relieve anxiety around pooping
A person who is anxious about pooping may find that their anxiety disrupts their daily routines. For example, their anxiety may have a negative impact on their work or social life if they avoid going to public places or events.
There are a range of mental health treatments that might help relieve anxiety about pooping. The following sections will look at these in more detail.
Cognitive behavior therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps a person break down their thought processes and understand the sources of their anxiety. It is a type of talking therapy that can be effective against anxiety and phobias.
In CBT, a person would talk with a therapist about their anxiety about pooping and work out some ways that they can reassess the level of threat or risk they feel around pooping in public settings.
CBT can provide treatment alongside antidepressant medications.
Certain antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help with anxiety and phobias.
Experts believe that SSRIs work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which helps improve mood.
Risks of constipation
Constipation refers to when a person finds it difficult to empty the bowel.
A person who is anxious about pooping may put off using the bathroom, which can lead to constipation.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), some symptoms of constipation include:
- hard, dry, or lumpy poop
- passing fewer than three bowel movements per week
- poop that is painful to pass
- a feeling that not all the poop has passed
A person may also feel sick or have stomach pain when experiencing constipation.
One risk associated with chronic constipation is fecal impaction, which describes a buildup of hard, dry poop in the rectum.
If a person receives prompt treatment for fecal impaction, they can prevent some of the more serious complications that may develop. These complications may include:
- perforated colon
- reduced kidney function
- fecal incontinence
- rectal bleeding
Although fecal impaction is not common, it can, in extreme cases, prove fatal. Therefore, it requires prompt treatment.
How to stay regular
A person’s diet can influence their risk of constipation. According to the NIDDKD, the following steps can help a person avoid constipation and poop regularly:
- drinking plenty of water
- increasing the amount of fiber in the diet
- exercising regularly
- pooping at the same time each day, if possible
Experts believe that pooping anxiety is a type of social anxiety.
A person with anxiety about pooping may avoid situations in which they may have to use a public restroom. This can be extremely limiting.
Maintaining a healthful diet can help a person poop regularly and keep their digestive system healthy.
Although a person with pooping anxiety may feel shame, there are treatments available that can successfully help them reduce this anxiety.