Incontinence episodes are often a cause for anxiety. Studies of the relationship between incontinence and anxiety have shown that due to incontinence being shown as an embarrassing social taboo and stigmatised by the media, people often feel ashamed to seek help. The good news is that anxiety and depression are both treatable conditions. This blog will provide an overview of the relationship between incontinence and anxiety, and discuss ways in which incontinence-related anxiety can be decreased.
We know that incontinence can prevent a person from engaging in social activities that they normally would which can lead to depression. From causing low self-esteem, avoiding sexual intercourse to social isolation and despair.
Some other common symptoms of anxiety may include:
• sweating and/or hot and cold flushes
• tightening of the chest
• racing heart
• uncontrollable worry
• obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviours.
Many people experience negative emotions in regards to incontinence concerns because of the considered loss of a natural bodily function that they no longer have control over. They then become fearful, upset and anxious over unexpected accidents that may occur, but could incontinence also occur because of high levels of anxiety?
Severe anxiety actually turns off the part of the brain that controls urination and defaecation. It is fairly rare to be incontinent during these times except in the case of terror, extreme fear or facing a life or death situation. This is due to the limbic system, a combination of brain areas that control the “fight or flight” responses switching off other messages from the brain.
That is why during extreme periods of anxiety i.e before an important exam you feel the need to go to the toilet more frequently. In life-threatening situations the limbic system’s orders become so urgent that you can’t even make it to the bathroom.
Incontinence and worrying can have a disabling effect on a person’s life and an important part of decreasing incontinence-related anxiety is talking to your doctor. The sooner you can address your problem, the less anxiety it will cause.
A comprehensive health treatment plan and counselling support is a positive step to management of incontinence and associated anxiety. If you are suffering from extreme anxiety related to incontinence and believe it’s affecting your quality of life it is particularly important for both your physical and mental health to discuss treatment and management options with your health care professional.