Beat That Shy Bladder

By Robert Dean

no toilet

“Why did you have to stand next to me? Why can’t I just go? Oh no, not the hand dryer. Oh for god’s sake I’ll come back later.” Does this internal dialogue sound familiar? Whether you call it stage fright, pee-shyness or shy-bladder, not being able to urinate in a public facility is a problem that seriously affects people’s lives.

Although women can be affected, the condition is most common in males. A lot of  men, at some point in their life, suffer the indignity of standing at a crowded urinal without anything happening but for some people it is a far more common occurrence.

Now for the sciencey bit, the condition is known as paruresis and is a social anxiety disorder that affects around 4 million people in the UK. The condition is caused by an involuntary shutdown of the sphincter valves that allow urine to flow. It is a sub-conscious reaction and we have no real control over when and why it happens.

Doctors and psychologists are yet to come up with a tried and tested cure, however, there are many innovative techniques people come up with to counteract the dreaded, dry toilet visit. I asked around members of my football team to see what they do when paruresis strikes. They came up with a varied list of ways, ranging from the highly logical to the downright bizarre. Here is a list of five ways they came up with which might come in handy next time it affects you.

  1. “The obvious one is to run the taps but that isn’t always an option. The next best thing is to think about running water. Rivers or waterfalls always do the trick.”
  2. “You’ve got to just cut out all the background noise. I normally try singing to myself in my head. I sing a really bad song that I don’t like, cause then you just focus on hating the song rather than not being able to pee and then it tends to flow. Another way to cut out what’s going on around you is to start reading something. I’m not saying take a book in with you but try reading a flyer on the wall or the brand label on the urinal. Armitage Shanks has come to my rescue many a time.”
  3. “This can look a bit weird but I tend to just close my eyes. Obviously you’ve got to be bit a bit a crafty because standing at a urinal, fully on show, with your eyes closed can look a bit suspect. If that fails then I just embarrassingly join the queue for the cubical.”
  4. “I just do something really complicated in my head that I’ve got no chance of working out. For instance, I’ll think what’s 167 multiplied by 84 or how do is spell a really long word. Once you are really concentrated on that you tend to forget what’s going on around you.”
  5. “I don’t really get it but when I do I’m usually a bit drunk and I just make my mind go on the offensive. I think to myself, if I’m feeling nervous about going then why is  this guy so confident? What makes you so special? Who are you to come and put me off my flow? Once I am done though I have to calm myself down and remind myself that all my negative feelings towards this bloke are of my own doing. Bit weird, I know, but it does work.”
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