Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is defined by PubMed as a “persistent and irrational fear of situations that may involve scrutiny or judgment by others.” The disorder leads to avoidant behaviors such as staying away from parties and large groups of people. Social anxiety can grow more serious when it causes avoidance of ordinary places like schools and stores. At some point, people who have social phobia may stop leaving home almost entirely. As you can imagine, this makes it difficult to hold a steady job or pursue an education.
Paruresis is an anxiety disorder which is often related to social difficulties. People who have paruresis experience such high anxiety that they cannot urinate in a public restroom. They may also have trouble relieving themselves at home if they think someone is nearby. Though the feelings behind the disorder are what causes it, the manifestation is a physical inability to use the restroom.
A study from 2002 examined the effects of paruresis on sixty-three people. As in the general population, more of the people with the condition were male than female.
Two disorders that were commonly found in the participants are social anxiety disorder and depression. These illnesses were also the most likely to be present in family members of someone with paruresis.
Some of the avoidant behaviors performed by the people in the study include limiting how much they drank and where they went (e.g. they would avoid sports events where they may have to use public restrooms). Many also were reluctant to travel or to go on dates because of their paruresis. Some participants also reported suffering from feelings of shame and not wanting to reveal to family, friends, or a significant other that they have paruresis. The resulting lack of support likely makes it more difficult to cope with the disorder.
For the participants who were willing to speak to a doctor or mental health professional about paruresis, the most commonly prescribed treatments were medication, behavior therapy, or some other form of psychotherapy, which involves “addressing mental health concerns by talking with a psychologist or other mental health provider.”
Only 7.9 percent of the people who participated in the study saw a worsening of paruresis symptoms.
The researchers noted that if more people with paruresis sought treatment as early as possible, there would be less incidence of other mental health disorders. Why? Because it’s important to have someone to talk to about paruresis (and other chronic disorders) who can help you to deal with it.