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Ways to Alleviate the Fear of Pooping in Public Places

  • 6 min read

Does the thought of public restrooms scare you? The possibility of no toilet paper, the potential smell of your waste, a malfunctioning flush, and the unsecured toilet stall door. We could go on. It's not just you, pooping anxiety is more common than you might think. Keep reading as we talk about these pooping anxieties and what can we do to manage them. 

The Fear of Public Pooping

woman struggling to go number two in bathroom stall

The Hills / Via

There is a name for this fear. Parcopresis is the fear of pooping in public and those with this condition experience an overwhelming fear of being judged by others because of the possible sounds or smells created while pooping and the look of the stool itself. It’s also sometimes referred to as Shy Bowel. This fear may extend to work place bathrooms or friend's toilets as well.

It is important to note this is not constipation, which means you can't poop anywhere, not just in public places.

People with Shy Bowel will avoid pooping in public areas and hold it in instead. This is different from just disliking going to a public restroom. Some sufferers might intentionally lessen food intake to poop less. (Don't do this please.) Holding in poop may affect your health and ignoring the need to poop consistently can also have health implications like:

Fecal incontinence which is when a hard, dry mass of stool becomes stuck in the colon or rectum (that just sounds painful);
Constipation when you can't poop or pass small, painful stools;
Anal fissures is a lining tear in the anus or anal canal using caused by straining to go poop;
Hemorrhoids which are swollen veins in or around the anus; and/or 
Gasstrointestinal perforation is when a hole forms in the stomach, large bowel, or small intestine. 

It short, things can get bad.

Those with parcopresis have reported having experienced physical symptoms like an increase in heart rate,  sweating, trembling, muscle tension, and nausea all related to pooping in public.

Fear of Public Urination

Related there is also the fear of urinating in public called Paruresis. Paruresis literally means you have a fear of using public toilets to pee. This doesn't have a medical cause, but a 2009 research report referenced that 7% of the general population or approximately 17 million people in the US suffer from it. Paruresis is also known for its other names like shy kidney, shy bladder, or bashful bladder syndrome (BBS).

Those with this condition usually hold their pee and avoid using toilets that are not in their home. If this is not treated, prolonged holding of urine can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections or bladder dysfunction (overactive bladder) in the future because bacteria can start to grow if the urine remains in the bladder too long.

Both parcopresis and paruresis may affect daily routines and may pose a hindrance to important daily activities like interacting with friends, going to public places, and working.

Paruresis and Parcopresis are both conditions that are associated with significant psychological distress. These conditions are experienced by women and men of all ages and when these conditions become severe and left untreated, they can lead to medical complications as mentioned above.

How Do I Know If I Have Shy Bowel Syndrome?

The thought of using a public toilet makes everyone uncomfortable as they are not always clean and private (who knows what happened there before you got there) but what separates that anxiety from Shy Bowel or Shy Bladder? 

There is a way to check if you may have a shy bowel syndrome through the Shy Bladder and Bowel Scale which contains 16 items with questions based on peeing and pooping and behavior and scenarios for you to score using a four-point Likert scale ranging from 0 being the least to 4 being the most. Some questions ask you to rate the following questions:

  • I get anxious when urinating.
  • I worry I cannot empty my bowel when close to others.
  • I can't have a bowel motion when around others in a bathroom/restroom.
  • I delay going to the toilet, even if I need to have a bowel motion.
  • My bowel habits are the most significant contributor to my anxiety levels in life.

How to Manage the Fear of Pooping 

man hugging woman saying I got you

Law & Order / Via

We understand that a fear of defecation can be something to overcome so here are a few tips to help you manage your fear of pooping in public places: 

Try to Poop at Home 

If you don’t already, track your bowel movements. Literally, mark off when you poop and which days of the week. Once you see the pattern, start to schedule your day around your poops. Ideally, pooping in the morning before you go out for the day or at night when you are at home. 

Pack an On-The-Go Emergency Kit 

Prepare a small bag with toilet paper, alcohol, wet wipes, antibacterial soap, plus any medications you’re taking to help ease the symptoms. You can also pack extra clothes or underwear. You may not always need it but knowing that you have it with you in your purse, backpack, or briefcase, in case of an emergency helps put your mind at ease. 

Try Breathing Exercises

If you are feeling anxious, breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety. One good example is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This process starts with breathing out through the mouth, closing it for 4 counts while breathing through the nose. Then count up to 7 while holding your break, then count to 8 while breathing out. It is recommended to be repeated three consecutive times. 

Steer Clear of Trigger Foods

If you know that certain foods can cause you to poop, you may want to cut back or avoid these foods like dairy (think milk, cheese, and ice cream) same with otherfoods that can cause bloating, stomach pain, and gas. 

Face Toilet Anxiety Head-On

Know that saying that we suffer more in imagination than reality? Sometimes gathering up the courage to face it is actually easier than avoiding, or prolonging it for a long time. We can't say it enough: everyone poops. From your boss at work to your neighbor to Kings and Queens of foriegn lands... they all poop! Pooping is your body doing what it's supposed to, taking waste and putting it in the toilet.

Talk to a Professional

Remember that everybody poops, it’s natural, it’s healthy, and it’s human nature. 

If you are starting to have physical symptoms like increased heart rate or palpitations, and showing signs of having an anxiety disorder that hinders you from functioning properly in your everyday activities, you may want to consider booking an appointment with your doctor or therapist to help you treat your fears.

Potential Medical Treatments

Once any underlying physical cause for your symptoms is ruled out, and your doctor is confident that you have the condition, you can discuss treatment options. There are two main methods for treating pooping anxiety

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This help identifies and assesses thoughts and behaviors to change emotions, and behavior patterns. There are two types of CBT that are most commonly used for treatment: Exposure therapy, which, with the supervision and guidance of your therapist exposes you to situations where you experience poop anxiety; and Cognition therapy, which helps you identify and change your negative thinking patterns.
  2. Pharmacotherapy. This approach uses medicines to treat a disease or disorder. Remember to follow the doctor’s recommendation and instructions on frequency and dosage. 

How Bonny Can Help With Regularity

As we discussed, one way to address your anxiety is to have a regular poop schedule that you feel confident about.

If you’ve been reading our blogs, you will know that not only fiber helps clean the gut by acting as the broom cleaning up the intestines for better nutrient absorption, but it also helps promote regular pooping. Fiber can be found inhigh-fiber foods like veggies and fruits, but you can also speed up your fiber intake by taking an all-natural fiber supplement like Bonny. 

Bonny is a prebiotic fiber powder supplement that helps you have a great experience with poops. It has both psyllium husk and prebiotic inulin to make your trip to the toilet for number two, fast and PREDICTABLE. 

USDA recommends a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber for women, and 38 for men, and not only does taking Bonny to help you reach that goal, but it also tastes delicious too as it comes in great flavors like Apple Pie, Mixed Ripe Berries, and Super Strawberry.

As always, we wish you an anxiety-free pooping experience!