Confessions Of An ‘anxious Pooper’
Anxiety presents itself in many forms for me nail biting, unhealthy eating patterns, canceling plans, excessively reassuring others to make up for my self-doubt.
But what I dont talk about enough is how much anxiety affects my gastrointestinal tract. More specifically, my anxietys ability to make me constipated or give me diarrhea in an instant.
I like to call this anxiety poops.
I remember being 12 years old and traveling to St. Louis from New York for an event my 13-year-old brother was attending. My parents were busy that week, so they sent my 18-year-old and 14-year-old cousins to accompany us as our guardians.
I was both nervous and excited to travel alone, but I had my brother and cousins with me, so I wasnt really alone. Needless to say, everything that could go wrong did. Our first night in the hotel we were going to swim at the hotel pool and heard sirens going off. We asked someone what the sirens meant, to which they replied, A tornado is headed our way. Casual.
They had everyone take shelter in the main lobby as we waited for the tornado to pass. My 18-year-old cousin, our guardian, was on the phone with her dad who was tracking the tornado in real-time . She was panicking and rightfully so as we watched the sky turn deep red.
Its a funny story in our family now, but more importantly, its one of the first memories where I can pinpoint anxiety giving me gastrointestinal issues.
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The Psychology Behind The Shyness
While shy bladder is one of the criteria for social anxiety disorder, both conditions have a link to anxiety and can have a very serious impact on your daily life.
Shy bladder and shy bowel are two forms of toilet phobia associated with social anxiety, Dr. Dannaram said. If left untreated, they can lead to significant distress and reduced quality of life, including impaired relationships, social life and confidence as well as difficulty managing jobs, and in some cases, fear of leaving the houseagoraphobia.
How Do You Know If You Have Poop Anxiety
It is thought that parcopresis is an underdiagnosed condition because people feel too embarrassed to speak to their doctor about it. You may be hesitant to raise your concerns about poop anxiety with your healthcare provider because of a perceived stigma around the symptoms.
One tool used to diagnose parcopresis is the Shy Bladder and Bowel Scale³ . If you think you may be suffering from poop anxiety, read the following statements and see if they apply to you:
I cant have a bowel motion when around others in a bathroom or restroom.
I avoid going to the toilet even if I need to have a bowel motion.
I delay going to the toilet even if I need to have a bowel motion.
I worry that I cannot empty my bowel when close to others.
My bowel habits make my life unbearable.
My bowel habits are the most significant contributor to my anxiety in life.
My bowel habits reduce my quality of life.
My bowel habits make me feel frustrated.
If you agree with any of these statements and have felt this way for longer than six months, you may be suffering from poop anxiety.
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What To Do Right Now
If you are currently struggling with anxiety-induced diarrhea , you need a plan to help prevent reoccurrence or at least better manage your symptoms. Provided below are some strategies you can do right now.
As Bucky said to Captain America: “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Keep in mind, however, that once your gut is ready to go , there is very little you can do in that moment to stop the process. It is often better to just go. Trying to hold it in can be painful and cause other discomfort. Other immediate strategies include:
- Slow your breathing – Hyperventilation and panic attacks go hand-in-hand, and both contribute to considerable stress on the body. Taking slow, deliberate breaths while expanding your abdomen can reduce hyperventilation and the stress associated with anxiety attacks. If expanding your abdomen feels awkward, it is okay. Just work on slowing down your breathing.
- Stay distracted – Many people find that fixating on their abdominal issues tends to exacerbate the problem. Instead, make sure you are finding ways to stay distracted.
- Eat some bread – For many people, bread has a natural tendency to decrease diarrhea . It also serves as an effective distraction and promotes blood flow to your GI tract through your chewing, reactivating this system.
With Guests Or Partners
If they have guests or a partner, a person might feel anxious about having to poop. It could be a fear of embarrassing their partner or making a bad impression in front of their guests.
A 2012 book Psychology In The Bathroom found that women feel more shame when they have to use the bathroom. They may also be more concerned about the smells and sounds associated with pooping.
Because they are afraid of being heard while peeing, women are more concerned about it.
- Spend time with animals if you are a lover of animals
- Contact someone
- Drink tea, light candles, dont drink caffeine
An anxious person may feel that their routines are disrupted by their anxiety about pooping. 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. These will be discussed in greater detail in the following sections.
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Over The Counter Medication
There are over-the-counter medications that can help you to tackle diarrhea and constipation at home. They can also help with other symptoms of digestive upset, such as bloating and cramping.
Always follow the label carefully so you know how to take the medication safely. Its always best to check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medicine, especially if you have other health conditions or take prescription medication.
How To Deal With Ibs Diarrhea Urgency
If you have diarrhea-predominant IBS , you know well the feeling of panic that can accompany the sensation of impending diarrhea. The anxiety of not making it to a restroom in time can make the feeling worse, increasing abdominal cramping and intensifying the sense of urgency.
Luckily there are some things that you can do when experiencing IBS diarrhea urgency to help calm your system until you can safely make your way to a bathroom.
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How To Calm An Anxious Stomach: The Brain
Ever wonder why you get butterflies in your stomach before doing something stressful? Or why you feel like your stomach is tied in knots after an argument? Ever had a meeting with a toilet that went longer than expected and it wasnt caused by anything you ate? Stomach problems are one of the most common symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Researchers have identified a powerful connection between the gut and the brain. Like the brain, the gut is full of nerves. It contains the largest area of nerves outside the brain with the digestive tract and the brain sharing many of the same nerve connections.
Whether its a single nerve-wracking event or chronic worry and stress over time, stress can exact a physical toll on your digestive system. When you are anxious, some of the hormones and chemicals released by your body enter your digestive tract, where they interfere with digestion. They have a negative effect on your gut flora and decrease antibody production. The resulting chemical imbalance can cause a number of gastrointestinal conditions.
Common stress-related gut symptoms and conditions include:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- and peptic ulcers
Six Tips for Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Stop Stalling: How To Overcome Shy Bowel Syndrome
So, we meet again public bathroom.
Youve had your own throne to do your business on for the last year or so, and now its time to share a bathroom with others outside of your home again. Going back to work or school has its own challenges, but does the thought of going Number 2 have you stalling?
School and office life arent conducive to good gastrointestinal health. Stalls that reach to your knees, paper-thin toilet paper, poor ventilation and toilet showdowns can wreak havoc on your bowels. Add other factors like inflammatory bowel disease and underlying bowel or bladder disorders, and youve got a real potty problem.
While no one really likes to poop in public, it sounds like you may have shy bowel syndrome, or parcopresis, an inability to poop in public.
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The Loss Of Bladder Control Or Bowel Control Anxiety Symptom Common Descriptions:
- You have a sudden urge to urinate and the urge may be so difficult to stop that you experience involuntary loss of urine.
- You feel a sudden urge to urinate thats difficult to control.
- You experience uncontrollable incontinence.
- You frequently experience the urge to urinate, and on occasion, have accidents where you cant get to the bathroom quick enough.
- You have a sudden urge to have a bowel movement, which you cant seem to stop or control.
- You have an urge to have a bowel movement but sometimes you cant make it to the bathroom fast enough, which then causes a bowel movement accident.
- You are overly aware of having a urinary or bowel movement accident in public.
- You are overly sensitive to urinary or bowel movement urges and where they occur.
- Youve had to wear protection against uncontrollable urinary or bowel movements.
- Youve had to limit your lifestyle because of the risk of having an involuntary urinary or bowel movement accident.
This loss of bladder or bowel control symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you might feel like you could lose control once in a while and not that often, feel like you could lose control off and on, or feel like you could lose control all of the time.
This loss of bladder or bowel control symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
Dont Get Your Colon In A Knot: The Anxiety
Of course, poop problems are often and primarily diet related , but its no surprise that your brain and your mindset play an important role in how well, or not so well, you poop. After all, your bowels and your brain are connected.
Some doctors even refer to the gut as the second brain an organ that can receive signals from and send signals to the brain. The connection is the enteric nervous system , a subdivision of the bodys autonomic nervous system , the part of the nervous system that controls unconscious bodily functions, such as breathing, heartbeat, and digestion. The ENS division of the ANS directly controls the gastrointestinal system. So, even though nothing you are consciously thinking is at fault, the problem could still be all or mostly in your head.
Although the problem may be in your head, the solution is likely to require attention to four areas:
Diet and Nutrition
The recipe for healthy pooping is almost cliché: Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in fiber. By water, we mean water without a whole lot of coffee or tea, alcohol, or sugary drinks . By foods high in fiber, we mean fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, and healthy whole grains.
Of course, if you have an acute bout of diarrhea or constipation, shifting from your normal diet can help:
One caution: Strenuous exercise can lead to dehydration, so increase your water intake accordingly.
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Is Anxiety Making You Poop Heres How To Soothe Your Stomach
Do you ever get the feeling of suddenly needing to go to the bathroom when you hear bad news? Or maybe before an exam or a big presentation at work?
If the answer is yes, you might be experiencing anxiety poop. Anxiety poop affects more of us than you might think.
Anxiety-producing events can trigger digestive issues, including diarrhea, constipation and nausea. This is because your gut and your brain are linked. Anxiety poop is your bodys reaction to extreme stress.
Here are the steps you can take to soothe your stomach and get your anxiety poop under control.
Research indicates that high stress situations can upset the digestive system, triggering diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
Triggers vary from person to person, but the bodys response is linked to the gut-brain axis.
Maya Eid is a clinical and holistic nutritionist who knows a thing or two about poop.
The gut responds to these hormones by producing physical symptoms, like watery stools, nausea, or constipation.
Serotonin is especially important when were talking about anxiety poop.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone involved in the peristaltic reflex , Eid says. During heightened anxiety, the amount of serotonin increases in your gut and can cause spasms to happen throughout your entire colon.
These spasms are enough to produce unexpected bowel movements.
How To Overcome Bowel Issues
Dealing with the bowel issues connected to stress and anxiety can be very difficult, as bowels function automatically. Seeking medical attention, exploring how different foods affect you and identifying ways to manage stress and anxiety are all helpful ways to begin to manage bowel issues.
Anxiety can cause everything from gas problems to yellow stool to constipation and more, all of which are caused by different issues that both directly and indirectly stem from anxiety. Some behavioral changes can help, but an anxiety treatment is going to be the only way to stop them from recurring.
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Tips To Conquer Your Fear Of Pooping In Public
You’re out and about, coffee in hand, and the urge hits: You really have to go number two. For some people, this can be their worst nightmare. We get it: Your poop might stink, someone will know what you’re doing in the stall and there’s the whole âis this seat clean?â thing to contend with.
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So, here’s the deal: If you feel trepidation about going #2 in that stall, you’re not alone. Up to 32 percent of people may have some sort of public poop worry, according to ToiletAnxiety.org.
Whether you’re just a little grossed out by the thought or you full-on try to avoid going at all costs, it’s worth it to try to get more comfortable with the concept â for your gastrointestinal health at least.
“People definitely have anxiety related to defecating in a public bathroom,” says Justin Maykel, MD, a gastroenterologist and colon and rectal surgeon at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worchester, Massachussets.
But when you gotta go â you should go. “We don’t recommend that people defer bowel movements. Holding in stool develops bad bowel habits and can ultimately lead to constipation, hard stools and straining,” Dr. Maykel says.
Over time, that contributes to other problems, like hemorrhoids or difficulty evacuating , which can create long-term issues.
Here are some things you can try when nature calls, depending on your top concern: