Paruresis also known as pee shyness, shy kidney, bashful bladder, stage fright, urinophobia or shy bladder syndrome is a type of social anxiety disorder, that can affect both men and women, in which the sufferer is unable to urinate in the (real or imaginary) presence of others, such as in a public restroom.
Paruresis goes beyond simple shyness, embarrassment, or desire for privacy in that it is much more severe and may cause unnecessary inconvenience, because the inability to urinate, although psychological in origin, is physical in its effect, and not under the control of the sufferer. Paruresis can be mild, moderate or severe. In mild cases, paruresis is an occasional event, like a form of subconscious performance anxiety. Some may find that they are unable to urinate while in moving vehicles. In severe cases, a person with paruresis can urinate only when alone at home.
First written Jan. 2008, revised Feb. 16, 2010.
I’m standing in the middle of a random bathroom in a random downtown Seoul building. The bathroom is immaculate. Despite the hygienic appearance, there is an awful odor of rotten eggs and dookie. Sky blue tiles cover the floor and walls. There is one sink and two empty urinals. The only stall is taken by an elderly Korean man. He is grunting and mumbling in Korean, trying with all his might to have a bowel movement. As I stand outside the stall waiting for him, I picture him clutching a tall glass of orange-flavored Metamucil, praying to Buddha for sweet relief.
I suppose I could use the urinal. I could be in and out in 30 seconds, long before the old man emerges from the poopoo cave. Despite the apparent benefits, I can’t force myself to use the urinal. I approach the left one slowly, fingering my zipper nervously. “Just do it,” I tell myself, “just pee.” My brains says do it, but my body resists.
As I wait for the colonically congested old geezer, I take a moment to reflect on my unreasonable fear. Where did it come from? When did it first manifest itself?
I’ve been peeing free for years. Continue reading