Can Anxiety Cause Incontinence?

We investigate how anxiety impacts our bladder and bowel, as well as ways to manage the condition.

Can Anxiety Cause Incontinence?

We investigate how anxiety impacts our bladder and bowel, as well as ways to manage the condition.

If you’ve ever been in a high-pressure situation and found you suddenly needed to run to the bathroom, you’re not the only one!

Feelings of nervousness and anxiousness disrupt the way our brain and nervous systems operate, which in turn has an impact on bladder and bowel control [1]. Anxiety can bring on a sudden urge to urinate or pass stool, and research has found that a lot of people with urge incontinence or overactive bladder (especially women) also have anxiety [2, 3].

But how does anxiety impact our bladder and bowel, and what can you do to manage it? Keep on reading to find out!

What is Anxiety?

Generally speaking, anxiety is an emotion that brings on a sense of tension, nervousness or dread. When we feel anxious, we might experience a wave of worried thoughts or even have physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, an increased heartbeat or, as we mentioned above, a more frequent urge to urinate/defecate.

It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time, and chances are you’ve likely experienced it before - especially in a situation like public speaking or taking an exam!

The feeling will usually pass once the anxiety-inducing event is over. However, when feelings of anxiety are chronic, persistent or have an impact on your day to day life, it could be an indication of an anxiety disorder.

While it can be difficult to discuss mental health, there are ways to treat and manage anxiety. If you’re concerned you or someone you care for may be experiencing an anxiety disorder, we recommend booking an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns, as they’ll be able to provide referrals to specialists (such as counsellors or psychologists), and/or provide any prescriptions if necessary.

The Anxiety & Incontinence Link

It’s important to know that our brain and gastrointestinal system are linked together by what is called the brain-gut axis, which allows these organs to communicate to one another through a complex system that flows in both directions [4].

If you’ve ever had the sensation of ‘butterflies in your stomach’ before, this was your gut-brain axis at work!

So when we’re under stress, our bodies respond by releasing stress hormones and sending signals from our brain to our stomach, which interfere with our gastrointestinal functions and can result in physical symptoms like diarrhoea or constipation. The stress response can cause our muscles to tighten and contract, too, which can lead to an increased urge to ‘go’.

All of these factors can exacerbate any incontinence symptoms you may already be experiencing.

It seems the link between anxiety and incontinence can go both ways, though, with many studies showing increased rates of anxiety in individuals experiencing incontinence.

For example, one 2016 American study on individuals with overactive bladder (OAB) and urinary incontinence found that over half of the subjects with these conditions experienced symptoms of anxiety. It was also found that individuals with both conditions reported more severe incontinence symptoms [3].

How to Manage With Both Anxiety and Incontinence

While it can be difficult to experience symptoms of both anxiety and incontinence, don’t forget that there are things you can do to help you manage.

  • Seek professional medical advice

While it can be difficult to talk about these conditions, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to suffer in silence and effective help and treatment is available to you.

If you’re concerned that you (or someone you care for) may be experiencing anxiety in conjunction with incontinence symptoms, it’s important to mention it to your doctor.

Your GP will be able to make any necessary referrals or prescriptions as well as provide tailored advice to your unique situation.

  • Engage in activities that are good for your mental health

There are many different activities that you can engage in to both lessen your anxiety levels and benefit your overall mental health. It’s a win-win!

You might also consider engaging in relaxation techniques, which can include:

    • Breathing exercises

    • Meditation or mindfulness

    • Gentle physical activity such as yoga or a walk

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is another great way to reduce stress or anxiety levels, so it might be helpful to engage in daily healthy habits such as:

  • Be prepared in advance

If you find your anxieties are due to concerns about leakage or accidents, staying prepared by having a supply of quality incontinence aids can do a lot for your peace of mind.

Our Dailee range of products are made from slimline materials in order to fit snugly to the body and stay discreet under clothing, while they’re also fitted with an active odour neutraliser and superior absorption technology inside. The flash dry top sheet quickly wicks any moisture away from the skin to keep you dry and fresh for up to 12 hours at a time.

By using quality incontinence products, you can get back to living your life with confidence and have one less thing to worry about.

  • Use your support network

We know it can be difficult to speak to friends or family about incontinence, anxiety or both, but having a support network of people you trust can be extremely beneficial to our health. You can check out our tips on how to start the conversation with friends or family here.

While it can feel overwhelming at times to be experiencing both incontinence and anxiety, remember that you aren’t alone on your journey. We hope that the above article has been informative and helps you continue to live your life with confidence.

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