Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Do I have to go? Bladder fears and OCD.

bathroom light 35mm

I've observed that my ocd obsessions can recombine with each other, and persist over many years. At age 8 or 9, I became hypersensitive to any sensation of pressure in my bladder. I'd get up multiple times to make sure there was not a drop left in me, because I had the obsessive thought that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep if I didn't. When I went away to college, I had a room mate who was swigging cranberry juice in hopes of warding off a bladder infection. I'd never heard of bladder infections, and my ocd was immediately hooked. My fear of a full bladder melded with fear of getting a bladder infection.

On my 21st birthday, I had a sudden heavy ache in my pelvis. Stress makes my ocd worse, as does having a lot of free time, and this was a very lonely and stressful summer. I went to an urgent care center and the doctor treated me empirically for a bladder infection, ie. he figured that's what it was, and didn't do a urine test.

Right before my 27th birthday, my symptoms returned and I agonized about seeing a doctor, afraid I was weak, and wrong in my self-diagnosis. The nurse did a rapid test and said I had an infection. I felt a bit of relief, but then I got a headache, and feared it was from the antibiotic. I descended into health anxiety hell, into constant monitoring of how I felt, into fear of every sensation, every unknown, a dogged headache, and feeling dazed and overwhelmed when in the sun. I called the drug company hotline and they told me it wasn't the medication. I finally went back to the doctor, who diagnosed flu and gave me darvocet to help with the headache, but which only exacerbated my obsession about medication side effects. My infection symptoms went away, but my obsession with a bladder infection remained, and my fear of it spreading to my kidneys, of being condemned as negligent for not coming into the doctor sooner, and fear that I could bring on an infection by thinking about it.

On my 34th birthday, on vacation, I started worrying I had an infection. I went to the bathroom at a restaurant, and I felt a sensation of warmth, and panicked. I drank cranberry and water, with constant monitoring of my how my bladder felt which of course felt full. Later, I could look back and note that in a chilly air conditioned restaurant, chances are that the fluid in my bladder is going to feel warm. In the night, after getting up to drink water every 1/2 hr, I sat down with my journal and wrote about whether I really believed that I could cause an infection by thinking about it. I took a leap of faith and stopped drinking the water that night, and went back to bed. I was scared as I laid down, scared of the dizzy feeling of being on a precipice of anxiety, but I knew unless I took the risk of resting, rather than compulsively drinking fluid, I would be a captive.

OCD compulsions have an uncanny way of creating the very condition that you fear. Constantly checking my bladder made me hyperaware of every bit of pressure. Drinking constant fluids, in hopes of diluting any bacteria, created constant urgency to urinate. Trying to get rid of thoughts of getting a bladder infection made me focus on it even more.

OCD Squawking


  1. Dear Author, Thank you for writing this piece. I am a male in my mid-30's who's had this problem ever since wetting the bed as a pre-teen. I've searched endlessly for persons, diagnoses, support groups, treatment, etc. I've been to my a doctor numerous times for potential prostate cancer, only to be told that I was fine & left with an empty feeling of being a self-inflicted OCD nut. I tried Detrol-LA briefly, which helped somewhat, but I do not feel as though the long-term solution is in a capsule. I feel like an outcast at social gatherings when I'm always needing to stop the car, stand in line to pee, get up during movies, or wait endlessly to urinate in crowded venues. Worse, however, is when I'm alone at night, tossing & turning about whatever, and having to squeeze every drop out of me which could equal 15 trips to the b-room. My biggest fear is that I'm causing long-term damage to my vital organs. I thank you for writing this and I hope more persons step into the light with this issue, as I though I was the only one. Perhaps there is a science/psychology to this which may one day lead to genuine, organic cure. I plan to subscribe to your email listings, and I'm hoping others will follow. Best, Luke S.

    1. I am a 32 year old female. I also can not stop emptying my bladder while trying to relax or sleep because it feels uncomfortable to have the slightest bit of pressure. I am so hypersensitive to it and there is no physical explanation for it. It may be OCD but I never had this problem until I quite drinking beer just about over a year ago. I don't drink any alcohol and try not to drink too many fluids at night but I can't relax until I feel absolutely nothing in my bladder. Even a few drops . It's scary how obsessed I am. My husband is sick of me getting up every five minutes until I feel empty.

  2. 'OCD compulsions have an uncanny way of creating the very condition that you fear'
    A very true statement in my case. I have been obsessed with the functioning of my bladder for the last few months having experienced everything from bladder pain to urinary frequency to weak urine stream. I am 33 and suffer with crippling health anxiety. I have had a lot of tests except a cystoscopy, the thought of which makes me feel physically ill. Everything seems to be normal so I can only conclude that my problems are based on my fears - the biggest being an inability to urinate. Because of this, I constantly monitor any sensation in my bladder and go to the loo, even if there is hardly anything in there. I cannot imagine it's good for the bladder to frequently empty it when it's not necessary but I just can't shake off this fear/obsession of it getting too full..
    It's reassuring to know I'm not alone with this kind of problem..

  3. Finding an Exposure Therapist made such a difference in my bladder obsessing! Please consider looking for someone through the International OCD Foundation.

  4. I thought I was the only one doing this. I will stand at the toilet for 10 minutes if I have to just to squeeze out that one last drop. I wet the bed chronically as a child up into my teens. Traveling cross country was a night mare because I always had to ask my Dad and Mom to stop so I could use the bathroom. Thanks for sharing. I don't feel so abnormal now.

  5. Omg and I thought I was alone with such a problem. I go to the bathroom frequently especially before stepping out of the house. I even fear drinking lot of water as my bladder is hypersensitive to pressure, slightest pressure and I feel like I will burst. I was abused as a child, beaten regularly as well as molested. I'm sure this is the root cause of my OCD. Peeing OCD and it gets horribly bad at night every night. I end up making 20/50 trips just to not feel slightest water in my bladder. I cannot fall asleep unless I do so that many times no matter how tired I am. I wish to get rid of this OCD. it's ruining my life. Does anyone here have a solution for such an odd problem?

  6. Hey guys I just posted about this on Reddit.


    I have experienced the same thing. I got so preoccupied and absorbed by the sensation of needing the loo that I wound up on suicide watch in the priory. I'm out now and looking for solutions so I can find joy in my life again.

    Has anybody got anything?

    I can also relate to the health anxiety aspect of it. I ended up having a Bladder Neck Incision, which i'm not sure was entirely necessary because my Urologist was so baffled by my symptoms.

    Then i became obsessed that I had made a mistake by having the operation and that I was going to become incontinent despite reassurances from many health professionals that it was in fact the right thing to do.


    1. OCD is a shape-shifter and the morphing of your fears is familiar - absorbed with feelings of having to go, and then having surgery, and then moving onto obsessing that the surgery was a mistake. Finding a therapist who is actually familiar with OCD in its many manifestations could make a world of difference. Finding an Exposure Therapist made such a difference in my bladder obsessing! Please consider looking for someone through the International OCD Foundation.