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Phobia of Public toilets: Understanding and Conquering Your Fear

Updated: Feb 10

Public restrooms, also known as public toilets, are a necessity for people on the go. However, for some, the thought of using a public toilet can cause significant anxiety, fear, and disgust. This fear is known as paruresis, also referred to as "shy bladder syndrome," and it affects a significant portion of the population. In this article, we will discuss why people have a phobia about using public toilets and what can be done to help.

Reasons why you may have a fear of public toilets.

  • Lack of Privacy: The lack of privacy in public toilets is a major concern for many people. With stalls that do not go all the way to the floor, or that have gaps, people may feel vulnerable and exposed.

  • Uncleanliness: Public toilets are often not cleaned frequently or thoroughly enough, leading to dirty and unsanitary conditions. The fear of catching a disease from a dirty toilet is a common concern.

  • Embarrassment: For some, the fear of being heard or seen while using the restroom can be a source of embarrassment and anxiety.

  • Past Trauma: Some people may have had a traumatic experience in a public restroom, such as being caught or confronted by someone, leading to a lasting fear of public toilets.

Why are some people nervous or shy about using a toilet in a friends home?

Some people may feel nervous or shy about using the toilet in a friend's home for several reasons, including:

  • Personal comfort level: Some people may feel more comfortable using the bathroom in familiar, private settings and may feel self-conscious about using someone else's bathroom.

  • Lack of familiarity: Being in an unfamiliar environment can increase anxiety and discomfort, and using someone else's toilet can add to this feeling of unfamiliarity.

  • Embarrassment: People may feel embarrassed about using someone else's bathroom and may worry about making a mess or leaving a bad impression.

  • Inadequate hygiene: Some people may have concerns about the cleanliness or hygiene of a friend's bathroom, leading to feelings of discomfort.

  • Social norms: There may be social norms or cultural differences that make people feel shy about using a friend's bathroom.

It's important to remember that these feelings are common and that there is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. If someone is feeling uncomfortable about using a friend's toilet, they can try to focus on their breathing and remind themselves that it is a normal bodily function. They can also communicate their concerns to their friend and ask for their support in finding a solution that makes everyone feel comfortable.

Ways to overcome the fear of using public toilets.

  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help to calm the mind and reduce anxiety.

  • Gradual Exposure: Gradually exposing oneself to public toilets, starting with less intimidating ones and gradually moving to more challenging ones, can help to reduce the fear and anxiety associated with using them.

  • Positive Self-Talk: Positive self-talk and affirmations can help to build confidence and overcome negative thoughts associated with using public toilets.


"I am safe and protected in this moment."

"I trust in my ability to handle any situation."

"I am in control of my thoughts and emotions."

"I am deserving of comfort and cleanliness in any bathroom I use."

"I am confident in my body's natural functions."

"I release any negative thoughts or beliefs about public restrooms."

"I am proud of myself for facing my fears and taking steps towards recovery."

"I am strong and capable in any bathroom situation."

"I choose to focus on the present moment and let go of any past experiences."

"I am deserving of peace and privacy in any bathroom I use."

It is important to remember that affirmations are most effective when repeated regularly and with conviction. It may take time to see a change in beliefs and behaviours, but with consistent effort and self-compassion, progress can be made towards overcoming the fear of using public toilets.

Seek Professional Help: If the fear of using public toilets is severely impacting one's daily life, it may be helpful to seek the help of a mental health professional. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to be particularly effective in treating paruresis.

You feel that the public toilet hasn't been cleaned.

It is obviously not possible for you to clean a public toilet before you use it but To make it safer if you believe it to be unclean, you can carry a few simple items. These include: hand sanitizer to clean your hands, toilet seat covers to create a barrier, disposable toilet wipes to clean surfaces, paper towels to open doors and flush without touching, and a face mask to reduce inhaling particles. These items can help reduce exposure to germs and bacteria, but regular hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to stay protected.

The risks of holding back.

Not using the toilet when you need to due to a fear of public restrooms can have several negative health effects, including:

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Holding in urine for extended periods of time can lead to bacterial growth in the urinary tract, increasing the risk of UTIs.

  • Bladder Problems: Chronic holding of urine can cause the bladder muscles to weaken, leading to incontinence and other bladder problems.

  • Constipation: Holding in bowel movements can lead to constipation and fecal impaction, which can cause discomfort and other digestive issues.

  • Kidney Damage: When urine is not emptied from the bladder regularly, it can back up into the kidneys, leading to potential kidney damage.

  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough fluid because of a fear of using public restrooms can lead to dehydration, which can have serious health consequences.

In addition to these physical health effects, avoiding the use of public restrooms can also lead to social anxiety, isolation, and embarrassment. It is important to seek help from a mental health professional if the fear of using public restrooms is severely impacting one's daily life.

With the right tools and support, it is possible to overcome this fear and regain confidence in using public restrooms.

On our website, we have several downloadable Self-Hypnosis sessions to help people overcome fears and phobias. HERE

"This article represents the personal views and opinions of the author and should not be taken as representative of the official policy or position of any organization, professional, expert, or individual."

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