Shy Bladder Phobia: When You Just Can't Go
April 30, 1998
INTRODUCTION Whether you call it a phobia, a panic attack, or simply anxiety, many people feel trapped by their fears. But there's one phobia millions have, but few acknowledge.
DEAN EDELL, M.D. "Okay, what's your biggest fear? A scary spider? How about a slithery snake? Or maybe just heading 30,000 feet into the air can get your adrenaline pumping. Well you've got a lot of company because one in five folks have some kind of phobia or anxiety disorder. But with all this fear, there's one fairly common phobia almost no one ever mentions.
"It may be difficult to understand but there are a lot of people who are afraid of walking into this room right here - it's a public restroom. For some folks, it's their only phobia, but about a third of phobics who fear spiders, heights, snakes or something else also fear walking in here. It's called ‘shy bladder syndrome,’ and it is very real."
HOWARD LIEBGOLD, M.D./TREATS PHOBIAS "Shy bladder is one of man's greatest kept secrets."
GIRL "It's been like this big secret - I haven't told a lot of friends or anything."
JOHN "I was afraid to tell people."
DEAN EDELL, M.D. "And John McNeel might have more reason than most to keep quiet. He's a highly-respected psychologist."
JOHN MCNEEL, PHD/HAS SHY BLADDER SYNDROME "I became one of the sanest people I knew, afraid to go near a bathroom."
DEAN EDELL, M.D. "For many, simply walking into a public restroom when another person is already there can trigger an attack."
JOHN MCNEEL, PHD "I couldn't perform."
DEAN EDELL, M.D. "This high school senior says her trouble began at age five, and has affected every aspect of her life."
GIRL "There's things like proms and all these school activities that I'm missing out on because of this problem. I'm afraid I'll have to go to the bathroom and I'll be too tense to socialize."
DEAN EDELL, M.D. "The problem most often increases in public restrooms, or if someone else is at home. Research shows it's usually occurs in intelligent, educated people and is at least partly genetic. Yet, the one thing people need to know is: it's highly curable."
HOWARD LIEBGOLD, PH.D/TREATS PHOBIAS "All phobias, all obsessive-compulsive disease, all shy bladders can be cured." DEAN EDELL, M.D. "And he should know, in classes like these, Dr. Liebgold claims a 90 percent success rate helping phobics of all kinds. A few weeks into the class, you can hear the difference it's making in people's lives."
MAN "I wasn't worried ever. The whole time I was totally relaxed and had a really good time."
DEAN EDELL, M.D. "He uses a simple desensitization process taking one small step at a time. Things like walking into a restroom or risking rejection by admitting your phobia."
HOWARD LIEBGOLD, Ph.D "The origin is the same and the prescription is the same."
DEAN EDELL, M.D. "For John, one of his steps included talking on TV."
JOHN MCNEEL, Ph.D "You start out small. This is part of my curative process right here."
GIRL "I get so happy when I'm able to go, it sounds so silly."
JOHN MCNEEL, Ph.D "It's like a 38-year terror that's been lifted off my shoulders."
END NOTE There are lots of phobia clinics specializing in desensitization techniques - many listed right in the phone book. But experts say, the important thing is to ask for help.