Being 'Pee-Shy' Is A Real Thing That Affects 7 Percent Of People

by Lydia Mansel
Universal Pictures

Tell your mom, tell your boyfriend, tell all your friends who didn't believe you: Being "pee-shy" is real.

If you're one of the easy-going people who can literally pee anywhere, lucky you. But if you get anxiety in public restrooms, have to cover your ears to pee or just hold it until you get back home, listen up.

You probably have paruresis, also known as Shy Bladder Syndrome, Bashful Bladder or being pee-shy.

And you certainly aren't alone. According to the International Paruresis Association (IPA), 7 percent of people lives with this condition on a daily basis, but at varying levels. That's about 21 million Americans and 220 million people around the world.

To put that in context, 10 percent of the population is left-handed, and 9 percent of Americans (18 and older) wear contacts on a regular basis.

So basically, if you're pee-shy, you aren't an anomaly. You are a normal, healthy human who just finds it uncomfortable to go to the bathroom in certain situations. Hey, it could be way worse.

Unfortunately, there isn't a ton of research on paruresis, primarily due to the fact that it's pretty hard to record or measure. But, several researchers have created their own forms of measurement, including the Bashful Bladder Scale, the Paruresis Severity Scale (PSQ), the Patient-Rated Global Paruresis Severity Scale and the Urinary Anxiety Questionnaire, to try develop some quantitative research on paruresis.

Are you pee-shy?

There are different levels of Shy Bladder Syndrome.

For some people, peeing in a public restroom is absolutely out of the question. For others, it just takes a bit longer to go. There are even people who can't pee in their homes when others are there.

You can blame school and your parents.

Research shows that in many cases, people develop paruresis after a particularly stressful event involving going to the bathroom, triggering the ensuing anxiety.

Can you remember when you first realized you were super uncomfortable with urinating in public? Were you in school at the time?

If you were, guess what? According to Russell Gibbs, the creator of the Paruresis Severity Scale, 58 percent of people living with paruresis started feeling this way in school.

Think about it: When you were younger, school was a place full of uncomfortableness and stress. You spent eight hours a day feeling constantly graded, judged and scrutinized.

But, guess what? It isn't entirely your fault. Gibbs' research also suggests there could be a hereditary factor at play. Fourteen percent of those Gibbs studied reported a history of this condition in their families.

It kind of is all in your head.

Paruresis is a social anxiety disorder. If you're pee-shy, you might also be more self-conscious, shy, neurotic and conscientious than the rest of the population, says Gibbs.

Don't beat yourself up, though. It'll just make things worse.

Paruresis isn't the end of the world.

If paruresis negatively affects your daily life, there are lots of resources or tricks you can use.

You can read up on the International Paruresis Association, find a local support group or talk to a physician or therapist to work on techniques that can make going to the bathroom a heck of a lot easier.

Just remember: Being pee-shy is a real thing, and you're not alone.