IBS and Toilet Phobia

Click play to hear Barry explain this anxiety sensation.

There are a number of different phobias related to the toilet, but here I’m going to discuss one of the most common: the fear of not getting to the toilet on time. No one should feel ashamed of this problem; it’s common and can be overcome. This fear is almost always connected to social embarrassment, and it rarely happens in situations where other people are not around.

Anxiety can give people the impression that they have a weak bladder. When anxious, they may need to use the toilet several times. In most cases, there’s no physical problem, and the frequency of needing a toilet is purely psychological.

Toilet phobia is strongly connected to panic attacks because it’s the thought “How do I escape this if I need a toilet?” that really triggers the anxiety. People often run scenarios through their minds of not being able to reach a toilet on time and the social embarrassment this would cause. If you experience this fear when you leave home, I’ll outline steps you can take to minimize the anxiety.

The solution lies in rebuilding confidence in your own body and putting less focus on the fear of embarrassment or ridicule. Start by putting yourself in situations where you know there are toilets, but position yourself far enough away so that it causes your anxiety be activated.

Let’s take a shopping mall as an example. As you enter and the fear escalates, find a place to sit down. As the fearful thoughts surface, don’t try to suppress them. Simply say to the thoughts that you’re not worried by that scenario because you know you have full confidence in controlling your body. You work through the anxiety while seated. When the anxiety lessens, you stand up, then walk slowly and calmly to the toilet. By the time you reach it, you might even find that you no longer need to go.

The important point is to move toward the toilet only when you feel that you—not the anxiety—decides when to go. If you keep running to the toilet every time you feel the urge, you reinforce the idea that you have no control over the situation. By working through the anxiety and going only when you’re ready, your confidence in the ability to control your body increases tenfold.

You might want to begin by setting up these opportunities when you’re alone. When you’re with friends, fear of embarrassment can make it more difficult. As you practice this, you’ll reach a point where you feel more confident in controlling your body’s need to use the toilet. This takes practice and time, but soon you’ll be able to go anywhere without this worry dominating your thoughts. Practice is key here. To learn more about toilet phobia, visit

Toilet Phobic Society