Toilet Anxiety is Ruining My Life
Raise your hand if you’ve ever worried about where the closest restroom is! and thought, “toilet anxiety is ruining my life!”
If you’re living with a digestive disorder like IBS or IBD, you’ve likely felt the feeling of absolute panic when you need to go NOW and can’t find a restroom. Fear grips your belly, and it’s all you can do to stop yourself from completely freaking out.
I get it. I’ve lived with Ulcerative Colitis since I was 16, and I’m no stranger to anxiety about needing to go to the toilet. Today, I want to share my experience with toilet anxiety, as well as some tips for how to manage toilet anxiety when you’re living with a digestive disorder.
As someone living with Ulcerative Colitis, I’ve experienced my fair share of anxiety about needing to go to the toilet. I’d like to share a story about my experience with toilet anxiety. It was 2007, and I was travelling in Paris with my husband. I had a terrible Ulcerative Colitis flare and could not go very far without cramps and leaking diarrhea (if you’ve experienced this, you know how frustrating and embarrassing it can be).
I always needed a restroom. The more anxious I got about finding a restroom, my symptoms worsened. It was very difficult because there were very few public restrooms, and restaurants charged for restroom use.
However, whenever I planned where the next restroom would be, my anxiety subsided a little, and I avoided accidents. I also discovered disposable toilet covers because I was in the process of potty training my toddler – they were a lifesaver!
Tips for Managing Toilet Anxiety
Living with toilet anxiety can be frustrating, but luckily, there are many ways of managing it. Here are a few of my favourite tips for managing toilet anxiety:
One of the worst things about digestive symptoms is you never know when you might have a flare. That’s why planning ahead and scoping out where the nearest restrooms are is a must. If you know you’re going to be out for most of the day, try to plan several restroom stops so that you’re not caught out.
Download a toilet-finder app
When I was in Paris, I wish there had been an app to guide me and help me find the nearest restroom. One of my favourite apps is the Flush app. This app is a quick and simple way of finding a public restroom. When you open the app, it will show the toilets nearest to you. With a database of over 200,000 restrooms, you should be able to find a restroom no matter where you are. Best of all? It’s free to use!
Wear a pad
If you’re going to be out for long periods of time and may not be able to access a restroom, consider wearing a sanitary pad. That way, if you have an accident because you couldn’t reach a restroom in time, you’ll be covered (literally).
Keep an emergency kit
Living with digestive symptoms means that sometimes, even the best laid plans fall short. Accidents happen, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Plan ahead and keep an emergency kit containing an extra pair of underwear, wipes, alcohol disinfectant, and a disposable toilet cover so that even if you’re caught off-guard, you’re prepared.
Carry a portable fragrance
One of the biggest worries for people with digestive problems is how other people will react in a public toilet setting. Luckily, portable fragrances are inexpensive and easy to find. Rather than worrying about it (which could actually make your digestive symptoms worse), consider carrying a portable fragrance like Poo-Pourri to help mask any unpleasant smells.
In some countries, you’re required to pay to use a restroom. Be sure to keep some extra change on hand so that you can access the restroom or leave a tip. There’s nothing worse than finding a restroom, only to find you can’t use it because you don’t have any change.
Use calming self-talk to reduce toilet anxiety
The brain and the gut are highly connected, and when we’re stressed, this can kick on our body’s fight-or-flight response. For some people, this can lead to urgent bowel movements.
Calming self-talk can be helpful for switching off our body’s fight-or-flight response. When using calming self-talk, try to talk to yourself the way you would to a close friend. Use kind, supportive words, such as:
- “A calm mind leads to a calm gut.”
- “I have faith that my bowels will hold on until I’m safely on the toilet.”
- “I trust that my body can digest food calmly.”
They may sound cheesy, but these affirmations can really help calm your mind and your bowels.
Be mindful of what you eat
Many people with digestive symptoms have trigger foods that can cause symptoms to get worse. While it’s not necessary to completely eliminate trigger foods, you may want to limit them if you know you’re going to be out of the house for a long period of time.
Not sure which foods trigger your symptoms? Working with a registered dietitian training in digestive disorders can help!
Share your concerns
Digestive disorders are incredibly common, and you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you’re out with someone, talk to them about your anxiety regarding being able to find a restroom. This may help relieve some of the stress because you can let them know that if you say you need to use the restroom, it can’t wait. Plus, you’ll have an extra set of eyes scoping out restrooms!
Living with toilet anxiety when you have a digestive disorder can feel isolating and embarrassing. Luckily, there are many different strategies you can use to manage toilet anxiety. From scoping out restrooms before you leave the house to carrying an emergency kit to calming self-talk, toilet anxiety can be managed.
Struggling with digestive symptoms and not sure how to cope? Talking with a registered dietitian trained in digestive disorders can help. Book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if we’re a good fit!