Behind the Stall: Fear and Anxiety in Public Restrooms

Behind the Stall: Fear and Anxiety in Public Restrooms
I was 5 when the movie "Jaws 2" was released. My parents didn’t take me to it because it was R-rated, but they couldn’t protect me from the television commercials. I'd hear the notorious two-note theme song and bury my face in the sofa, my heart beating to the quickening crescendo. The iconic image of the great white shark’s gaping jaw became burned into my brain. Almost 45 years later, I can’t see a shark without slamming shut the book or magazine or frantically changing the TV channel. My shark phobia was so absurd, it affected my bathroom habits. The entire time the movie was out, I couldn’t go to the bathroom without my older sister standing guard. Sitting on the toilet, all I pictured was the great white coming up through the plumbing and biting my butt. I can laugh about it now, but I admit I still get the heebie-jeebies using the restroom immediately after seeing a shark. While I don’t have to worry about a restroom shark attack, bathroom phobia is real and not a laughing matter, especially for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients. Parcopresis, or shy bowel syndrome The fear of using the restroom around other people, especially in public, is an actual psychological condition. Parcopresis, or shy bowel syndrome, is the inability to defecate in public. The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t recognize parcopresis as a social anxiety disorder, but it does classify paruresis, or shy bladder syndrome, as one. Between 2.8% and 16.4% of individuals have paruresis. Research is lacking for parcopresis. However, a 2011 case study discussed how a 23-year-old man experienced anxiety when faced with using a restroom in the presence of others, both in public and at home. By taking an antidepressant and undergoing cognitive behavioral thera
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