Maybe you clicked on this article because you think you have toilet anxiety or perhaps you know you do and need your prayers answered fast on how to make this constant pressure and worry go away.
If so, then you know that toilet anxiety is no joke and something that is far from being talked about enough.
Don’t worry dear reader, I am here to be completely open with you, help guide you to freedom that allows you to stray far from toilets without a fear of shitting (or perhaps peeing) your pants and provide a few experiences that you will probably be able to relate to all too well.
Laugh away reader, laugh at my expense because toilet anxiety makes us stressed enough that we all know we need a damn good belly holding, nostril flaring laugh.
What the hell is toilet anxiety?
Toilet anxiety is a nasty demon that lives inside your brain that tells you that if you move further away from a toilet that is not within a 10-second running distance then you will have a problem in your pants.
That may sound extreme but it’s how it feels in my head and something that I dealt with for months in 2018. It was tortune not feeling like I could do anything for fear that I wouldn’t be close enough to a toilet.
Some people are worried that they’re going to have to pee, others poop. Either way it’s typically connected to a fear of embarrassing yourself in public and not being able to control your bladder or bowel.
To explain how I got into this way of thinking, let me explain a bit more of my history and toilets…
I had a seriously bad case of toilet anxiety when I was much younger but back then I didn’t have a term for it. All I knew is that when my family packed up to drive to the cottage, which was and hour and a half drive away, I would be gripped with panic at the thought that I wouldn’t have access to a toilet immediately and was terrified at the thought of shitting my pants.
We would pass a Tim Hortons (a very popular Canadian coffee chain for all you non-Canadian’s) and I would beg my dad to pull into the parking lot so I could run in and use the bathroom, just in case. He would roll his eyes and obliged. I can’t be mad at him for being frustrated with me, who wants to deal with someone who has a fear of not being close to toilets?
Spoiler alert: I never shit my pants. All my worries were for absolutely no reason. My body could hold going to the bathroom if it needed to and I was not going to die if I pooped in my undies.
Fast forward to 2018 when I was living in Bali, supposedly living the dream and all I could think about was when I was going to embarrass myself by shitting myself in public.
In Southeast Asia it’s a real fear, food poisoning is very common and people have tummy troubles happens all the time. It’s just how most people from western countries react to different bacteria in this part of the world.
I had my worries doubled knowing my history with stomach issues and bowel movements.
I was stressed constantly about where bathrooms were in cafes that I would work at and if there was only one stall I would feel my anxiety peak when someone was in the bathroom.
What if I suddenly had to go? What if they felt sick and took too long? WHAT IF I COULDN’T ACCESS THE BATHROOM WHEN I NEEDED IT?
My toilet anxiety didn’t come back from anywhere though, it was brought on when I was in Uluwatu, a beautiful beach area about an hour and a half drive from where I was living in Canggu. I got food poisoning, or Bali belly as they call in Bali, when I was spending the night in a fabulous villa with some friends.
Luckily it only lasted 24 hours but still, it left scars on my mind and reminded me that the devil can come back whenever it wants and stress me out constantly, causing my anxiety to build in my chest and leave me in a state of constant panic.
Not only that but my mind would play tricks on me, telling me that “Yes, you do need to go to the bathroom NOW,” when I absolutely didn’t have to or could easily wait longer.
I was out of control and I knew that I couldn’t live with it but had to because I had no idea how to deal with it. I mean who was this worried about shitting their pants?
Turns out I wasn’t alone.
When I moved back home to Ottawa, Canada I thought my worries would be over. Nope. I was fine at home, living in my parents’ house that has multiple bathrooms which gave me a chance to relax and chill out knowing I could go whenever I pleased as a shiny white toilet would always be at my disposal.
But put me in a car and stop me at a red light and suddenly my mind was reminding me that cars don’t have toilets and that I was currently blocked by other cars and would not be able to get to a bathroom fast enough and I would completely embarrass myself, either by shitting my pants in my own car or while running across an intersection in desperation to reach the closest public toilet.
By the end of the summer my relationship with toilets was still far from okay and I was leaving on a Europe trip. I was panicking. It was one thing to shit your pants in Southeast Asia where food poisoning is common but in Europe I could not shit my pants. I could not suffer the embarrassment of not being able to get to a toilet to do my business.
I pictured myself struggling to find enough loose change to pay my way into a bathroom (damn you Europe for charging people to use a bathroom), fumbling my change and then not making it into the stall in time.
I did this all the time. I was always picturing myself in the worst-case scenario, picturing what my torture of embarrassing moments would look like and it always ended with my face contorted into a grimace that was about to cry and half sheer terror of what I had just done.
So it was because of this Europe trip that I found myself Googling ways, reading and watching videos on how to stop toilet anxiety because I refused to deal with it while in Europe.
How to Deal with Toilet Anxiety While Travelling
Travelling with toilet anxiety brings this not so talked about issue to a whole other level. It’s one thing when you’re in a place that you’re comfortable with and know where toilets are…but being on the road you never know exactly where the toilets are unless you’re in your hostel or hotel room.
This can bring an added level of stress that you obviously do not want to deal with while you’re trying to enjoy yourself on holiday.
I can’t say that I’m completely cured and I don’t know if I ever will be but I’ve learned a few tricks to help me deal with my toilet anxiety when it’s at its worst that I hope can help you because I do not wish for anyone to experience this awful and completely ridiculous stress.
Before we dive into these toilet anxiety cures let me clear that I am not a doctor. These are simply tips that helped me. Speaking to a doctor or therapist or someone who is trained to help with anxiety may be a good option for you as toilet anxiety can often be caused by an underlying issue that is causing you to feel this intense anxiety.
1. Don’t eat foods that will make you upset
I know this can be difficult while travelling, but do your best. When you feel like you need to use the toilet then remind yourself that you haven’t eaten anything that should upset you. You’re fine. The mind is powerful, it works in both positive and negative ways.
2. Carry tummy calming medicine
I always carry medicine on me in a small container for all types of sickness from Advil for headaches to Gravol for nausea. Pepto-Bismol has become an absolute necessity.
Whether it is a placebo effect or actually helps me I’m not sure, but popping a chewable Pepto-Bismol into my mouth when I’m stuck on a bus or train or somewhere that doesn’t have a toilet totally calms me. It tells me that help is on the way and that it will relieve all of my tummy rumbling problems without me having to go to the bathroom.
3. Use the bathroom whenever you can
I typically use the bathroom every time one is pointed out to me. If I know that I used the bathroom recently and emptied everything out then I shouldn’t have to use it again. And I remind myself of this so I don’t start freaking out, as I have been known to do.
4. Distract yourself
So simple yet so effective and lucky you’re travelling because you’ll be able to distract yourself tons with all of the new things you’re going to be doing.
But what if I’m actually travelling and am sitting on a train or bus or plane and the clouds or scenery aren’t distracting me?!
Start counting backward from 100 and focus solely on that. Or sing a song, recite a poem, find what works for you that can easily distract you.
5. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Remind yourself that the worst thing that could happen is not the end of the world. So what if you actually end up pooping in your pants? Everyone is strangers around you, they may laugh or look at you strangely but they’ll forget about you and not care after about 5 minutes.
6. Breathe deeply
Breathing will calm you quickly. Do a bit of meditation, focus only on your breath and you will soon find yourself cooling down, relaxing and forgetting about where the closest bathroom is.
7. Talk about it
I understand that this is not a topic that many wish to share that they want to bring up in conversation or admit that they have to deal with. But I found that talking to my friends about it and hearing that they too dealt or deal with similar issues helped immensely. Suddenly I realized that I wasn’t alone and that fact made me relax.
Even after all of my travel through Southeast Asia, where food poisoning happens so often and even throughout my Europe trip I managed to not shit my pants once. That’s right, I survived. I never embarrassed myself, all of my stress was for absolutely no reason.
Toilet anxiety seems completely stupid to a lot of people but if you’re dealing with it then know that I completely, 100%, and unfortunately feel you. I know how awful it is but I hope my tips can help and that you too are able to curb this ridiculous thing that we over think and over analyze and have to deal with.
Toilet anxiety, in fact, anxiety in general is a bitch but there are ways to deal with it so we can get on with our lives and not let worrying ruin our happiness.