3 Tips to Conquer Your Fear of Pooping in Public (Your Gut Will Thank You)

woman sitting on toilet in public restroom

Public Pooping Problem 1: You’re Worried About COVID

If you’re avoiding going because you’re concerned something or someone you come in contact with in a public restroom could end up infecting you with COVID-19, take these precautions suggested by Harvard Health Publishing:

  • Wear a mask
  • Use your foot, toilet paper or a paper towel to touch any surfaces
  • Don’t touch your face while you’re in there (don’t take your phone out either)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before you leave

Public Pooping Problem 2: Your Nerves Are Too Wired to Go

Try deep-breathing exercises. Breathing in and out through your diaphragm (aka belly breathing) taps into the body’s natural relaxation response and serves as a nice distraction that can get you out of your head.

According to Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan, these breaths also massage your GI system, encouraging a bowel movement.

To do it, inhale through your nose for four seconds, filling your belly up with air, then hold your breath for two seconds and exhale through your mouth for six seconds. Repeat as many times as feels good.

Public Pooping Problem 3: Other People Might Know What You’re Doing

There’s a term for this poop-related toilet anxiety: Parcopresis, aka “shy bowel.” That last moniker kind of makes it sound cute, but it can be really distressing if you suffer from it because it can, in severe cases, make you scared to leave your home out of fear of having to use the restroom.

Toilet anxiety has been found to be associated with social anxiety, per May 2016 research in ​Cognitive Behavior Therapy​.

Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear of being judged or seen in a negative light in social situations, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Related to having a BM in public, people may feel shame and embarrassment as well as be overly worried about sounds and smells related to pooping, researchers say.

This fear may be worse if you have an underlying GI condition like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Seeking treatment for GI conditions, as well as taking care of your mental health by talking to a psychologist or therapist can help you work through and develop useful tools (including exposure therapy) to control your anxiety.

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